#32 Kennesaw State FCS Football 2017 Preview


Kennesaw State Owls


Overall Rank: #32

#3 Big South

In just their second season with a football team, Kennesaw State came within one game of winning a share of the Big South title. Losses to Liberty and Charleston Southern were enough to keep the Owls behind those two teams in the standings though. It was a very promising year though as Kennesaw State beat the rest of the teams in the Big South and picked up some decent non-conference wins on the road against Duquesne and Furman. With nine starters returning on offense and seven returning on defense, year three could be very special.
2016 Record: 8-3, 3-2
2016 Postseason: None
Coach: Brian Bohannon (14-8 at Kennesaw State, 14-8 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Grant Chestnut
Defensive Coordinator: Brian Newberry
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Chandler Burks, QB, 799 yards
Passing: Chandler Burks, QB, 1,250 yards
Receiving: Justin Sumpter, WR, 538 yards
Tackles: Anthony Gore, LB, 70
Sacks: Desmond Johnson, DL, 6.0
Interceptions: Three tied with 1
Other Key Returnees: RB Jake McKenzie, RB Darnell Holland, WR Xavier Harper, OL Zach Mitchler, LB Izzy Sam, DL Tonarius Portress, DB Taylor Henkle
Key Losses: RB Chaston Bennett, OL Malik Letatau, DB Dante Blackmon, LB Dez Billingslea, DB Derrick Farrow
The numbers are a bit skewed for Kennesaw State since they played three non-Division I opponents last season, and scored at least 49 points against all three of them, but this is still a good offense. Against the lower three teams in the Big South, they scored at least 45 points. Quarterback Chandler Burks lead the spread option offense very effectively and threw for 1,250 yards and 13 touchdowns with just four interceptions and ran for a team high 799 yards. The junior now has a year of starting experience under his belt. He also has plenty of talent around him. Wide receiver Justin Sumpter played in just eight games last season, but caught a team high 31 passes for 538 yards and eight touchdowns. Xavier Harper is also back and will again be a very dangerous deep threat. Running back Chaston Bennett needs to be replaced after accounting for 14 total touchdowns, but Darnell Holland is ready to pick up the slack. Holland rushed for 412 yards and five touchdowns on just 46 carries as a sophomore. Jake McKenzie, who rushed for 429 yards last season, will get plenty of opportunities too.
The biggest question on this team is the pass defense, which ranked last in the Big South last season. It could be worse this year without Dante Blackmon and Derrick Farrow. Blackmon picked off six passes and Farrow ranked fourth on the team with 47 tackles. Taylor Henkle is a good piece to build around, but Coach Brian Bohannon will need players like Akebren Ralls, Keon Roman and Jace White to step into a larger roles. The secondary will find life easier thanks to the return of lineman Desmond Johnson. He recorded 6.0 sacks and 9.5 tackles-for-loss. Tonarius Portress added 3.0 sacks and 13.0 tackles-for-loss. If the line can get consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback, the secondary will rebuild without too many growing pains. The best unit on defense heading into the season though is at linebacker where Anthony Gore and Izzy Sam return. Those two were the top tacklers on the team last year combining for 135 tackles with 16.0 tackles-for-loss.  
The Bottom Line:
The non-conference slate is not nearly as easy this year as Kennesaw State’s schedule begins to look like a real Division I teams. There is just one lower level opponent. A trip to Samford will likely result in a loss, but that will be a good test against a playoff quality team. A trip to Montana State on November 4th may not provide a game against a playoff team, but it could be a playoff type of road trip and atmosphere. But those games will not help much if the Owls cannot win the Big South and make the playoffs for the first time in their short history. With Liberty not eligible for the playoffs while transitioning to the FBS, it should come down to Charleston Southern and Kennesaw State for the Big South title. However, a trip to Liberty on October 14th will still be very important for the Owls and their playoff hopes. The big game against Charleston Southern is at home on November 11th.
Projected Postseason: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 320.6 (3rd in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 158.9 (105, 3)
Total Offense: 479.5 (8, 1)
Scoring Offense: 38.9 (8, 1)
Rushing Defense: 130.3 (29, 1)
Pass Defense: 191.5 (32, 6)
Total Defense: 321.8 (16, 2)
Scoring Defense: 21.7 (21, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.18 (51, 3)
Sacks: 1.91 (58, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 0.64 (4, 1)
HERO Sports 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#44 Antavius Grier
#51 Jaxton Carson
#70 Brandon Simmons
#177 Samual Collins
#186 Evan Reese
#215 Demetrius Pettway
#230 Travis Bell