#14 Stephen F. Austin FCS Football 2015 Preview

George Hammond

Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

Overall Rank: #14
#2 Southland

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The Lumberjacks (8-5, 5-3) enjoyed a five-game improvement from the 2013 season last year in coach Clint Conque’s first year at the helm. SFA was picked to finish sixth in the 2014 preseason media poll, but finished tied for third. It had key victories over McNeese State and Southeastern Louisiana. The improvement was good enough for the Lumberjacks to earn an at-large berth in the FCS playoffs for the first time since 2010. Although their stay was short-lived – Northern Iowa defeated SFA 44-10 – the team has something to build on for the 2015 season. Fourteen starters return although the team must replace the greatest running back in school history, Gus Johnson.

2014 Record: 8-5, 5-3
2014 Postseason: FCS playoffs
Coach: Clint Conque (8-5 at Stephen F. Austin and 113-64 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Matt Kubik
Defensive Coordinator: Matt Williamson

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Zach Conque, QB, 626 yards
Passing: Zach Conque, QB, 2,733 yards
Receiving: Aaron Thomas, WR, 703 yards
Tackles: Justin Owens, LB, 80
Sacks: Lance Skyler, DT, 6
Interceptions: Patrick Martin, DB, 2, Alec Miller, DB, 2

Other Key Returnees: DL Donald Bryant, DL Shayvion Hatten, DL Kedrick Harrison, RB Joshawa West, OL Byron Williams, OL Anthony Pullins, WR Justice Liggins

Key Losses: RB Gus Johnson, DB Keavon Madison, DE Ishmiah Miles, LB Collin Garrett, WR DJ Ward, WR Tyler Boyd

Last year’s newcomer of the year in the Southland, quarterback Zach Conque, returns to run the offense for his father. In 2014, Conque accounted for more than 3,300 yards and 29 touchdowns. He passed for 2,733 yards and had 15 passing touchdowns while he added 626 yards rushing – the most by any quarterback in school history. Conque was a second-team all preseason Southland pick this summer. If the game is won in the trenches, the other area of strength for the Lumberjacks is the offensive and defensive fronts. Two offensive linemen, senior Byron Williams and junior Anthony Pullins, were named to the first and second-team all-preseason squads, respectively. In addition, the three other interior linemen return for SFA. Meanwhile, three of four members of the defensive front return, including senior tackle Lance Skyler, a second-team preseason choice. Also back are Donald Bryant, Shayvion Hatten and Kedrick Harrison on the front.

SFA must fill the void left by the departure of running back Gus Johnson. He finished his career with 3,907 yards rushing, and the top returning rusher for the Lumberjacks is Conque. Defensively, the concern centers around the linebacking and secondary positions. Collin Garrett, the all-everything linebacker, must be replaced and defensive back Keavon Madison is gone from the secondary.

The Bottom Line:
The schedule – particularly early – is tough. In their first five games, the Lumberjacks meet Northern Arizona, TCU, McNeese State and Sam Houston State. Originally, SFA was slated to open against Division II Tarleton State but the contest was changed because victories against Division II schools don’t count toward the playoffs. So the opener is huge. If the Lumberjacks were to lose that one, the possibility exists they could open the season 0-3 (TCU and McNeese State follow). Having an experienced quarterback in Conque should help ease the transition away from relying on Johnson, too. With the experience up front, SFA has the makeup to weather the tough early season slate and make noise in the Southland Conference race.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 207.4 (28th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 253.4 (26, 4)
Total Offense: 460.8 (21, 3)
Scoring Offense: 32.7 (26, 6)  
Rushing Defense: 186.8 (81, 6)
Pass Defense: 222.0 (73, 7)
Total Defense: 408.8 (75, 5)
Scoring Defense: 28.5 (74, 5)
Turnover Margin: .08 (58, 5)
Sacks: 2.62 (20, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 2.15 (72, 7)

Madness 2015 Recruit Rankings:
#63 Reggie Daniels
#76 Alize Ward
#93 Rodney Veasey
#107 Marcalas Johnson
#112 Spencer Choka
#129 Kyshaun Smith
#162 Kiki Hill


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