Sam Houston State is FCS pick of the preseason magazines

American Football on Outdoor Field at the 50 Yard Line

Most of the preseason college football magazines arrived at news stands and book stores around Memorial Day kicking off debates that are sure to lead right up to the season’s opening week.

When it comes to the FCS top 25 published by Athlon, Sporting News and Lindy’s, 18 ASN-affiliated programs appear in at least one poll.

There is much agreement among the publications. All three tabbed Sam Houston State No. 2 behind five-time reigning FCS champ North Dakota State. While not necessarily in concert with respect to their exact standing both Richmond and Jacksonville State are in the top five. There are also projections that differ greatly. An example would be The Citadel picked No. 10 by Athlon while Lindy’s left the Bulldogs unranked.

Here is look at how ASN-affiliated programs fared in the respective publications’ top 25.

Sam Houston State (Last year: 11-4/7-2 Southland)
Consensus No. 2
The Bearkats made it to the FCS semifinal in each of coach K.C. Keeler’s first two seasons in Huntsville and finished third in the STATS poll last year. Though QB Jared Johnson transferred to UTSA as a graduate student after being named the conference’s offensive player of the year, the offense appears in good hands with UAB transfer Jeremiah Briscoe. Sixteen starters return.
“We’re pleased with our talent level, our strength and conditioning efforts and the commitment of our players to winning a national championship,” said Keeler. “But we’re maybe 10 percent away from a national title. Our goal is to keep improving on the little details that will make the difference in finishing as the No. 3 team in the nation and being the No. 1 team.”

Richmond (10-4/6-2 CAA)
SN: 3 | Athlon: 4 | Lindy’s: 5
The Spiders have new coordinators and leading rusher Jacobi Green graduated. However, plenty of talent returns led by redshirt junior quarterback Kyle Lauletta, who directed the CAA’s top passing game a season ago. Senior safety David Jones returns after leading the conference with nine interceptions.

Jacksonville State (13-2/8-0 Ohio Valley)  
Lindy’s: 3 | SN: 5 | Athlon: 5
It was rough off-season for quarterback Eli Jenkins, who was arrested (misdemeanor charges dropped) and underwent shoulder surgery. There were also plenty of transfer rumors, but the hope is the OVC Offensive Player of the Year can put it all behind him lead a team that went to the FCS championship game.

William & Mary (9-4/6-2 CAA)
SN: 6 | Lindy’s: 7 | Athlon: 13
Coach Jimmye Laycock, entering his 37th season as the Tribe’s head coach, should have another explosive offense (30.9 points last season) led by the returning trio of quarterback Steve Cluley, running back Kendell Anderson and receiver DeVonte Dedmon, who is also a game-breaking (16.4 yards) punt returner. The key question lies with a defense that must replace three All-CAA first-teamers.

Charleston Southern (10-3/6-0 Big South)
Athlon: 6 | Lindy’s: 9 | SN: 14
In his three seasons at the helm Jamey Chadwell has elevated the Buccaneers into the national title conversation. There were rumors of his taking over at Georgia Southern, but he remains at CSU. A strong running game should ease the burden on new starting quarterback Kyle Copeland. There is a big test out of the chute in the FCS Kickoff (Aug. 27) at North Dakota State.

Chattanooga (9-4/6-1 Southern Conference)
Athlon: 7 | SN: 8 | Lindy’s: 11
Last season Alejandro Bennifield punted more times (15) than he passed (8). That will not happen in 2016 as the junior takes over at quarterback. He will be capably protected with four starters returning on a line that boasts Corey Levin, who the last two years was voted the SoCon’s top offensive lineman. Hometown star Keionta Davis had a school-record 13.5 sacks last season.

McNeese State (10-1/9-0 Southland)
SN: 7 | Lindy’s: 14 | Athlon: 17
Former defensive coordinator Lance Guidry takes over the Cowboys from Matt Viator, who left for Louisiana-Monroe. The defense gets a boost from the return of Brian Hine after the end sat out last season due to a knee injury. Five new starters on offense could include 6-foot-6 junior quarterback Grant Ashcraft.

