BALTIMORE – The University of New Hampshire football team, with 15 of a possible 24 first-place votes, was selected atop the 2014 CAA Football Preseason Poll that was released at Wednesday's annual Media Day at M&T Bank Stadium. Seniors Nico Steriti (Toms River, N.J.) and R.J. Harris (Odenton, Md.) were named to the Preseason All-Conference Team.
UNH, which tied for second in last year's CAA final standings (6-2 record) en route to its first NCAA FCS tournament semifinal appearance and No. 5 national ranking (10-5 overall), is atop the conference's preseason poll for the first time since coming under the CAA banner in 2007. The Wildcats, whose previous best preseason predicted CAA conference finish was third in both 2010 and 2013, was selected atop the CAA North Division – but not the overall conference – in 2009.
Steriti, a CAA All-Conference Second Team honoree in both 2012 and 2013, became the first 'Cat to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards since 2002 when he totaled 1,028 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in 2013. The 5-foot-11, 224-pound running back led UNH in those two stats, as well as all-purpose yards (1,400) as he was the Wildcats' top receiver out of the backfield with 17 catches for 213 yards and also had 11 kickoff returns for 159 yards.
Steriti ranked fifth in the CAA in rushing yards and was also fifth in conference-only rushing yards (566). He surpassed 100 all-purpose yards six times, including three 100-yard rushing efforts. Steriti enters his senior season ranked eighth all-time in UNH history with 2,319 career rushing yards.
Harris missed three consecutive games because of injury last year but led the squad in receptions (76) – No. 6 on the program's all-time single-season leaderboard – and receiving yards per game (83.7); he also was second in receiving yards (1,004 – ninth on the single-season list), receiving TDs (five) and all-purpose yardage (1,131).
With those numbers, Harris was an All-America Honorable Mention for three publications; his other accolades included All-New England and CAA All-Conference First Team. He enters the 2014 season No. 2 in UNH history in receptions (210 to David Ball's record 304) as well as No. 5 in receiving yards (2,777).
New Hampshire is followed in the preseason poll by Villanova University (two first-place votes), University of Richmond (three), College of William & Mary (three) and Towson University. The 6-12 slots are held by University of Delaware, University of Maine, James Madison University (one), Stony Brook University, University at Albany, University of Rhode Island and newcomer Elon University.
The Preseason All-CAA Football Team and predicted order of finish were voted on by the conference's head coaches and communications personnel. For a complete list of the preseason team and poll, go to www.caafootball.com.
UNH, which has advanced to a national-best active streak of 10 consecutive NCAA FCS postseasons, opens the 2014 season Saturday, August 30 (7 p.m.; ESPN3) at University of Toledo.
The Wildcats' home opener is Saturday, Sept. 13. vs. Lehigh at Cowell Stadium with kickoff scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on American Sports Network.
UNH football 2014 season tickets are on sale online by clicking here or by calling 1-800-745-3000. For all the latest news on UNH football, follow the Wildcats on Twitter (@UNHWildcats).