#24 Portland State FCS Football 2016 Preview

Portland State Vikings
Overall Rank: #24
#5 Big Sky
Portland State had an amazing 2015 campaign. It started with a shocking 24-17 win at Washington State and the Vikings just kept rolling from there. The season also included a massive 66-7 victory over North Texas. The Mean Green were not a good FBS team, but any time an FCS team dismantles an FBS squad, it makes some waves. In Big Sky play, Portland State had a pretty tough schedule, but managed to beat Montana, Montana State, Cal Poly and Eastern Washington. The playoff appearance did not last too long though as the Vikings lost to Northern Iowa in the second round following a bye in the first round. This time around Portland State will hope for a better playoff run.
2015 Record: 9-3, 6-2
2015 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Bruce Barnum (9-3 at Portland State, 9-3 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Steve Cooper
Defensive Coordinator: Malik Roberson
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Alex Kuresa, QB, 755 yards
Passing: Alex Kuresa, QB, 1,975 yards
Receiving: Darnell Adams, WR, 478 yards
Tackles: Beau Duronslet, S, 64
Sacks: Davond Dade, DE, 6.0
Interceptions: Xavier Coleman, CB, 5
Other Key Returnees: RB Nate Tago, WR Josh Kraght, OL Cam Keizur, DE Michael Doman, S Walter Santiago, K Jonathan Gonzales
Key Losses: RB David Jones, WR Thomas Carter, OT Mike Davis, OL Kyle Smith, S Patrick Onwuasor, LB Jeremy Lutali, LB AJ Schlatter, DT Sadat Sulleyman, CB Aaron Sibley, DT Daniel Fusi
If a playoff run is going to happen, the Vikings must balance out their offense a little bit. Last season the team ranked 10th in the FCS in rushing offense and 92nd in passing offense. Running back David Jones graduated after rushing for 1,127 yards and nine touchdowns. Nate Tago figures to take over the bulk of the carries after rushing for 421 yards and six scores. Junior college transfer Za’Quan Summers is the more elusive back and he could turn into the back who can break the big run. Quarterback Alex Kuresa will keep making plays with his legs too. He rushed for 755 yards and seven touchdowns last season and is a very dangerous runner. The key for the Portland State offense will be getting more consistency from Kuresa in the passing game. Last season he threw for 1,975 yards and 17 touchdowns. He threw just seven interceptions, but also only completed 54.4 percent of his pass attempts. The Vikings will look deep quite a bit in an effort to stretch the defense, so having a relatively low completion percentage is understandable, but Kuresa still needs to hit the short passes on a more regular basis. Most of those deep balls go to 6-2 senior Darnell Adams. Last season he caught 22 passes for 478 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged 21.7 yards per catch. Josh Kraght and Trent Riley are the other experienced receivers.
The defense was great last season, but most of those pieces are not back in 2016. Last season the unit created a ton of turnovers and allowed just 22.3 points per game. The front line is still pretty talented with the return of Davond Dade and Michael Doman. Those two combined for 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles-for-loss. A strong defensive line will help usher in some new faces in the rest of the defense. Most of the returning talent is in the secondary where cornerback Xavier Coleman leads the way. He is one of the best corners in the FCS after breaking up 18 passes last season. Losing safety Patrick  Onwuasor, who picked off eight passes, is a big loss, but Beau Doronslet and Walter Santiago are a couple solid safeties to build around. The concern at linebacker stems from the tragic death of AJ Schlatter and the graduation of Jeremy Lutali. Schlatter had a breakout 2015 campaign and Coach Bruce Barnum will not easily be able to replace the holes in the middle of the defense.
The Bottom Line:
Everything seemed to go right for Portland State last season and they deserved to make more noise in the playoffs. It is hard to recreate a season in which any team has a 1.08 turnover margin. The Vikings may find themselves on the losing end of a couple of these close, tough Big Sky matchups if the defense cannot create 28 turnovers again in 2016. The schedule is relatively friendly though. After playing San Jose State and Washington in September, the Big Sky slate could have been much worse. A trip to Weber State in early October will be tough and the season ending contest at home against Eastern Washington will likely result in a loss, but everything else is very winnable. There is no Montana, Northern Arizona or North Dakota on the schedule and Cal Poly and Northern Colorado have to come to Portland. This is a team that could win eight or nine games, but seven wins is a likely scenario as well and that will put them on the playoff bubble. Unfortunately, seven wins may not be enough for Portland State since the schedule could look pretty easy by the end of the season.
Projected Postseason: None
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 250.6 (10th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 168.4 (92, 11)
Total Offense: 419.0 (31, 7)
Scoring Offense: 34.3 (21, 5)
Rushing Defense: 192.0 (82, 7)
Pass Defense: 192.0 (33, 4)
Total Defense: 384.0 (62, 4)
Scoring Defense: 22.3 (38, 2)
Turnover Margin: 1.08 (5, 2)
Sacks: 2.25 (42, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 1.75 (51, 4)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#23 Toure Moustapha