2012 NJCAA Preseason Football Poll

COLORADO SPRINGS, Co. – East Mississippi Community College will kick off their 2012 title defense as the No. 1 team in the nation, according to the NJCAA Preseason Top 20 football poll released today. The defending national champions are followed by No.2 Butler Community College (Kan.), No. 3 Arizona Western College, No. 4 Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and No. 5 Blinn College (Texas).

Fresh off their first national championship, the top-ranked East Mississippi Lions return sophomore running back Rodriguez Moore (right) who ranked fourth in the nation last season in rushing with 1,303 yards. The Lions offense witnessed the departure of 2011 NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year Bo Wallace at quarterback, but landed two key transfers in Clemson running back Mike Bellamy and Ole Miss wide receiver Nick Brassell. The return of Lauren Jackson and Za'Darius Smith on the defensive line will be enhanced by the addition of Florida State transfer Darious Cummings. East Mississippi's defense also features an experienced secondary, boasting three returning starters.

A loss in the 2011 season-opener set Butler back last season as the Grizzlies went on to win their last 11 games and finished as the No. 2 team in the country. Butler is poised to make a run for a national title in 2012 with the No. 2 ranking and a solid returning cast on both sides of the ball. Entering his 13th season at the helm, Grizzlies head coach Troy Morrell returns six starters including offensive tackles Jesse Ingleand John McClure. James Madison transfer Billy Cosh will take over at quarterback for Butler, while sophomore Dreamius Smith returns at running back after scoring nine touchdowns on the ground in 2011.

In one of the most thrilling national championship games in NJCAA history, Arizona Western fell 55-47 to East Mississippi in the El Toro Bowl. The Matadors will miss the nation's top running back in Damien Williams but return a ton of talent in the trenches. Sophomores Brent Walker and Nathan Barley anchor Arizona Western's four returning starters on the offensive line, while the defensive front returns sophomores Randy Gregory and Jeffery Brown who combined for 14.5 sacks in 2011. The Matadors' fifth-ranked defense from 2011 also brings back sophomore cornerback Nate Willis and sophomore safety Kambrel Garland – each recorded three interceptions last season.

Mississippi Gulf Coast's only two defeats of 2011 came at the hands of national champion East Mississippi. The Gulf Coast Bulldogs are geared up to challenge the Lions in the MACJC in 2012 and hold promising national championship aspirations. Sophomore quarterback Clint Hatten is expected to lead the offense after taking the reins midway through last season, but will be challenged by LSU-signee Jeremy Liggins. Defensively, Gulf Coast returns four starters led by sophomore linebacker Brandon Keel who racked up 80 tackles last season.

Rounding out the top five following a disappointing finish to their 2011 campaign are the Buccaneers of Blinn. After jumping out to a 9-0 start and a No. 1 ranking, the Buccaneers suffered losses to Tyler JC (Texas) in the SWJCFC playoffs and Mississippi Gulf Coast in the Mississippi Bowl. Blinn will look to put last season in the rear-view mirror and with seven returning starters on defense, the Buccaneers are optimistic about their second season under head coach Ronny Feldman.

Rounding out the top 10 in the poll are No. 6 Hinds Community College (Miss.), No. 7 Trinity Valley Community College (Texas), No. 8 Iowa Western Community College, No. 9 Snow College (Utah) and No. 10 Hutchinson Community College (Kan.).

Three conferences tied for the most representatives in the preseason rankings. The MACJC, SWJCFC and WSFL each landed four teams in the Top 20.

Football Season Kicks Off Aug. 23-25 The first weekend of the 2012 NJCAA football season will feature five critical games, including a battle between Top 20 squads. In the KJCCC, the action will start early as No. 17 Coffeyville Community College (Kan.) travels to No. 10Hutchinson and Dodge City Community College (Kan.) opens the season at home against No. 2 Butler. Out west, No. 15 New Mexico Military Institute will host Air Force Prep, while Glendale Community College (Ariz.) heads toScottsdale Community College (Ariz.) in a key WSFL conference matchup. Two of the top teams in the MCAC will Duke it out when Central Lakes College (Minn.) hits the road for a clash with defending Northern division champion Northland Community & Technical College (Minn.)

(Based on survey provided to all programs)

KJCCC (Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference)

1. Butler CC
2. Hutchinson CC
3. Coffeyville CC
4. Dodge City CC
5. Garden City CC
6. Highland CC
7. Independence CC

MFC (Midwest Football Conference)

1. Iowa Western CC
2. Iowa Central CC
3. College of DuPage
4. North Dakota SCS
5. Ellsworth CC

MCAC (Minnesota College Athletic Conference)

Northern Division

1. Northland CTC
2. Mesabi Range CTC
3. Fond du Lac CC
4. Itasca CC
5. Vermilion CC

Southern Division

1. Rochester CTC
2. Central Lakes College
3. Ridgewater College
4. Minnesota State CTC
5. Minnesota West CTC

MACJC (Mississippi Assoc. of Community & Junior Colleges)

North Division

1. East Mississippi CC
2. Northwest Mississippi CC
3. Itawamba CC
4. Northeast Mississippi CC
5. Holmes CC
6. Coahoma CC
7. Mississippi Delta CC

South Division

1. Mississippi Gulf Coast CC
2. Hinds CC
3. Jones County JC
4. Pearl River CC
5. Copiah-Lincoln CC
6. Southwest Mississippi CC
7. East Central CC

NFC (Northeast Football Conference)

1. Dean College
2. Nassau CC
3. Lackawanna College
4. ASA College
5. Louisburg College
6. Hudson Valley CC
7. Erie CC
8. Monroe College

SWJCFC (Southwest Junior College Football Conference)

1. Blinn College
2. Trinity Valley CC
3. Navarro College
4. Tyler JC
5. Kilgore College
6. NE Oklahoma A&M
7. Cisco College

WSFL (Western States Football League)

1. Arizona Western College
2. Snow College
3. Eastern Arizona College
4. New Mexico Military Institute
5. Glendale CC
6. Scottsdale CC
7. Mesa CC
8. Phoenix College
9. Pima CC

INDEPENDENTS (In order of 2011 Finish)

1. Globe IT
2. Alfred State College
3. Georgia Military College
4. Dakota College at Bottineau
5. Arkansas Baptist College

About the NJCAA Football Poll

The weekly NJCAA Top 20 Football Poll will rank the top teams in the nation and will be released each Tuesday during the regular season beginning Sept. 6th. The NJCAA Football Poll ranks the top 20 team in the NJCAA each week. NJCAA Football Panel Directors select their top 20 teams each week, which are then formulated into the weekly rankings. Panel Directors are not allowed to vote a team No. 1 from their own district until they have played at least five contests. After five contests, a Panel Director may only vote a team from their district No. 1 if they are undefeated. A Panel Director may vote a team from their district No. 2 at any time during the season.

The weekly poll will be released nationally on the NJCAA website (www.njcaa.org) and sent to various media outlets on each poll day at approximately 1 p.m. (MST). The Championship Poll and the release of All-Americans will be done following the completion of all post-season bowl games.

2012 NJCAA Football Guide

Don't forget to download a copy of the 2012 NJCAA Football Media Guide. The publication full of conference previews, top returning players, team schedules and more will be available on the NJCAA website (www.njcaa.org) on Aug. 14th.

JC Football Top Stories