WEIGHT: 210 pounds
JERSEY NUMBER: 28
HOMETOWN: Brunswick, Georgia
HIGH SCHOOL: Glynn Academy (Georgia)
When thinking about the Lenoir-Rhyne football team’s strong 2019 season, Preston Joseph probably isn’t one of the first names that springs to mind. But the fact remains that last fall, Joseph contributed to the Bears’ success in a variety of ways.
Not only did he serve as a linebacker on defense last season, but Joseph was also a vital member of Lenoir-Rhyne’s special teams unit. This year, the senior will be looking to improve on the numbers he posted a season ago — particularly on the defensive side of the ball, where he registered 26 total tackles (14 solo) to go with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
With that said, Joseph also shined on special teams, recording a pair of blocked punts while returning two kickoffs for a total of 30 yards and two punts for a total of 26 yards. He played in 13 of the Bears’ 14 games and was a key component of a squad that finished 13-1 overall and 8-0 in South Atlantic Conference play en route to its second straight appearance in the regional title game.
Linebackers Sherrod Williams and Clayton Horn, two of Lenoir-Rhyne’s standout defensive players, have since graduated. Consequently, guys like Joseph should get increased playing time in 2020 as first-year head coach Mike Jacobs looks for his fifth consecutive winning season as a head coach after amassing a 42-8 record in four years at the helm of Notre Dame College in Ohio.
As for the Bears, they were 25-3 under Drew Cronic — now the head coach at Mercer University in Georgia — over the past two seasons. Overall, they have finished with a winning record in seven of the last 10 years, with the decade comprising the 2010-19 seasons representing the winningest decade in program history. Lenoir-Rhyne was 83-35 over the 10-year period, winning six conference championships and reaching the NCAA Division II playoffs on five occasions.
Lenoir-Rhyne certainly has its sights set on another memorable season in 2020, and it will be up to players such as Joseph to step up in order to help make that happen. Joseph can’t do it alone, but if he continues to be a reliable cog in the machine, it will significantly boost the Bears’ chances of contending for their third straight SAC championship.
Lenoir-Rhyne graduated seven players off what was one of the top defensive units in the country a year ago, one of whom is now playing in the NFL. But they have been operating under a team-first, next-man-up mentality in recent years, which will be important again in 2020.
Josh McKinney is the sports editor for the Hickory Daily Record.
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