#19 Samford FCS Football 2015 Preview

George Hammond

Samford Bulldogs

Overall Rank: #19
#2 SoCon

Samford Team Page#19 Samford FCS Football 2015 PreviewBuy Samford Football Tickets

A new era begins at Samford where former Murray State head coach Chris Hatcher has taken over for the retired Pat Sullivan. And he’ll have some big shoes to fill. The Bulldogs, picked second in the SoCon preseason coaches/media poll behind Chattanooga, have posted four consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1999. Plus, Samford has enjoyed three straight seasons of seven wins for the first time since 1962. In addition to Murray State, Hatcher also has head stints at Georgia Southern and Valdosta State. There are plenty of returnees on the 2015 roster so optimism is running high in Birmingham, Alabama.

2014 Record: 7-4, 5-2
2014 Postseason: None
Coach: Chris Hatcher (121-57 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Travis Trickett
Defensive Coordinator: Bill D’Ottavio

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Denzel Williams, RB, 918 yards
Passing: Michael Eubank, QB, 2,136 yards
Receiving: Karel Hamilton, WR, 877 yards
Tackles: Justin Cooper, LB, 94
Sacks: Roosevelt Donaldson, DL, 4.0
Interceptions: Josh Kimberlin, SS, 3

Other Key Returnees: DL Michael Pierce, OL Gunnar Bromelow, DB James Bradberry, TE Tony Philpot, OL Alex Hulmes, DB Jamerson Blount, WR Malik Johns, LB Shaheed Salmon, OL Wesley Carter

Key Losses: S Jaquiski Tartt, WR Robert Clark, P Greg Peranich, OL Jordan Boatright, OL Kyle Champion

There are a lot of skill-position players returning, including quarterback Michael Eubank. The 6-5, 250-pound transfer from Arizona State started all 11 games in 2014 and threw for 2,136 yards. Plus, he rushed 90 times for 214 yards. He will be complemented in the backfield by all-SoCon running back Denzel Williams (918 rushing yards) and K’rondis Larry and Jake Wilks (both running backs). All-SoCon wide receiver Karel Hamilton (55 receptions) also returns as does tight end Tony Philpot. In addition, all-SoCon preseason defensive player of the year Michael Pierce is back on the defensive front. All three starting linebackers return, including all-SoCon’s Justin Cooper too.

Despite the seven starters returning on offensive and defense, respectively, there are concerns. For starters, the Bulldogs must replace free safety Jaquiski Tartt, a three-time All-American who was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. It’s difficult to replace that kind of talent. Samford also lost two key offensive linemen in Jordan Boatwright and Kyle Champion. If the Bulldogs are going to challenge Chattanooga, they must do better offensively as they were just 77th nationally in total offense a year ago and were 68th nationally in scoring offense.

The Bottom Line:
The pieces of the puzzle are there. Samford is loaded with experience and it seems spread throughout the offensive and defensive units. The Bulldogs will miss the talent and leadership of Tartt, but if the offense can generate a few more points and Eubank plays consistently, Samford could make a serious run at the SoCon title and a playoff berth. The schedule has an interesting quirk in that the Bulldogs open with three straight home games for the first time since 1926. However, the opener is a tough one against the Southland’s Central Arkansas. A win there could set the tone for the season. Circle these two games: Sept. 19 Chattanooga and Sept. 26 at Louisville.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 142.27 (69th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 209.36 (60, 3)
Total Offense: 351.64 (77, 4)
Scoring Offense: 24.73 (68, 3)  
Rushing Defense: 164.64 (65, 3)
Pass Defense: 171.00 (16, 1)
Total Defense: 335.64 (29, 2)
Scoring Defense: 20.64 (19, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.82 (10, 4)
Sacks: 2.45 (27, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 2.64 (91, 6)

Madness 2015 Recruit Rankings:
#49 Kelvin McKnight
#72 Jamond Glass
#98 Jarek Taylor
#152 George Grimwade
#155 Kevin Marion


See All FCS Football Top 44 Previews