#4 Jacksonville State FCS Football 2016 Preview

Jacksonville State Gamecocks
Overall Rank: #4
#1 Ohio Valley
Jacksonville State had an amazing 2015 season. The Gamecocks started off the year with a great win over Chattanooga. A week later Jacksonville State nearly beat Auburn, but fell just short at 27-20. After that loss it was a long time before this team would lose again. They cruised through the OVC with relative ease and continued that run into the playoffs. Jacksonville State beat Chattanooga, Charleston Southern and Sam Houston State in route to a trip to Frisco to take on North Dakota State for the FCS title. Jacksonville State lost that game 37-10, but they are hoping to get another shot at it in 2016.
2015 Record: 13-2, 8-0
2015 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: John Grass (23-4 at Jacksonville State, 23-4 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: John Grass
Defensive Coordinator: David Blackwell, Brandon Hall
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Eli Jenkins, QB, 1,161 yards
Passing: Eli Jenkins, QB, 2,788 yards
Receiving: Josh Barge, WR, 1,145 yards
Tackles: Joel McCandless, LB, 79
Sacks: Darius Jackson, DE, 7.0
Interceptions: Jaylen Hill, CB, 4
Other Key Returnees: RB Josh Clemons, OL Casey Dunn, OL Justin Lea, S Siran Neal, DL Desmond Owino
Key Losses: RB Troymaine Pope, RB Miles Jones, WR Ruben Gonzalez, OL Adam Wright, OL Blake Burks, DB Brandon Bender, LB Dawson Wells, DL Chris Landrum, DB Jarmaine Hough, DL Devaunte Sigler
With Eli Jenkins and Josh Barge back, the Jacksonville State offense will again be very difficult to contain. Jenkins threw for 2,788 yards and 21 touchdowns and added 1,161 yards and 15 more scores on the ground. He is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country. And Barge is one of the best receivers in the country. He caught 92 passes for 1,145 yards and 11 touchdowns last season and could be in for an even bigger year with Jenkins potentially looking his way more often. Coach John Grass will hope players like Earl Calloway, Anthony Johnson and Dorien Dickey can step up as secondary receivers. The offensive line will be a strength too with Justin Lea and Casey Dunn leading the way. But the ground game has to replace Troymaine Pope, who rushed for 1,788 yards and 19 touchdowns. Josh Clemons, who spent a couple seasons at Kentucky, will look to take over after rushing for 405 yards and four touchdowns for Jacksonville State last season.
Jacksonville State had a great defense last year too, but only three starters are back. Defensive end Darius Jackson will lead the line after recording 7.0 sacks and 19.0 tackles-for-loss in 2015. Defensive tackle Desmond Owino has some experience too, but there are a lot of untested underclassmen that have to at least provide quality depth. The returning leader at linebacker is Joel McCandless. The sophomore recorded 79 tackles last season and is a rising star in the OVC. The hope is fellow sophomores Siran Neal and Quan Stoudemire are ready to start stepping up too. The returning starter in the secondary is cornerback Jaylen Hill. He picked off a team high four passes last season and is poised for a big senior season. Reggie Hall is an athletic cornerback and returnman who is the likely starter opposite Hill.
The Bottom Line:
There may be some big holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but Jacksonville State has been building depth the last few years under Coach Grass and now is the time to show it off. Yet, the best leaders on both sides of the ball are back so there is a great foundation to build around. That should lead to another OVC title for Jacksonville State. With games against LSU, Coastal Carolina and Liberty in September, it will not take long to figure out where this team stands on the national level. The big games in conference play come in late October when Jacksonville State travels to Eastern Kentucky and hosts Eastern Illinois in back-to-back weeks.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 300.7 (3rd in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 206.8 (56, 5)
Total Offense: 507.5 (4, 1)
Scoring Offense: 38.9 (8, 1)
Rushing Defense: 120.9 (16, 2)
Pass Defense: 179.4 (18, 1)
Total Defense: 300.3 (12, 1)
Scoring Defense: 19.9 (18, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.47 (28, 3)
Sacks: 2.67 (20, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.27 (26, 3)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#32 Michael Perry III
#44 Terrence Harris
#183 Kurtis Beaman