#22 McNeese State FCS Football 2017 Preview


McNeese State Cowboys


Overall Rank: #22

#3 Southland

McNeese State boasted a relatively young team last season. However, they still beat the teams they should have beaten. Unfortunately, the Cowboys failed to pick up a big win too. They lost to Stephen F. Austin, Southeastern Louisiana, Central Arkansas and Sam Houston State in conference play and were clearly in the middle of the pack. This time around though, McNeese boasts eight starters returning on each side of the ball and are a very experienced team who should get back to the playoffs.
2016 Record: 6-5, 5-4
2016 Postseason: None
Coach: Lance Guidry (6-5 at McNeese State, 7-6 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Landon Hoefer, Kerry Joseph
Defensive Coordinator: Lance Guidry
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Ryan Ross, RB, 601 yards
Passing: James Tabary, QB, 3,036 yards
Receiving: Darious Crawley, WR, 701 yards
Tackles: Jammerio Gross-Whitaker, DL, 59
Sacks: Chris Livings, DE, 8.0
Interceptions: Jermaine Antoine, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Justin Pratt, WR Kent Shelby, WR Kylon Highshaw, WR Parker Orgeron, DB Andre Fuller, LB Ashari Goins, DB Damion Morgan
Key Losses: TE Zach Hetrick, DB Khalil Thomas, DE Kendal Franklin
Quarterback James Tabary had a superb debut season with McNeese State. The former Arkansas State signal caller threw for 3,036 yards and 23 touchdowns while completing 60.0 percent of his passes with just seven interceptions. With that year of experience under his belt, not to mention the talent returning around him, Tabary will be in for a huge junior campaign. Darious Crawley will again be his favorite deep target after catching 41 passes for 701 yards and seven scores. Kent Shelby is a big 6-3 target and Nick Edwards, Kylon Highshaw and Parker Orgeron give the unit a ton of experienced depth. All of the top running backs are returning too. This was not a team that was particularly effective on the ground though, but that could change with Ryan Ross and Justin Pratt returning. Those two combined to rush for 1,058 yards and ten touchdowns. Former running back Lawayne Ross moved to tight end in the offseason to help replace Zach Hetrick. With three starters back on the line and the addition of LSU transfer Andy Dodd, the offense should have plenty of time to operate.
McNeese ranked second in the Southland in rush defense, total defense and scoring defense and those numbers could get even better with eight starters returning. The defensive line has a couple holes to fill with the loss of starting tackles Isaiah Golden and Anthony Yruegas and reserve end Kendal Franklin. Jammerio Gross-Whitaker and Chris Livings are back though and those two combined for 15.5 sacks. Gross-Whitaker even led the team with 59 tackles. At linebacker, seniors Ashari Goins and Christian Jacobs are returning starters back for their senior seasons. The secondary did struggle at times last season, especially against the tougher competition in the Southland. However, four starters are back and this is a very experienced unit. Jermaine Antoine is the top playmaker. He intercepted three passes as a junior and returned two of them for touchdowns. He will be joined by Andre Fuller, Dominique Hill and Erik Jones.
The Bottom Line:
McNeese has all the tools they need to compete for a Southland title. The offense can put up some big numbers and the defense returns much of what made them the second best unit in the conference a year ago. The Cowboys kick off the season with a Thursday night conference game against Nicholls State on August 31st. With a victory in that game and with no Sam Houston State on the schedule, McNeese should remain in the conference title race until the very end.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 137.1 (79th in nation, 8th in conference)
Passing Offense: 304.2 (9, 2)
Total Offense: 441.3 (16, 2)
Scoring Offense: 32.0 (28, 3)
Rushing Defense: 111.9 (14, 2)
Pass Defense: 260.3 (105, 5)
Total Defense: 372.2 (48, 2)
Scoring Defense: 25.9 (48, 2)
Turnover Margin: -0.45 (85, 7)
Sacks: 2.09 (49, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 2.18 (73, 7)
HERO Sports 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#121 Hanif Muhammad
#202 Quincy Cage