#3 Sam Houston State FCS Football 2015 Preview

George Hammond

Sam Houston State Bearkats

Overall Rank: #3
#1 Southland

Sam Houston State Team Page#3 Sam Houston State FCS Football 2015 PreviewBuy Sam Houston State Football Tickets

Sam Houston has earned at least a share of the Southland Conference title in three of the last four years, and the Bearkats are a heavy favorite to win the crown again in 2015. Sam Houston State reached the FCS semifinals for the third time in four seasons (ousted by North Dakota State each time) last year in K.C. Keeler’s first season. A 1-3 start last season, including a 47-21 loss to Division II Colorado State-Pueblo, gave no inkling, however, as to what was to unfold later in the season. The Bearkats won seven of their final eight regular-season contests, then beat Southeastern Louisiana, Jacksonville State and Villanova in the playoffs before bowing to eventual national champion North Dakota State. The Bearkats have an unbelievable 21 starters returning.

2014 Record: 11-5, 7-1
2014 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: K.C. Keeler (11-5 at Sam Houston State and 181-74-1 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Phil Longo
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Collins

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jared Johnson, QB, 999 yards
Passing: Jared Johnson, QB, 3,054 yards
Receiving: LaDarius Brown, WR, 807 yards
Tackles: Tristan Eche, LB, 108
Sacks: P.J. Hall, DE, 12
Interceptions: Mikell Everette, CB, 4, and Trenier Orr, CB, 4

Other Key Returnees: RB Donovan Williams, RB Jalen Overstreet, WR Yedidiah Louis, OT Donald Jackson, OT Brandon DeWitt, OL Zachary Stevens,  DT Sione Latu, DE Mouf Adebo; LB Myke Chatman; S Eric Agbaroj

Key Losses: RB Keshawn Hill, OL John Trotter, FS Michael Wade

There’s strength in numbers and when you return 21 starters – nine on offense, ten on defense and two kickers – that’s a pretty good place to start. Only 13 lettermen graduated from a team that reached the FCS Final Four last season. Leading the returnees is all-conference quarterback Jared Johnson, who had 4,053 yards (3,054 passing and 999 rushing) and sophomore defensive end P.J. Hall, the reigning conference freshman of the year who had 29 tackles for loss in 2014. The Bearkats return four starters on their offensive line, including All-American Donald Jackson, so Johnson should be well protected. Although running back Keshawn Hill is gone, the Bearkats return their third- and fourth-leading rushers from 2014: Jalen Overstreet and Donovan Williams. LaDarius Brown is the team’s lead returning wide receiver (45 catches for 807 yards). Besides Hall on defense, the Bearkats’ leading tackler from last year, Tristan Eche, returns at linebacker. Fellow linebacker Myke Chatman had 95 tackles last year.

Although there’s experience at running back, Hill’s absence will be missed. He rushed for 1,150 yards last season and scored a team-high 18 rushing touchdowns. When Sam Houston State needed yardage, it gave the ball to Hill. The Southland is known as a wide-open offensive conference, but even the talented Bearkats must be concerned about their defense. Last year, they were 88th nationally in total defense and 85th against the pass.

The Bottom Line:
Although Sam Houston State is the heavy favorite in the Southland, there are several teams that won’t just hand the Bearkats the title, including Southeastern Louisiana, McNeese State and Stephen F. Austin. But realistically, it’s the same cast of characters from last year except for Hill so the expectations are high. The Bearkats don’t play SE Louisiana but open with an interesting game at Texas Tech. That might tell us just how good this Bearkat team is and, if anyone can knock off North Dakota State, it just might be Sam Houston State.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 241.6 (9th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 205.4 (70, 7)
Total Offense: 447.1 (23, 4)
Scoring Offense: 33.9 (22, 4)  
Rushing Defense: 184.1 (77, 5)
Pass Defense: 237.0 (85, 8)
Total Defense: 421.1 (88, 7)
Scoring Defense: 28.1 (70, 4)
Turnover Margin: -.06 (63, 7)
Sacks: 2.38 (36, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 2.56 (90, 9)

Madness 2015 Recruit Rankings:
#26 Remus Bulmer
#53 Jalen Campbell
#85 Mitchell Watanabe
#196 Jonathan Johnson


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