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Duquesne football tabbed preseason favorite by NEC coaches

| Thursday, July 20, 2017, 2:18 p.m.
Duquesne football coach Jerry Schmitt
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Duquesne football coach Jerry Schmitt
Nathan Stone, Duquesne football 2016
Nathan Stone, Duquesne football 2016

The Duquesne football team, which is seeking its third straight Northeast Conference title, was picked to finish first in the preseason coaches' poll released Thursday.

The Dukes, who went 8-3, 1-1 last season, received four of the seven first-place votes. St. Francis (Pa.), which shared the regular-season title with Duquesne last season and represented the conference in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs because of its head-to-head victory, was chosen second. Robert Morris was picked seventh.

Six Duquesne players were named preseason all-conference, led by sophomore running A.J. Hines, who rushed for 1,291 yards and 13 touchdowns last season and earned the Jerry Rice award as the top rookie in FCS. Local preseason All-NEC selections were senior offensive lineman Ben Huss (Upper St. Clair), senior linebacker Nathan Stone (Greensburg Central Catholic) and junior defensive back Abner Roberts (University Prep). Senior defensive lineman Andy Struttmann and junior offensive lineman Matt Fitzpatrick rounded out the group.

Robert Morris, coming off a 2-9 season, had two preseason all-conference picks: sophomore linebacker Gee Stanley and junior punter Adam Check. Stanley claimed NEC Defensive Rookie of the Year last season after setting a freshman school record with 8 12 sacks.

Duquesne opens its season at 8 p.m. Aug. 31 at South Dakota State, and the Colonials host Dayton in their opener at noon Sept. 2. The Dukes and Robert Morris play at 6 p.m. Oct. 14 at Joe Walton Stadium.

Jeff Vella is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jvella@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JeffVella_Trib.

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