#43 Samford FCS Football 2016 Preview

Samford Bulldogs
Overall Rank: #43
#5 SoCon
Coach Chris Hatcher had a good debut season at Samford. The Bulldogs had a winning record for the fifth straight season, but it was not easy to get there. After beating Central Arkansas and Florida A&M to begin the season, Samford lost five of their next six. It took three straight wins to end the year for Samford to reach 6-5. With a very potent offense and an improving defense, Coach Hatcher and the Bulldogs hope for better things in year two and they can build off of that late season success.
2015 Record: 6-5, 3-4
2015 Postseason: None
Coach: Chris Hatcher (6-5 at Samford, 127-62 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Russ Callaway
Defensive Coordinator: Bill D’Ottavio
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Denzel Williams, RB, 518 yards
Passing: Devlin Hodges, QB, 2,230 yards
Receiving: Karel Hamilton, WR, 880 yards
Tackles: Jamerson Blount, S, 75
Sacks: Ahmad Gooden, DL, 4.0
Interceptions: Jamerson Blount, S, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB K’rondis Larry, WR Kelvin McKnight, WR Emmanuel Obajimi, OL Armando Bonheur, LB Shaheed Salmon
Key Losses: OL Gunnar Bromelow, LB Justin Cooper, LB Josh Killett, S Trey Wesley, DL Michael Pierce, DB James Bradberry, K Anthony Pistelli
This team is all about offense and all about the passing game. Quarterback Devlin Hodges had an amazing freshman campaign, throwing for 2,230 yards and 12 touchdowns while completing 69.4 percent of his passes. Hodges split time with Michael Eubank last year, but this is Hodges team now. Hodges was not the only freshman to have a great season for Samford. Wide receiver Kelvin McKnight caught 57 passes for 616 yards and two touchdowns and should be able to build off of that success. Karel Hamilton is still the top receiver on the team though. He caught 75 passes for 880 yards and four scores. Emmanuel Obajimi is the big play receiver and found the end zone seven times. Furman does not need to get too much production from their ground game, but Denzel Williams and K’rondis Larry are both back after combining to rush for 946 yards and a dozen touchdowns. The offensive line is solid, led by Armando Bonheur, but replacing Gunnar Bromelow will not be easy. Still, this offense should rank among the most prolific in the country.
The offense can only take Samford so far though and the defense must improve dramatically if the Bulldogs have playoff hopes. It was way too easy for teams to run against Samford and they gave up 221.8 yards per game on the ground. Not only does that lead to a tired defense and surrendering a lot of points, but it also keeps the Bulldogs offense off of the field. Lineman Ahmad Gooden and linebacker Shaheed Salmon will be tasked with stepping up their game in an attempt to improve the run defense. The pass defense was pretty good last year, but the unit does need to replace All-American cornerback James Bradberry. Free safety Jamerson Blount recorded 75 tackles and three interceptions and is ready to spearhead what should be a decent pass defense.
The Bottom Line:
Samford opens up SoCon play against Chattanooga and Wofford, so there is very little time for the Bulldogs to shore up their defense. A 0-2 start in conference play would lead to an uphill battle to reach the playoffs, especially with games at Mississippi State, at The Citadel and against Mercer coming up towards the end of the season. The Southern Conference will be very tough this year and some teams will get beat up and knocked out of the playoffs. That could happen to Samford if the defense does not improve.
Projected Postseason: None
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 146.8 (69th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 332.9 (3, 1)
Total Offense: 469.7 (7, 1)
Scoring Offense: 34.6 (18, 1)
Rushing Defense: 221.8 (107, 7)
Pass Defense: 197.8 (38, 3)
Total Defense: 419.6 (88, 6)
Scoring Defense: 26.7 (65, 4)
Turnover Margin: 0.36 (34, 3)
Sacks: 1.82 (75, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 2.00 (61, 6)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#1 TaDarryl Marshall
#12 Aaron Atkinson
#16 Jai Creamer
#88 Robert Adams