#6 Chattanooga FCS Football 2016 Preview

Chattanooga Mocs
Overall Rank: #6
#1 SoCon
Chattanooga has won three straight Southern Conference titles and this year should make number four. The lone conference loss last season was against Mercer and other than a season opening loss against Jacksonville State and a season ending loss at Florida State, that was the only loss in the regular season for the Mocs. In the playoffs, Chattanooga knocked off Fordham 50-20 before getting another shot at Jacksonville State. This time it was on the road though and once again Jacksonville State got the best of the Mocs.
2015 Record: 9-4, 6-1
2015 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Russ Huesman (50-33 at Chattanooga, 50-33 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jeff Durden
Defensive Coordinator: Adam Braithwaite
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Derrick Craine, RB, 1,251 yards
Passing: Alejandro Bennifield, QB, 138 yards
Receiving: C.J. Board, WR, 587 yards
Tackles: Nakevion Leslie, LB, 86
Sacks: Keionta Davis, DL, 13.5
Interceptions: Lucas Webb, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR James Stovall, WR Xavier Borishade, OL Corey Levin, DB Cedric Nettles, DL Isaiah Mack, K Henique Ribeiro
Key Losses: QB Jacob Huesman, OL Synjen Herren, LB A.J. Hampton, DB Sema’je Kendall, DL Toyvian Brand, DL Josh Freeman
The Mocs boast one of the best defensive players in the FCS and Keionta Davis is ready for a big senior season. The defensive end recorded 13.5 sacks and 17.0 tackles-for-loss last season and is an absolute terror. There is not an opposing quarterback in the SoCon that will not have nightmares about Davis. With sophomore tackle Isaiah Mack by his side, the line is in great shape. At linebacker, Nakevion Leslie is the lone returning starter. He was second on the team with 86 tackles, including 4.0 sacks and 14.0 tackles-for-loss. The secondary has the most starters returning. Cedric Nettles and Lucas Webb are a solid duo at safety. Webb is a big time playmaker who picked off three passes and returned two of them for touchdowns. Trevor Wright will be the new top cornerback and sophomore C.J. Fritz should be ready to step into a full-time starting role. That gives Chattanooga a pretty good secondary and they were already the best in the conference a year ago.
Chattanooga returns eight starters on offense. The offensive line, led by Corey Levin, is one of the best in the country. Behind that line, running back Derrick Craine rushed for 1,251 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Mocs will again have a very dominating ground game, but quarterback Jacob Huesman is no longer around to lead the offense. Huesman threw for 2,117 yards and a dozen touchdowns, but he also ran for 1,244 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was such a huge part of the offense and the Mocs almost have to take a step back without him. Alejandro Bennifield will take over for Huesman and he does have some talented receivers that will help make the transition easier. Senior C.J. Board caught 42 passes for 587 yards and three touchdowns. James Stovall and Xavier Borishade caught at least 30 passes each last season too.
The Bottom Line:
If the offense can get past not having Huesman under center, Chattanooga could be in for a special season. Even if the offense does take a pretty big step back, the defense is strong enough to lead Chattanooga to another Southern Conference title. The tougher games do not come until later in the season so the Mocs will have time to work on their offense. A trip to The Citadel on October 15th and a November 12th home date with Wofford could be the games that decide whether or not Chattanooga wins a fourth Southern Conference championship.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 241.9 (11th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 173.5 (87, 6)
Total Offense: 415.4 (35, 4)
Scoring Offense: 29.5 (39, 3)
Rushing Defense: 174.2 (68, 4)
Pass Defense: 177.8 (16, 1)
Total Defense: 351.9 (37, 1)
Scoring Defense: 22.4 (39, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.15 (50, 4)
Sacks: 2.62 (23, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.23 (25, 5)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#14 Joseph Richard
#85 Zach Weatherly