#36 San Diego FCS Football 2017 Preview

San Diego Toreros
Overall Rank: #36
#1 Pioneer
San Diego made history last year by winning the Pioneer League’s first ever playoff game. The Toreros only loss during the regular season came against Cal Poly way back on September 10th. After winning their last nine regular season games, San Diego got another shot at Cal Poly in the playoffs. And they took advantage of the opportunity and beat the Mustangs 35-21. Coach Dale Lindsey and company followed it up with a trip to Fargo and a 45-7 loss at the hands of North Dakota State, but winning a playoff game is now the goal for every team in Pioneer.
2016 Record: 10-2, 8-0
2016 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Dale Lindsey (36-9 at San Diego, 36-9 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tanner Engstrand
Defensive Coordinator: Steve Irvin
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jordan Charles, RB, 117 yards
Passing: Anthony Lawrence, QB, 2,998 yards
Receiving: Ross Dwelley, TE, 843 yards
Tackles: Colton Giorgi, DB, 69
Sacks: Jonathan Petersen, DE, 12.5
Interceptions: 4 tied with 1
Other Key Returnees: WR Justin Priest, OL Miles McArdle, OL Daniel Cooney, OL Joe Hurney, LB Max Michaels, DB Ray Clark, P Jack Flatau
Key Losses: RB Jonah Hodges, RB Jereke Armstrong, WR Brian Riley, LB Nic Henson, DB Jamal Agnew, LB Alec Moreno, DL Jalen Smith, DB Devin Bryant
Quarterback Anthony Lawrence was a very efficient passer during his sophomore season. He completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 2,998 yards and 25 touchdowns with just eight interceptions. Lawrence should be in for a big junior season, but the offense did lose their other star playmakers. Brian Riley needs to be replaced after catching 54 passes for 986 yards and seven touchdowns. Tight end Ross Dwelley, who caught 70 passes for 843 yards and ten scores, is a great short yardage option, but somebody has to stretch the field. Justin Priest is the most experienced returning option. Jonah Hodges was also heavily involved in the passing game, but he also rushed for 1,454 yards and 18 scores. The passing game was able to open up because Hodges was such a workhorse. Jordan Charles rushed for 117 yards on 30 carries as a freshman and is the most experienced returning option. With a couple newcomers joining the fray, Coach Lindsey should be able to find a couple backs who can successfully run behind a talented offensive line.
San Diego allowed just 266.5 yards and 15.6 points per game last season, both ranking second in the entire FCS. The biggest question is in the secondary where Devyn Braunt and Jamal Agnew need to be replaced. Those two combined to defend an impressive 31 passes. Agnew became the second San Diego player ever selected in the NFL Draft when he was drafted in the fifth round by the Detroit Lions. Colton Giorgi and Ray Clark will have to emerge as the leaders of the unit. There are holes to fill at linebacker too, but Max Michaels is a very good piece to build around. Much of the success of the defense in 2016 was due to the consistent pass rush and that should continue with the return on Jonathan Petersen. The defensive end recorded 12.5 sacks and 23.0 tackles-for-loss during his junior campaign. He will be nearly unstoppable again, but he will need to get some help.
The Bottom Line:
San Diego will have a couple interesting non-conference tests again this season. Trips to UC Davis and Princeton will not be as difficult as their game against Cal Poly, but those will be good tests for a team that hopes to end the year in the playoffs. In order to make the playoffs though, San Diego will have to get by Dayton. That game decided the Pioneer winner last season and likely will do so again. That game takes place on September 30th in Dayton. It may be early in the season, but it will have huge playoff implications.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 174.8 (41st in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 266.0 (22, 3)
Total Offense: 440.8 (17, 2)
Scoring Offense: 35.7 (10, 1)
Rushing Defense: 106.3 (12, 2)
Pass Defense: 160.2 (4, 1)
Total Defense: 266.5 (2, 1)
Scoring Defense: 15.6 (2, 1)
Turnover Margin: -0.08 (61, 7)
Sacks: 2.58 (21, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 0.33 (3, 1)