Winston-Salem State is predicted to be No. 1 for the third consecutive year while Virginia State was picked for third and Virginia Union fourth at the CIAA media day Thursday in Roanoke.
The Rams went 9-3 overall and 7-0 in the CIAA last season en route to a second consecutive CIAA title.
Bowie State was tabbed for second place. The Bulldogs went 7-4, 6-1 in 2016 and fell to Winston-Salem State in the championship game.
Virginia State was predicted to finish third overall and second in the Northern Division behind Bowie State. The Trojans went 9-2, 5-2 last season in Reggie Barlow’s first year as coach.
Two Trojans were on the preseason team.
Senior running back Trenton Cannon set the Trojans’ season rushing record a year ago with 1,214 yards. He rushed for 18 touchdowns (a league high), two receiving touchdowns and a kick-return touchdown.
Senior linebacker Brandon Lynch is coming off a career-high 58.5 tackles (48 solo) 5.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
Both were first-team all-conference picks last year.
Virginia Union is coming off a 5-5, 4-3 season and was predicted to finish fourth overall and third in the division.
Senior wide receiver Lavatiae Kelly was named to the preseason offensive team twice — as a wideout and the kick returner. He was named to the defensive team as a punt returner. Kelly was a first-team all-conference choice a year ago at each position. He caught 49 passes for 792 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore. He returned a punt for a touchdown.
Defensive back Sterling Hammond, a sophomore, recorded 66 tackles for the Panthers a year ago.
Virginia State opens the season Sept. 2 at Norfolk State. Virginia Union opens Sept. 2 at LIU-Post in Brookville, N.Y.
2017 predicted order of finish
1. Winston-Salem State
2. Bowie State
3. Virginia State
4. Virginia Union
5. Fayetteville State
7. Elizabeth City State
8. Saint Augustine’s
10. Johnson C. Smith
12. Lincoln (PA)
1. Bowie State
2. Virginia State
3. Virginia Union
5. Elizabeth City State
6. Lincoln (PA)
1. Winston-Salem State
2. Fayetteville State
3. Saint Augustine’s
5. Johnson C. Smith
Preseason all-CIAA football team
Offense: TE: Aaron Linen, SAU, Sr.; OL: Victor Tamba Jr., BSU, Sr.; Daris Johnson, BSU, Sr.; Donald Boone, CU, So.; Tim Samuels, WSSU, Jr.; Josh Wormley, WSSU, So.; WR: Lavatiae Kelly, VUU, Sr.; Sam Boyd, SAU, Sr.; QB: Amir Hall, BSU, Jr.;RB: Trenton Cannon, VSU, Sr.; Robert Chesson, BSU, Jr.; PK: David Lamb, FSU, Sr.; KR: Lavatiae Kelly, VUU, Jr.
Defense: DL: Jarell Bright, WSSU, So.; Chasz Cosby, SAU, Sr.; Armond Cox, LC, So.; Darius Darden, FSU, Jr.; Nate Wyche, CU, Sr.; LB: Brandon Lynch, VSU, Sr.; Devon Hunt, SU, So.; Jayron Rankin, WSSU, So.; DB: Carlo Thomas, JCSU, Sr.; Rahman Kamara, BSU, Sr.; Basir Wright, JCSU, Jr.; Sterling Hammond, VUU, So.; P: Matthew Trau, FSU, Jr.; PR: Lavatiae Kelly, VUU, Jr.