#14 Samford FCS Football 2017 Preview


Samford Bulldogs


Overall Rank: #14

#2 SoCon

Samford reached the playoffs in 2016, but it was a brief trip. The Bulldogs fell at Youngstown State 38-24 in their playoff opener. But Coach Chris Hatcher and company should be able to build off last year’s success and potentially emerge as a consistent contender in the Southern Conference.
2016 Record: 7-5, 5-3
2016 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Chris Hatcher (13-10 at Samford, 134-67 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Russ Callaway
Defensive Coordinator: Bill D’Ottavio
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: K’rondis Larry, RB, 482 yards
Passing: Devlin Hodges, QB, 4,088 yards
Receiving: Kelvin McKnight, WR, 896 yards
Tackles: Shaheed Salmon, LB, 93
Sacks: Ahmad Gooden, DL, 8.0
Interceptions: Omari Williams, DB, 4
Other Key Returnees: LB Deion Pierre, LB Aaron Harris, S Sam Pettway
Key Losses: WR Karel Hamilton, WR Emmanuel Obajimi, OL Armando Bonheur, DB Jamerson Blount, LB Tonne Osaigbovo, DL Roosevelt Donaldson
Thanks to quarterback Devlin Hodges, Samford was had one of the most potent passing offenses in the FCS last season. They ranked third in passing offense with 349.4 yards per game. On the year Hodges threw for 4,088 yards and 36 touchdowns, while also rushing for 222 yards and four more scores. While those numbers are extremely impressive, what is more impressive is that Hodges completed 70.8 percent of his passes and was intercepted just eight times. Wide receivers Karel Hamilton and Emmanuel Obajimi are gone, but Kelvin McKnight is back after catching 70 passes for 896 yards and nine touchdowns and there are a handful of less experienced players who should be ready for big seasons. The ground game is not potent, but K’rondis Larry is a decent back who can take advantage of the situation when the defense drops back in an attempt to slow down the passing game.
There are a few holes to fill on defense, most notable with leading tackler Jamerson Blount, linebacker Tonne Osaigbovo and linemen Roosevelt Donaldson. The Bulldogs defense should still be solid. However, if the unit can improve, this is a team that can make a serious push for a conference title and potentially make an impressive playoff run. Ahmad Gooden leads a dangerous pass rush. He tallied 8.0 sacks and 15.0 tackles-for-loss last season. Linebacker Shaheed Salmon will spend plenty of time making tackles behind the line of scrimmage as well and he is the team’s top returning tackler with 93. With Deion Pierre and Aaron Harris, the linebackers have plenty of experience. Omari Williams is the big time playmaker in the secondary. He intercepted four passes and broke up an amazing 15 more.
The Bottom Line:
The defense will create turnovers, but if they can do a little better stopping the run, Samford could take another step forward in 2017. The schedule is not too bad either. The Bulldogs get The Citadel and Chattanooga at home. A trip to Wofford on October 21st will be the most difficult conference road game. The non-conference slate includes a deceptively tricky game against Kennesaw State on the opening weekend of the season and a trip to Athens to take on Georgia a couple of weeks later. Samford can probably not afford to lose both of those games and still make the playoffs.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 96.8 (114th in nation, 9th in conference)
Passing Offense: 349.4 (3, 1)
Total Offense: 446.2 (14, 1)
Scoring Offense: 35.1 (12, 1)
Rushing Defense: 211.4 (103, 8)
Pass Defense: 209.3 (49, 6)
Total Defense: 420.7 (91, 7)
Scoring Defense: 27.3 (56, 5)
Turnover Margin: 0.50 (28, 3)
Sacks: 2.17 (47, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 2.33 (80, 6)
HERO Sports 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#50 Zach Kadum
#226 Cornelius Billups