#37 Prairie View A&M FCS Football 2016 Preview

Prairie View A&M Panthers
Overall Rank: #37
Once again the SWAC will be full of surprises. Last season Prairie View A&M went 8-1 in conference play, but that was not enough to win the West division. The lone loss came to Grambling State at the Cotton Bowl and that was enough for Grambling State to win the division. Once again it should be tight at the top of the West, but Coach Willie Simmons will have his team ready to compete again.
2015 Record: 8-2, 8-1
2015 Postseason: None
Coach: Willie Simmons (8-2 at Prairie View A&M, 8-2 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Alex Jackson
Defensive Coordinator: Ralph Street
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Trey Green, QB, 248 yards
Passing: Trey Green, QB, 2,614 yards
Receiving: KhaDarel Hodge, WR, 499 yards
Tackles: Jalan Coleman, LB, 71
Sacks: Akheem Barton, DL, 6.0; DeVohn Reed, DL, 6.0
Interceptions: Dominique Weaver, CB, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR Demarquo Lastrappe, DB Marquice O’Leary, S Will Skinner, DL James Harper
Key Losses: RB Johnta Hebert, RB Courtney Brown, OL Jordan Johnson, WR Nick Pitre, LB Brandon Medina
The Panthers averaged an FCS high 44.9 points per game last season. On many occasions, they were able to simply outscore the opposition. Quarterback Trey Green threw for 2,614 yards and 21 touchdowns, while tossing a mere three interceptions. This is an efficient offense with Green leading the way. Some key wide receivers are gone, but KhaDarel Hodge caught 28 passes for 499 yards and three scores and Demarquo LaStrappe added 19 catches for 366 yards and three touchdowns. A handful of others with a bit of experience will need to step up and become more reliable options for Green. Running back Johnta Hebert was the team’s top receiver, catching 47 passes for 575 yards. He also rushed for 937 yards and seven scores. With Hebert gone, Green will need to find a new short target. It could be one of the new running backs or a tight end like Cameron Smith.
When the offense scores nearly 45 points per game, the defense is going to allow some points. Yet, Prairie View A&M managed to rank third in the SWAC in scoring defense, allowing 33.1 points per game. This defense would bend, but they did a pretty good job of not breaking. The unit as a whole should be pretty good again this year. The front line returns Akheem Barton and DeVohn Reed, who tallied 6.0 sacks each in 2015. James Harper is the big nose guard who eats up space in the middle. At linebacker, Jalan Coleman recorded 71 tackles last season and should again be the leader of the unit. It was the pass defense that was often the weak spot for Prairie View A&M. With what should be a better pass rush, Marquice O’Leary, Will Skinner, Arthur Lockett and Dominique Weaver should not have to cover opposing receivers for quite as long. O’Leary is the star of that group after recording 51 tackles and picking off two passes. Weaver was just a freshman last season and Lockett just a sophomore, so the two cornerbacks earned a lot of experience last season and should be better this time around.
The Bottom Line:
The offense may take a step back, but the defense should be better and more consistent. The result could be another 8-2 type of season. Maybe this time that will be enough to win the division. Key games against Alcorn State and Southern come at home in back-to-back weeks in November. And with a neutral site game against Grambling State, Prairie View A&M does not have to hit the road to play any of the presumed top teams in the SWAC. And the home games will be in the new on-campus Panther Stadium. Beating this team right now at the friendly confines will be a tough, tough task. All of that could lead to a West division title, a trip to the SWAC Championship game and the Celebration Bowl.
Projected Postseason: Celebration Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 210.5 (21st in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 278.0 (15, 1)
Total Offense: 488.5 (6, 1)
Scoring Offense: 44.9 (1, 1)
Rushing Defense: 158.4 (54, 3)
Pass Defense: 264.0 (115, 9)
Total Defense: 422.4 (91, 6)
Scoring Defense: 33.1 (89, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.70 (16, 1)
Sacks: 2.10 (54, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 1.70 (48, 5)