INDIANAPOLIS – The Great Midwest Athletic Conference released its 2019 Preseason Coaches Poll, presented by Under Armor, with the Ohio Dominican football team once again projected to contend for a conference championship.
The Panthers received 40 points to rank second in the eight-team poll. Ohio Dominican has been picked inside the top two in all three editions of the GMAC Preseason Coaches Poll, including first place predictions in 2017 and 2018.
Defending conference champion, Hillsdale, received six first place votes and 47 points, while Findlay rounded out the top three with the remaining two first place tallies and 37 points. The rest of the preseason poll went as followed: Tiffin (34), Walsh (25), Alderson Broaddus (21), Kentucky Wesleyan (12) and Lake Erie (8).
Entering the fall, the Black & Gold have produced a 13-2 mark in two seasons in the GMAC, including a perfect 7-0 championship run in 2017. ODU was 6-2 in league play last fall, resulting in a tie for second place with Findlay and Tiffin.
The Panthers are scheduled to return 10 all-conference performers from a 9-2 squad in 2018. Included is ODU's first team selection, junior punter Logan Neidhardt (Hicksville, Ohio).
Four second team honorees are back from the 2018 roster as well, including the season's GMAC Freshman of the Year, Evan Ernst (Mason, Ohio). Other second team all-GMAC picks returning are senior running back EJ Colson (Middletown, Ohio), junior defensive lineman Aarin Smoot-Baker (Columbus, Ohio) and senior wide receiver David Turner (Fort Wayne, Ind.).
Back from the honorable mention list are junior wideout Devanaire Conliffe (Willoughby, Ohio), junior offensive lineman Jake Garrison (Clarksville, Ohio), sophomore defensive back Ashton Gilkey (Westerville, Ohio) and senior receiver Cedric Washington (Knoxville, Tenn.).
An efficient and explosive passing offense, led by Ernst and his group of talented wideouts, ranked among the best in NCAA Division II a year ago. The team ranked first in the country in completion percentage, .735, and passing efficiency (176.92), while also holding a top 20 passing offense at 282.9 yards per game. Benefitted by the passing numbers, ODU's scoring offense (40.5) and total offense (438.6) both ranked among the top 30 in Division II as well.
Defensively, the Panthers allowed just over 20 points per game in 2018, which ranked second in the GMAC and 30th across the country. ODU averaged a conference-best 3.18 sacks per game, while also scoring the third most defensive touchdowns with five.
Ohio Dominican will kick off the 2019 season with a trip to Shepherd (W. Va.) at 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 7. The Panthers then travel to face the defending national champions, Valdosta State (Ga.), the following weekend before welcoming Findlay for their home opener, Homecoming and Hall of Fame Day on Sept. 21.
Since 2011, ODU has compiled a 67-22 record (.753), winning two conference championships and making two NCAA postseason appearances during the stretch.
Contact: Tyler Jester