#44 Saint Francis FCS Football 2017 Preview

Saint Francis Red Flash
Overall Rank: #44
#2 NEC
Saint Francis had an epic 2016 campaign. The Red Flash went 5-1 in Northeast Conference play and reached the playoffs for the first time in school history. There was little hope for Coach Chris Villarrial’s squad to win a playoff game, but they performed very well in a 31-21 loss at Villanova. That bodes well for the future of the NEC and St. Francis.
2016 Record: 7-5, 5-1
2016 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Chris Villarrial (31-46 at Saint Francis, 31-46 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Eric Long
Defensive Coordinator: Marco Pecora
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Marcus Bagley, RB, 891 yards
Passing: None
Receiving: Kamron Lewis, WR, 1,478 yards
Tackles: Delondo Boyd, DB, 70
Sacks: Da’Jon Lee, LB, 5.0; Zane Stewart, LB, 5.0
Interceptions: Jalen Wells, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Jymere Jordan-Toney, WR Junior Ajayi, DB Malik Duncan
Key Losses: QB Zack Drayer, OL Jimmy Marks, OL Sam Freireich, DB Lorenzo Jerome, LB Solomon Leaeno, DL Wesley Nagaseu
Replacing Zack Drayer will not be an easy task. As a senior last year the signal caller threw for 2,594 yards and 22 touchdowns. Drayer has been a leader on this team. Junior Tyler Magaha was the backup last season, but he never attempted a pass. Fellow junior Freddy Bopst is the only other quarterback on the roster who has suited up for the Red Flash. The passing game should still be in good shape though with some help from receiver Kamron Lewis. He caught 75 passes for 1,478 yards and 11 touchdowns. The 6-4 junior is the reigning NEC Offensive Player of the Year and will be looking for those honors once again. With some help from players like Junior Ajayi, St. Francis has plenty of talented receiving options. The running back situation is good too with the return of Marcus Bagley and Jymere Jordan-Toney. Bagley has spent three very productive seasons with the Red Flash and tallied 891 yards on the ground in 2016. Jordan-Toney may poach some of the touchdowns, but Bagley will be the workhorse again in 2017.
The defense lost some huge playmakers. Solomon Leaeno led the team with 94 tackles, 10.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles-for-loss. Also gone is Lorenzo Jerome, who picked off six passes despite the opposition avoiding his side of the field as much as possible. At linebacker, Da’Jon Lee and Zane Stewart are expected to emerge as leaders, especially when it comes to getting to the quarterback. The secondary too has some experienced options that should be ready to step up and help fill the void. Jalen Wells intercepted three passes and Malik Duncan earned second-team all-NEC accolades. Those two will be tough cornerbacks. Delondo Boyd will be the safety that comes up and makes tackles for St. Francis. Finding somebody who can make the big plays like Jerome will be a bigger concern.
The Bottom Line:
For the Red Flash to win another NEC title, they will have to continue to win the turnover battle. That will be difficult without the steady passing of Drayer and the playmaking ability of Jerome. The schedule starts out with a big game at home against Wagner in week two of the regular season. Both of those teams have title aspirations. The other big showdown will likely be on October 21st at Duquesne. That game marks the end of a tough four game road trip. If St. Francis can make it through that stretch unscathed in conference play, they will be heading back to the playoffs.
Projected Postseason: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 126.2 (95th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 218.9 (55, 5)
Total Offense: 345.1 (88, 5)
Scoring Offense: 26.9 (55, 3)
Rushing Defense: 121.2 (18, 2)
Pass Defense: 199.6 (39, 2)
Total Defense: 320.8 (15, 2)
Scoring Defense: 26.9 (55, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.67 (17, 2)
Sacks: 3.25 (4, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 2.17 (72, 4)
HERO Sports 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#139 Jason Brown