Fort Valley State preview

Last season: 8-4, 6-2 in Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference

Two you know: LB LeRon Furr (Carver-Columbus) returns for his senior season after being selected as the SIAC co-defensive player of the year in 2012. He led the Wildcats with 100 tackles — 32 for loss — and 6 1/2 sacks and was included on almost every Division II preseason All-America team. DE Bernard Little (Putnam County) had 45 tackles and 12 1/2 for loss as the Wildcats ranked second in the nation with 10.3 in tackles for loss per game.

Two you'll hear about: Coach Donald Pittman said WR DeAngelo Smith (Camden County), who is 6-foot-1, 196 pounds, has transferred from South Carolina and is eligible this season. He caught six passes for 69 yards in 17 career games for the Gamecocks, and his lone TD came on a 30-yard reception against East Carolina in 2012. DB Thomas Wolfe (Wheeler), a senior, led the SIAC with 23 passes defended, had six interceptions and returned 13 punts for 61 yards.

Two for the future: Pittman said freshman OLB Rashard McCarter (Carver-Columbus) could make an impact as early as this season. He also signed DE Sam Washington and OL Anfernee Chandler (6-3, 315), both from Lowndes. Washington led Lowndes with five sacks in 2012.

They'll have a winning season if: Pittman can replace key members of the offense and the defense can stop the run. He said the Wildcats will be more physical and in better condition this year than they were in 2012. "We want to be like Tuskegee," he said.

They'll come up short if: The Wildcats lose their first two games against Valdosta State and Savannah State, an FCS program, and can't stop the trend. With a tough SIAC schedule, FVSU can't afford too many early-season losses and hope to return to the playoffs.

Chatter: Pittman said five QBs were competing for the starting job, which was handled by Antonio Henton last season. The former Ohio State and Georgia Southern player threw for 2,604 yards and 20 TDs, but had 19 interceptions. … LeRon Furr started his career at Oklahoma State and brother DeRon Furr (Carver-Columbus) began his at Memphis. … The Furrs, Little, Wolfe and DB Tracey White (Dunwoody) are key returners to a defense that ranked 34th in Division II in yards allowed (341.3) in 2012. … The Wildcats were picked to finish second behind Albany State in the SIAC East. FVSU has had one losing season in the past five, going 2-8 in 2011.

Must-see games: The schedule is full of key games. The Wildcats open against defending national champion Valdosta State at the Heritage Classic in Macon on Sept. 7. FVSU plays at Savannah State on Sept. 14, hosts defending SIAC champ Tuskegee on Oct. 5 and concludes the regular season against Albany State in Columbus on Nov. 9.

Best Twitter handle: @FVSUAthletics