#42 Saint Francis FCS Football 2016 Preview

Saint Francis Red Flash
Overall Rank: #42
#1 NEC
Saint Francis was a surprise team in the NEC last season. They went to Duquesne with a spot in the playoffs on the line and came up just short in a 30-20 defeat. Their other conference loss came by two points at Bryant. This team was not far off from having something very special. The Red Flash will try and capture some more magic this time around and build off of their first winning season since 1992.
2015 Record: 7-4, 4-2
2015 Postseason: None
Coach: Chris Villarrial (24-41 at Saint Francis, 24-41 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Eric Long
Defensive Coordinator: Marco Pecora
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Marcus Bagley, RB, 626 yards
Passing: Zack Drayer, QB, 1,977 yards
Receiving: Kamron Lewis, WR, 107 yards
Tackles: Solomon Leaeno, LB, 61
Sacks: Solomon Leaeno, LB, 4.0; Wesley Nagaseu, DL, 4.0; Erik Walker, LB, 4.0; Louie Gartner, DL, 4.0
Interceptions: Delondo Boyd, DB, 3; Lorenzo Jerome, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: OL Jimmy Marks, OL Christian Eubanks, OL Samuel Freireich, K Lance Geesey
Key Losses: RB Khairi Dickson, WR Terell Smith, WR Daniel Adams, LB Semo Sila, LB Max Ma’afala-Maiava, CB DaQuan Minter
Eight starters return to a defense that ranked 17th in the FCS and first in the NEC total defense. That is a great place to start for a team looking to reach the playoffs. The line has a couple solid pass rushers in Wesley Nagaseu and Louie Gartner. Linebackers Solomon Leaeno and Erik Walker can get into the backfield as well, but those two can chase down more than just the quarterback. The front seven is very good, even without leading tackler Semo Sila, but it is the secondary that makes this such a dangerous defense. Lorenzo Jerome is the leader of the unit after totaling 58 tackles and three interceptions last season. Junior Delondo Boyd also turned into a solid playmaker in the secondary last season and he is only getting better with experience. Special teams is a place where Saint Francis can excel as well. Jerome is an All-American caliber kick returner and placekicker Lance Geesey is one of the best in the FCS too.
The offense has a few questions, but they should still be one of the better scoring teams in the NEC; and that is in large part due to the return of all five starting offensive linemen. Running back Khairi Dickson is gone after rushing for 1,003 yards and eight touchdowns during his senior season, but Marcus Bagley is more than ready to pick up the slack. Bagley rushed for 626 yards and a couple scores as a sophomore after totaling 421 yards and seven scores back in 2014. With the talent on the line, Bagley will be in for a big year. He is a bruising back who can handle a large workload, but the bigger issue for the ground game will be finding a second back to compliment Bagley. Quarterback Zack Drayer threw for 1,977 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, but now he needs to find new targets. The top four receivers are gone, including Terell Smith who caught 53 passes for 920 yards and eight touchdowns. Kamron Lewis, who caught just 11 passes for 107 yards, is the team’s top returning receiver.
The Bottom Line:
Once again the NEC title and a berth in the playoffs should come down to the Red Flash and Duquesne. But unlike last year, we will not have to wait until the season finale to see those two go at it. Saint Francis hosts Duquesne on October 22nd. A trip to Sacred Heart the following week could be tricky, but if Coach Chris Villarrial can manage to win those two games, this team will likely be headed to the playoffs.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 158.7 (59th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 203.0 (60, 4)
Total Offense: 361.7 (70, 4)
Scoring Offense: 28.2 (50, 2)
Rushing Defense: 146.3 (36, 4)
Pass Defense: 163.0 (8, 1)
Total Defense: 309.3 (17, 1)
Scoring Defense: 20.9 (25, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.20 (44, 3)
Sacks: 2.60 (24, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 2.60 (94, 4)