Last season: 4-8, 2-4
Coach: Pete Rossomando, first season
Outlook: Rossomando was previously coach at Division II New Haven, where he was 42-13 and led the Chargers to the national playoffs twice. Rossomando was the 2012 Division II coach of the year and was a three-time Northeast-10 coach of the year. Central won two Northeast Conference championships (one shared) under Jeff McInerney but finished 4-7 in 2011, 2-8 in 2012 and 4-8 in 2013.
Players to watch: Senior running back/returner Rob Hollomon is third on Central's career rushing list with 2,556 yards after just two seasons (he transferred from Kent State). Last season, he rushed for 1,452 yards and had 18 rushing touchdowns. He led the FCS at 189.17 all-purpose yards per game. Senior receiver Tyrell Holmes, junior offensive lineman Tyler Hurd, senior linebacker Josh Alaeze and Hollomon were preseason All-NEC selections. Last season, Hollomon and Holmes made the postseason All-NEC second-team. Holmes had 42 receptions for 774 yards and seven touchdowns.
Conference: New England Football Conference
Last season: 3-7, 3-4
Coach: Bill George, 16th season, 49-93
Outlook: Coast Guard had three-game losing streaks at the start and end of last season, falling out of the NEFC picture. George has an experienced team now with 20 returning starters, 10 on defense.
Players to watch: Four Bears were named Division III preseason All-Americans by usacollegefootbal.org — senior receiver Collis Brown (first team), senior defensive end Aaron Black (first team), senior linebacker Victor Rizzardi (second team) and senior defensive end Joel Wyman (third team). Last season, Brown led the NEFC in receptions (67) and receiving yards (983, a Coast Guard record). Quarterback Derek Victory should have an even better handle on the no-huddle offense this season as a sophomore.
Last season: 8-3, 7-2
Coach: Chris Pincince, first season
Outlook: New Haven reinstated football for the 2009 season and had great success under Pete Rossomando, now the coach at Central. Pincince is a former New Haven assistant, having worked under Tony Sparano and Darren Rizzi, and was a classmate of Rossomando's at Boston University. Pincince is an offensive-minded coach who is a first-time head coach but previously was the offensive coordinator at Rhode Island, Holy Cross and Elon.
Players to watch: New Haven has graduated two prolific quarterbacks in the past two years — Ryan Osiecki and Ronnie Nelson. Senior Joey Bradley, who appeared in three games last season, could be the front-runner. A running back must emerge to replace Mike DeCaro, who also graduated. Senior Zach Guy and junior lineman Zach Voytek anchor an offensive line that should help. Trevor Officer averaged 31.8 yards a game last season as a junior.
Last season: 10-3, 4-2
Coach: Mark Nofri, third season, 12-12
Outlook: Sacred Heart experienced a major turnaround last season in Nofri's second season, improving from a 2-9 record in 2012. The Pioneers won the NEC and earned the conference's automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. With 18 starters returning, expectations are high. The Pioneers were voted to repeat in a preseason poll of Northeast Conference coaches.
Players to watch: Senior running back Keshaudas Spence joins Rob Hollomon of Central as the two running backs named to the preseason All-NEC team. Last year, Spence set Sacred Heart rushing records for the season (1,669 yards) and single game (211 vs. Central). He is one of 20 players on the Walter Payton Award watch list, one of six running backs. The award goes to the top player in the FCS. Spence and senior defensive lineman Troy Moore were named TSN preseason All-Americans. Quarterback R.J. Noel threw for 2,203 yards and 23 touchdowns last year as a sophomore. Senior receiver Tyler Dube had 869 receiving yards in his junior season.
Last season: 3-8, 2-6
Coach: Tom Godek, first season
Outlook: The Owls begin a season without Rick Cavanaugh as their coach for the first time in 30 years. Godek, Southern Class of 1988 and the offensive coordinator the past 13 years, was a captain in his playing days. The Owls have finished 3-8 two years in a row after 18 consecutive winning seasons.
Players to watch: Senior John Moscatel led the Owls last season in rushing, scoring and all-purpose yards (2,034). He had 188 carries for 1,070 yards and 10 touchdowns. Though he struggled, sophomore quarterback Brandon Basil gained important experience last season, playing six games and passing for 693 yards and three touchdowns with 11 interceptions.
Conference: New England Small College Athletic Conference
Last season: 6-2
Coach: Jeff Devanney, eighth season, 55-9
Outlook: Trinity, a six-time NESCAC champion, will have to replace the backfield of Evan Bunker, the leading rusher in conference history, and Ben Crick. The Bantams, 42-6 over the past six seasons, have won 51 consecutive games at home since losing to Williams in 2001. Trinity returns 17 starters from a team that lost two games by a total of four points.
Players to watch: Senior fullback Michael Budness has been an All-NESCAC player the past two seasons, and seniors Chudi Iregbelum and Jacob Rivers will take the carries previously given to Bunker and Crick. Senior Joe Magardino anchors the offensive line, while seniors Mike Mancini (safety) and Mike Weatherby (linebacker) lead the defense. Junior linebacker Rob Gau will be a key player, too.
Conference: New England Small College Athletic Conference
Last season: 7-1
Head coach: Mike Whalen, fifth season, 19-13
Outlook: Wesleyan, with a core of juniors, won its first seven games last season before losing at Trinity, 40-10. Still, the Cardinals continue their rise under Whalen, who now has 31 seniors. With 19 starters back, the Cardinals are aiming for a second consecutive NESCAC championship after winning the Little Three title for the first time in 43 years.
Players to watch: Senior running backs LaDarius Drew and Kyle Gibson are the best backfield combination in the NESCAC. Drew has 2,036 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns in his career. He needs 347 yards and four touchdowns to set Wesleyan records. Senior defensive backs Jake Bussani and Donnie Cimino are preseason All-Americans. Tight end John Day and receiver Jay Fabien are among the best in the conference.
Conference: Mass. State College Athletic Conference
Last season: 8-2, 1-7
Coach: Joe Loth, third year, 9-10
Outlook: Western was 8-2 last season, its first in the MASCAC, and finished the season on a five-game winning streak, including a victory over Salve Regina in the ECAC Northeast Bowl. Loth has the program going in the right direction after years of struggling in the New Jersey Athletic Conference. The Colonials will have to replace Octavias McKoy, who rushed for 455 yards in a single game last season (an NCAA record for all levels) and finished the season with 1,833.
Players to watch: Senior quarterback Will Arndt was more efficient as a junior, throwing for 1,757 yards and 13 touchdowns with seven interceptions. As a sophomore, he had 1,686 yards, 13 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Eddy Williams had 83 carries for 520 yards in 10 games as a freshman last season, averaging 6.3 yards a carry.
Conference: Ivy League
Last season: 5-5, 3-4
Coach: Tony Reno, third year, 7-13
Outlook: In a preseason media poll, Yale was picked to finish fifth in the Ivy, behind Princeton, Harvard, Dartmouth and Penn. (Princeton beat out Harvard by one point.) The Bulldogs are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Yale Bowl.
Players to watch: Tyler Varga is an All-Ivy running back who missed four games last season but averaged 104.5 yards a game. He led the nation in all-purpose yards in 2012 (194 a game). Morgan Roberts, a transfer from Clemson, was solid in a part-time role last season and is the front-runner to start at quarterback. Receiver Deon Randall had more than 1,000 all-purpose yards last season. Linebacker William Vaughn had a team-high 82 tackles last season as a junior. Senior punter Kyle Cazzetta, also the place-kicker, is one of the best in the nation.