#2 Sam Houston State FCS Football 2016 Preview

Sam Houston State Bearkats
Overall Rank: #2
#1 Southland
Sam Houston State started last season with a couple shootout losses to Texas Tech and Lamar, but after that the team settled in and played very well the rest of the season. There was a loss at McNeese State along the way, but that was the only conference loss the Bearkats suffered. And SHSU would get their revenge against the Cowboys in the second round of the playoffs after they narrowly advanced past Southern Utah in the opening round. With a win over surprise Colgate in the quarterfinals, Sam Houston State was just one step away from another trip to Frisco. However, Jacksonville State had other ideas and absolutely crushed Sam Houston State 62-10.
2015 Record: 11-4, 8-1
2015 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: K.C. Keeler (38-14 at William & Mary, 38-14 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Phil Longo
Defensive Coordinator: Grad Sherrod
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Corey Avery, RB, 1,483 yards
Passing: Jeremiah Briscoe, QB, 1,883 yards
Receiving: Yedidiah Louis, WR, 994 yards
Tackles: P.J. Hall, DE, 75
Sacks: P.J. Hall, DE, 11.0
Interceptions: Alfonzo McMillian, S, 2; P.J. Hall, DE, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Remus Bulmer, WR Davion Davis, LB A.J. Davis, S Adrian Contreras, LB Myke Chatman, DE Luis Carreno, DT Sione Latu
Key Losses: RB Jalen Overstreet, QB Jared Johnson, WR Gerald Thomas, WR LaDarius Brown, OL Donald Jackson III, DB Mikell Everette, DB Trenier Orr, P Lachlan Edwards
This was a very good offense last season and despite the surprise transfer of quarterback Jared Johnson to Texas-San Antonio, it will be a good offense again. Last season Johnson threw for 2,216 yards and 18 touchdowns and ran for 470 yards and five more scores. However, Jeremiah Briscoe also saw a lot of action under center, throwing for 1,883 yards and 14 touchdowns. It would have been nice for Coach K.C. Keeler to be able to run his two quarterback offense again this year, but at least he has one experienced quarterback returning. And Briscoe will have plenty of weapons around him. Receiver Yedidiah Louis returns after leading the team with 71 receptions for 994 yards. Davion Davis figures to play a bigger role this year after catching 40 passes for 446 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman. But the true strength of this team is at the running back spot where Corey Avery returns after rushing for 1,483 yards and 15 touchdowns. Without a quarterback that can run, Avery will need to do a lot of work for the SHSU offense. Remus Bulmer should add some quality depth at the running back spot and Sam Houston State always reloads on offense. They may not rank first in total offense again this year, but they will not slip too far away from that either.
The defense has been the weaker spot for the Bearkats, but with eight starters returning, the hope is the unit can take a big step forward this year and not allow teams like Lamar and Jacksonville State to drop 49 or 62 points on them again in 2016. The defense is very strong though and look for the experience SHSU has up front to propel the defense to better things. Defensive end P.J. Hall not only led the team with 11.0 sacks and 22.0 tackles-for-loss, but he also recorded a team high 75 tackles. With fellow end Luis Carreno and tackle Sione Latu also returning, the Bearkats should have one of the best lines in the FCS. Collins Okotcha and A.J. Davis will lead the linebacker corps. The secondary returns cornerback Darion Flowers, but Trenier Orr and Mikell Everette are gone. Somebody like sophomore Anthony Johnson will have to step up and man the other corner spot. The team ranked sixth in the Southland in pass defense, so there is plenty of room for improvement. Getting safeties Adrian Conteras and Alfonzo McMillian back should help, but there is not much experienced depth at safety either.
The Bottom Line:
Before Johnson left many thought this could be the team that could unseat North Dakota State. The defense should be better and they must be better, but the offense could take a step back now and that could be enough to keep the Bearkats from a national title. The schedule will not really tell us much about how good this team is until the end of the season when Sam Houston State faces McNeese State, Northwestern State and Central Arkansas. Despite a lot of road trips prior to that, the Bearkats should be 8-0 heading into that stretch of games. This team will be a high seed in the playoffs, but they will have to be at their best when it matters most to realistically have a shot at winning the championship.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 254.5 (9th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 277.2 (16, 1)
Total Offense: 531.7 (1, 1)
Scoring Offense: 41.1 (5, 1)
Rushing Defense: 198.5 (92, 5)
Pass Defense: 215.1 (64, 6)
Total Defense: 413.6 (83, 4)
Scoring Defense: 28.1 (72, 4)
Turnover Margin: 0.07 (56, 4)
Sacks: 1.87 (72, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 1.40 (32, 3)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#37 Bryan Henderson
#57 Cody Brewer
#60 Caleb Griffin
#68 Nathan Stewart