#24 Cal Poly FCS Football 2017 Preview


Cal Poly Mustangs


Overall Rank: #24

#3 Big Sky

Following an overtime loss to Nevada to open the season, Cal Poly won six of their next seven games. But November was not very good to the Mustangs. They lost to Eastern Washington and Weber State and faced off against Northern Colorado in the regular season finale in a must win game. They did win that one and managed to reach the playoffs. However, once there, the Mustangs were stunned by San Diego, a team they beat handily earlier in the season. 
2016 Record: 7-5, 5-3
2016 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Tim Walsh (50-42 at Cal Poly, 167-122 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jim Craft
Defensive Coordinator: Josh Brown
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Joe Protheroe, RB, 1,334 yards
Passing: None
Receiving: J.J. Koski, WR, 323 yards
Tackles: B.J. Nard, DB, 59
Sacks: Kitu Humphery, DB, 2.0
Interceptions: Aaryn Bouzos, DB, 2
Other Key Returnees: FB Jared Mohamed, SB Kyle Lewis, OL Joey Kuperman, DB Jerek Rosales, LB Anders Turner, DL Augustino Elisaia, K Casey Sublette
Key Losses: RB Kori Garcia, QB Dano Graves, WR Carson McMurtrey, OL Matt Fisher, LB Chris Santini, LB Josh Letuligasenoa, LB Joseph Gigantino
The triple option spread offense does not need a quarterback who can throw the ball, but it does need a smart quarterback who can run the offense effectively and efficiently. Dano Graves usually lived up to those expectations. As a senior last season he threw for 1,485 yards and 17 touchdowns with just four interceptions and added 686 yards and nine more scores on the ground. He is now on the coaching staff as the quarterbacks coach. Khaleel Jenkins, who started a game back in 2015, is the most experienced option at quarterback. He has been biding his time and should be ready to lead the offense. Joe Protheroe figures to lead the team in rushing again after tallying 1,334 yards and 13 scores last season. Speedster Kyle Lewis and Jared Mohamed will get plenty of opportunities as well. The offensive line has some big holes to fill with three starters gone, but plenty of talent remains, including center Joey Kuperman.
The front three will have to rebuild around nose tackle Augustino Elisaia and tackle Jack Ferguson. This is not a group that will get a lot of pressure on the quarterback, but Cal Poly needs to find some big bodies that can push the line of scrimmage. That is especially important with three starters gone at linebacker. Anders Turner will look to turn into a leader after recording 32 tackles as a starter last season. The return of R.J. Mazolewski from injury will help. He recorded 71 tackles two years ago. Sophomore Nik Navarro is one to watch. He played sparingly as a freshman, but has a lot of talent and potential. The secondary, which was the weak spot of the defense last season, could be the best unit in 2017. All four starters are back and plenty of depth too. Kevin Griffin and Jerek Rosales are experienced senior cornerbacks and senior safety B.J. Nard is the team’s top returning tackler with 59. Kitu Humphrey had a very strong freshman campaign beside Nard and could emerge as one of the better playmakers on the team. As long as the experience starts turning into better production, the Cal Poly secondary will be in very good shape in 2017.
The Bottom Line:
Cal Poly literally kicks off the season with an August 26th matchup against Colgate. Their other non-conference games are road trips to San Jose State and Northern Iowa. That is a tough opening stretch. The conference slate could have been much worse though and North Dakota, Eastern Washington, Montana and Montana State are not on the schedule. If the Mustangs can survive that opening stretch of games and fill those holes in the defensive front seven in the process, they will not just compete for a spot in the playoffs, but a Big Sky title as well.
Projected Postseason: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 343.5 (2nd in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 127.8 (115, 13)
Total Offense: 471.3 (11, 4)
Scoring Offense: 34.7 (13, 3)
Rushing Defense: 134.6 (35, 2)
Pass Defense: 271.3 (111, 11)
Total Defense: 405.9 (77, 5)
Scoring Defense: 32.8 (96, 8)
Turnover Margin: -0.17 (68, 7)
Sacks: 1.25 (111, 12)
Sacks Allowed: 0.75 (6, 2)
HERO Sports 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#204 Mason Hurst