#29 Central Arkansas FCS Football 2016 Preview

Central Arkansas Bears
Overall Rank: #29
#3 Southland
Central Arkansas had a nice bounce back season in 2015. After starting off the year with losses to Samford and Oklahoma State, the Bears won seven of their next nine games. The two losses were against the best teams in the conference, McNeese State and Sam Houston State. The Bears were able to beat the teams they should beat and that consistency should continue in 2016, although with a less talented team on hand, Coach Steven Campbell will find it more difficult to win seven games again.
2015 Record: 7-4, 7-2
2015 Postseason: None
Coach: Steve Campbell (13-10 at Central Arkansas, 40-18 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Nathan Brown
Defensive Coordinator: Greg Stewart
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kelton Warren, RB, 165 yards
Passing: Hayden Hildebrand, QB, 1,707 yards
Receiving: Desmond Smith, WR, 817 yards
Tackles: Devin Spurlock, DB, 75
Sacks: Cardell Best, DE, 2.5
Interceptions: Tremon Smith, CB, 5
Other Key Returnees: WR Jatavious Wilson, WR Brandon Cox, LB George Odum, LB Garrett Sharp
Key Losses: RB Blake Veasley, RB Dominique Thomas, OL Kyle Stouffer, DL Derek Floyd, DL Jonathan Woodard, DB Bobby Watkins, LB Ricky Wyatt, K Jace Denker
Central Arkansas has plenty of talented players on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Hayden Hildebrand will spearhead a passing game that ranked third in the Southland last season. He threw for 1,707 yards and a dozen touchdowns, while throwing just four interceptions. Hildebrand may not be too flashy, but he is consistent. The receiving corps is full of talent. Desmond Smith caught 67 passes for 817 yards and two touchdowns, while Jatavious Wilson caught 49 passes for 536 yards and four scores. With Brandon Cox and H-back Cody Dauksch, Hildebrand should be able to boost his passing numbers. On the other side of the ball, the secondary is loaded with talent. Devin Spurlock was the team’s top tackler a year ago and cornerback Tremon Smith picked off five passes. Linebackers George Odum and Garrett Sharp are experienced linebackers who combined for 115 tackles.
A big problem that could haunt Central Arkansas this season is their play on the lines. The offensive line lost Kyle Stouffer and will have to rebuild around Stockton Mallett. The ground game, which needs to replace Blake Veasley and Dominique Thomas, could struggle if the line does not find quality replacements. The defensive line lost a lot of talent, including Jonathan Woodard, who tallied 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles-for-loss, was a staple on the UCA line for years. Also lost is Derek Floyd, who added 6.0 sacks and 9.5 tackles-for-loss. The pressure is on players like Cardell Best to turn from role players into consistent pass rushers, but filling the shoes of Woodard and Floyd is no easy task.
The Bottom Line:
With the questions on both lines, this is a season that could get away from Central Arkansas. The schedule is not too bad though with three home games to start the year against Houston Baptist, Samford and Northwestern State. The toughest two games of the conference slate are on the road though on October 15th at McNeese State and November 19th at Sam Houston State. If Central Arkansas wants to make the playoffs, they will have to take care of business against the rest of the conference and probably pull off an upset against either McNeese State or Sam Houston State.
Projected Postseason: None
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 198.6 (26th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 216.5 (51, 3)
Total Offense: 415.2 (36, 4)
Scoring Offense: 28.2 (51, 5)
Rushing Defense: 133.5 (23, 2)
Pass Defense: 254.5 (111, 9)
Total Defense: 388.1 (65, 3)
Scoring Defense: 25.2 (57, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.82 (12, 1)
Sacks: 2.73 (17, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.45 (34, 4)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#139 Kierre Crossley
#145 Joe Hampton