The Citadel (9-4/6-1 Southern)
Athlon: 10 | SN: 21 | Lindy’s UR
The Bulldogs are in a preseason top 10 for the first time in their history after the defending SoCon co-champs claimed their first conference championship since 1992. Former OC Brent Thompson takes over the sideline and the bulk of a triple-option that rolled up 347 yards rushing per game returns. Seven starters on defense, including All-American and junior corner Dee Delaney, return.

James Madison (9-3/6-2 CAA Football)
SN: 11 | Athlon: 14 | Lindy’s 18
New coach Mike Houston, late of The Citadel, takes over a team that led the FCS in total yards (529 per game) and was second in scoring (44.3 points) and a year ago. Junior quarterback Bryan Schor started the final four games last season for injured, and now departed, Vlad Lee. Junior linebacker Andrew Ankrah (10.5 sacks) leads the defense.

Colgate (9-5/6-0 Patriot)
Lindy’s: 12 | Athlon: 23 | SN: NR
A year after a league title and playoff run took them to the quarterfinal the Raiders are ready for more. Among the leaders are senior quarterback Jake Melville (22 total touchdowns) and end Pat Afriyie, who led the league in sacks (9.5) and tackles for loss (17.5) as a sophomore last season.

New Hampshire (7-5/5-3 CAA Football)
Lindy’s: 13 | SN: 18 | Athlon: UR
The Wildcats seek to extend the nation’s longest streak of 12 playoff appearances. A defense led by senior end Cam Shorey and senior corner Casey DeAndrade may have to pull a little more than its weight until the offense finds an identity under either Adam Riese (79) or Trevor Knight (19), who combined for 98 pass attempts last season.

Villanova (6-5/5-3 CAA Football)
Lindy’s: 16 | Athlon: 20 | SN: NR
This season will mark Andy Talley’s 32nd and final one on Philadelphia’s Main Line where he resurrected the program in 1985. Redshirt sophomore Zach Bednarczyk unexpectedly took over the No. 1 QB job (eight starts) after the now-graduated John Robertson was injured early on.

Towson (7-4/5-3 CAA Football)
Athlon: 18 | SN: NR | Lindy’s: NR
The Tigers made headlines in February with the news that quarterback Morgan Mahalak transferred from Oregon where he redshirted in 2014 and ran the scout team last season. The summer enrollee is expected to bolster an offense that returns 1,000-yard rusher Darius Victor.

Wofford (5-6/3-4 Southern)
SN: 19 | Athlon: NR | Lindy’s: NR
An option-oriented offense that churned out 300 yards rushing per game returns fullback and leading rusher Lorenzo Long (969 yards, 8 TDs) as well as quarterback Evan Jacks. The key to making a run at a conference title likely rests with a defense that must improve markedly on the 28 points per game allowed last season. The unit has nine returning starters.

Fordham (9-3/5-1 Patriot)
Lindy’s: 23 | Athlon: NR | SN: NR
Thirty-one year old Andrew Breiner was elevated from offensive coordinator to head coach to replace Joe Moorhead, who left to be Penn State’s OC after leading the Rams to three playoff appearances in the last four seasons. Breiner has 18 returning starters led by running back Chase Edmonds, the league’s offensive player of the year after totaling 25 touchdowns.

Eastern Illinois (7-5/7-1 Ohio Valley)
SN: 25 | Athlon: NR | Lindy’s: NR
Only four players return on defense, though one of them is senior linebacker Seth McDonald, the conference’s second-leading returning tackler. The offense will be directed by one of two transfer quarterbacks. Bud Martin arrived from FIU this year and Mitch Kimble came on board from Syracuse last year, but sat out the season due to injury.

Eastern Kentucky (6-5/5-3 Ohio Valley)
Athlon: 25 | SN: NR | Lindy’s: NR
Former Tennessee assistant Mark Elder takes over a program that wants to move up to the FBS. For now, he can look forward to an offense that returns its key glamour position players, including senior quarterback Bennie Coney.

Harvard (9-1/6-1 Ivy)
Lindy’s: 25 | Athlon: NR | SN: NR
An aerial attack that piled up 304 yards per game to rank sixth in the FCS must replace the Ivy’s top signal caller in Scott Hosch. Senior Joe Viviano is the favorite to take over. A defense that allowed 13 points per game, second in the FCS to Dartmouth, returns only four players.


Tom Layberger

Tom Layberger

Tom Layberger is a freelance writer based in Glen Mills, Pa.