Wayne State College has been picked to finish ninth overall and fifth in the South Division in the Preseason NSIC Football Coaches Poll released Thursday morning by the league office in Burnsville, Minnesota. Listed as Wildcat Players to Watch this season are senior receiver Nate Rogers and senior defensive lineman Xavier Graham. WSC received 111 points overall and 25 points in the South Division poll in voting conducted by league coaches. Last season, the Wildcats tied for sixth overall in the NSIC with a 6-5 record and were 4-3 in the NSIC South to secure fourth place.
Minnesota State was voted the unanimous preseason favorite in the NSIC (Coaches cannot vote for their own team as the Mavericks received 225 points and 15 first-place votes while Winona State received the only other first place vote and 197 points to come in second. Rounding out the top five teams overall are Sioux Falls with 195 points, Minnesota Duluth at 194 points and Bemidji State with 165 points.
Augustana was sixth with 148 points followed by St. Cloud State (133), Northern State (114) and Wayne State close behind receiving 111 points.
MSU Moorhead (99) edged Upper Iowa (96) for 10th place with Southwest Minnesota State in 12th with 69 points. Minot State (63), Concordia-St. Paul (62), University of Mary (34) and Minnesota Crookston (15) rounded off the bottom half of the preseason poll.
In the NSIC South Division preseason poll, Minnesota State garnered 49 points and seven first-place votes. Winona State followed closely behind, receiving the last first-place vote and 43 points. Sioux Falls’ 37 points earned a third place prediction with Augustana finishing in the top half of the NSIC South with 28 points. Behind fifth place Wayne State (25), the bottom half finished out with Upper Iowa (18), Concordia-St. Paul (14) and Southwest Minnesota State (10).
Wayne State’s Offensive Player to Watch is wide receiver Nate Rogers. A 6-5, 210-pound senior from South Sioux City, Rogers caught 44 passes for 577 yards and 12 TD’s last season. He ranked third in the NSIC in scoring (TDs) averaging 6.5 points per game and was second in the league in touchdown receptions (12). Rogers enters this season tied for first in WSC history in career touchdown receptions (27) while recording back-to-back years of 12 touchdown catches.
The Wildcat Defensive Player to Watch this season is senior defensive lineman Xavier Graham. The 5-11, 285-pound senior from Omaha, played in all 11 games, starting three, and recorded 31 tackles in his junior campaign, including 7.5 tackles for loss. Graham led the team in sacks with 3.5 while also recording two quarterback hurries and a blocked kick. Graham received NSIC South Division Honorable Mention in his inaugural season with the Wildcats after transferring from Iowa Western.
Wayne State will open the 2018 football season at home on Thursday, August 30 against Winona State at Bob Cunningham Memorial Field in a 6 p.m. contest.