#38 Northern Colorado FCS Football 2016 Preview

Northern Colorado Bears
Overall Rank: #38
#7 Big Sky
Northern Colorado had an average season in 2015 and they will probably have another one in 2016. However, for Northern Colorado, going 6-5 is pretty good. It is the first time they have had a winning season in the FCS. Their three wins in the Big Sky were against Sacramento State, UC Davis and Portland State. Those may not be the greatest wins, but the Bears are starting to prove that they can be competitive in the Big Sky.
2015 Record: 6-5, 3-5
2015 Postseason: None
Coach: Earnest Collins Jr. (15-41 at Northern Colorado, 23-53 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jon Boyer
Defensive Coordinator: James Jones
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Trae Riek, RB, 817 yards
Passing: Jacob Knipp, QB, 1,998 yards
Receiving: Stephen Miller, WR, 448 yards
Tackles: Thomas Singleton, DB, 77
Sacks: Mikhail Dubose, DE, 5.5
Interceptions: 3 tied with 1
Other Key Returnees: RB Brandon Cartagena, RB Darius Graham, WR Alex Wesley, WR Ellis Onic, WR Hakeem Deggs, TE Michael McCauley, DE Keifer Morris, LB James Riddle, LB Kyle Newsom
Key Losses: QB Jonathan Newsom, WR Sean Leslie, DB Taylor Risner, DB Trevor Douglass
Quarterback Jacob Knipp had a pretty good freshman campaign. On the year he threw for 1,998 yards and 13 touchdowns with ten interceptions. Those are not great numbers of course, but there were promising performances and moments, most notably against Eastern Washington. In that game Knipp went 20-of-29 for 257 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. With that year of experience under his belt, Knipp could be in for a big sophomore season. There is potential at wide receiver too. Stephen Miller was the team’s top receiver with 32 catches for 448 yards and five touchdowns. Alex Wesley is a very promising sophomore who can make some big plays. With tight ends Michael McCauley and Theron Verna and receivers Ellis Onic and Hakeem Deggs also returning after catching at least ten passes last season, Knipp will have plenty of options. Another promising young player is running back Trae Riek. He rushed for 817 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman and, like Knipp, could be in for a breakout sophomore season.
The defense allowed nearly 500 yards per game last season and it is not easy to win many games when that happens. The front line had a lot of trouble getting to the quarterback but ends Mikhail Dubose and Keifer Morris combined for 9.5 sacks and 20.0 tackles-for-loss. Linebackers James Riddle and Kyle Newsom need to help with the run defense though. The biggest losses are in the secondary where Taylor Risner and Trevor Douglass need to be replaced. Thomas Singleton will have to hold down the fort while the Bears attempt to fill in the holes.
The Bottom Line:
The young offense has a lot of potential, but it remains to be seen if the defense can do enough to keep UNC competitive. The Bears do have a pretty tough schedule though. Big Sky play begins against Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington. It ends against Montana and Cal Poly. Games in the middle against UC Davis, Sacramento State, Portland State and North Dakota are where Northern Colorado needs to get the job done and take care of business. If they can pull off an upset or two in the other games, it will be a great season for the Bears.
Projected Postseason: None
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 162.0 (58th in nation, 8th in conference)
Passing Offense: 222.3 (49, 9)
Total Offense: 384.3 (57, 9)
Scoring Offense: 30.0 (37, 7)
Rushing Defense: 227.4 (110, 9)
Pass Defense: 266.2 (116, 10)
Total Defense: 493.5 (121, 13)
Scoring Defense: 34.4 (98, 9)
Turnover Margin: -0.18 (75, 6)
Sacks: 1.82 (75, 10)
Sacks Allowed: 2.09 (64, 8)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#56 Jarrin Pierce