NEW YORK --- The Tusculum College football team is listed 12th in the 2009 Sporting News Division II Preseason Poll. The Pioneers return 50 lettermen, including 17 starters from last year's 9-4 squad that won the South Atlantic Conference title and advanced to the NCAA Playoffs for the first time in school history.

John Gregory Amongst those 17 starters is senior punter John Gregory, who was named to the Sporting News DII Preseason All-America Team.

Grand Valley State is the preseason favorite in the Sporting News poll. The Lakers posted an 11-1 record and were eliminated by eventual national champion Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA quarterfinals. Northwest Missouri State, last year's national runner-up, is picked second. Minnesota-Duluth is third, while Delta State is fourth. Delta State defeated Tusculum 27-19 in the second round of the playoffs.

Edinboro is fifth, followed by Pittsburg State, Bloomsburg, Carson-Newman, Central Oklahoma and Central Washington to round out the top 10. Tusculum and Carson-Newman each claimed a share of the SAC championship last season and are the only two league programs listed in the Sporting News Top 25.

North Alabama comes in at No. 11, followed by Tusculum, California (Pa.), Ashland, Abilene Christian, Tuskegee, Chadron State, Minnesota State-Mankato, Valdosta State, Nebraska-Kearney, Seton Hill, Indiana (Pa.), American International, Arkansas Tech and Shaw.

Gregory, a 6-2, 210-pound native from Ooltewah, Tenn., finished third in the nation in punting average last season, posting a school record 43.52 yards per punt average. For his efforts, he was named to the 2008 Football Gazette All-America Third Team.

Gregory earned All-Region honors twice last year and for a third straight season. He was a Daktronics All-Region selection in 2006 and 2008 and was named to the Football Gazette All-Region squad in 2007 and again in 2008. The three-time All-SAC honoree continues to rewrite the school punting records. Gregory owns the three top career marks for punt attempts (175), punting yards (7293) and punting average (41.67). The Ooltewah High School graduate broke the previous school single-season mark set by Dick Schultz (43.50) in 1941.

The Pioneers will open the 2009 campaign, Saturday, Aug. 29 as Tusculum travels to the University of Charleston (W.Va.) for a 1 p.m. kickoff.

- TC -

Sporting News Division II Preseason Football Top 25 Poll
Rk. Team
1 Grand Valley State
2 Northwest Missouri State
3 Minnesota-Duluth
4 Delta State
5 Edinboro
6 Pittsburg State
7 Bloomsburg
8 Carson-Newman
9 Central Oklahoma
10 Central Washington
11 North Alabama
13 California (Pa.)
14 Ashland
15 Abilene Christian
16 Tuskegee
17 Chadron State
18 Minnesota State-Mankato
19 Valdosta State
20 Nebraska-Kearney
21 Seton Hill
22 Indiana (Pa.)
23 American International
24 Arkansas Tech
25 Shaw

Tusculum Opponents in Italics