JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – This is the final part in an 11-part series chronicling all of Carson-Newman's opponents for 2017. Today's feature breaks down the lone team on C-N's schedule ranked in the AFCA Top 25 – the UNC Pembroke Braves.
UNCP finished last season finished last season with a program-best No. 13 ranking in the final AFCA top 25, turned in a program-best 10 wins and made its third trip to the NCAA postseason as well.
This year, UNCP starts out No. 9 in Lindy's preseason top 25 and No. 19 in the AFCA Coaches Poll.
While the Braves have the preseason accolades, UNCP only returns six total starters from last year's team, three on offense and three on defense.
Gone are the Braves top rushing threat, quarterback and receiving threat.
Rontario Stanley gained 851 yards on the ground last year, rushing for 70.9 yards per game and nine touchdowns. Sophomore running back Mile Grant does return after playing in 11 games last year and rushing for 437 yards. However, Stanley's primary backup last year never found the end zone.
Patrick O'Brien ran the offense effectively and efficiently for the Braves last year. He tossed for 2,992 yards and 22 touchdowns last season.
Redshirt junior QB Reggie Pinner is the lone QB on the Braves' roster with any experience. Last year he appeared in four games, completing 5-of-8 passes for 50 yards.
The receiving corps also loses stalwart BJ Bunn following a 70-catch, 1,142-yard campaign. He also found the end zone 10 times.
You have to go six men deep into that receiving corps to find a wideout on the Braves' team last year who caught a pass. That's Quay Threatt who did snag 19 passes for 304 yards and three scores, a fact that belies how deep UNCP's receivers were a year ago.
In terms of special teams, it's a whole new show for the Braves. Not a sole, punters, kickers, holders, snappers or return men come back for UNCP.
Defensively, the Braves lose their top three tacklers. Defensive back Shawn Everett is back after making 47 stops last season and picking off two passes. Lineman Khalil Vance and linebacker Josh Manns are the only other two players on defense with significant playing experience for the Braves.
Carson-Newman opens the season Aug. 31 against Pikeville at 7 p.m. from Burke-Tarr Stadium. Coverage of the contest will be available on the Eagle Sports Network on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville), Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live starting with the AEC Tailgate Show at 6 p.m.