#11 Chattanooga FCS Football 2017 Preview


Chattanooga Mocs


Overall Rank: #11

#1 SoCon

By Chattanooga standards, finishing 6-2 in SoCon play is a bit disappointing. The Mocs lost to The Citadel 22-14 and at home against Wofford 36-28. Those were certainly not bad losses though and the Mocs still made the playoffs where they beat Weber State before falling to top seeded Sam Houston State. Chattanooga will look a little different without Russ Huesman on the sidelines. He took the Richmond job and the Mocs went out and grabbed Tom Arth, who had four successful seasons as the head coach of John Carroll.
2016 Record: 9-4, 6-2
2016 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Tom Arth (0-0 at Chattanooga, 40-8 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Justin Rascati
Defensive Coordinator: Tom Kaufman
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Richardre Bagley, RB, 593 yards
Passing: Alejandro Bennifield, QB, 2,622 yards
Receiving: James Stovall, WR, 373 yards
Tackles: Dale Warren, LB, 91
Sacks: Isaiah Mack, DL, 7.5
Interceptions: Trevor Wright, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR Alphonso Stewart, OL Josh Cardiello, DB Lucas Webb, DB C.J. Fritz, DL Taylor Reynolds
Key Losses: RB Derrick Craine, WR Xavier Borishade, WR C.J. Board, OL Corey Levin, OL Jacob Revis, LB Nakevion Leslie, DL Keionta Davis, DL Vantrel McMillan, DB Montrell Pardue
The offense will have to reload around quarterback Alejandro Bennifield. The senior threw for 2,622 yards and 26 touchdowns last season and was intercepted just seven times. Bennifield will have to find a few new targets though with top receivers Xavier Borishade and C.J. Board gone. James Stovall and Alphonso Stewart are experienced seniors who are expected to step into starting roles. Chattanooga will want to have a balanced offense and that is where Richarde Bagley comes into the picture. He rushed for 593 yards on 107 carries last season and should be able to effectively replace 1,000 yard rusher Derrick Craine. The bigger issue will be who backs up Bagley. Alex Trotter, who had just 24 carries as a sophomore, is the most likely option. However, Bagley will not be able to take all of the carries so finding a capable backup is important.
The defense must find a way to replace Keionta Davis and his 10.5 sacks. He has been one of the better players in the SoCon during the last couple of seasons and his consistent pressure will be missed. Also gone are fellow starters on the line Vantrell McMillan and Justin King. However, Taylor Reynolds is back to anchor the line and Isaiah Mack recorded 7.5 sacks and 14.0 tackles-for-loss last season. Dale Warren leads a very promising group of linebackers. Warren tallied 91 tackles last season, including 6.0 sacks and a conference high 19.0 tackles-for-loss. Tae Davis should finally step into a starting role after adding key depth for the last three seasons. Richmond transfer Hawk Schrider will likely start on the other side. The secondary lacks proven depth, but has a very talent group of starters. Free safety Lucas Webb has been a consistent playmaker for the last three years and that will not change during his senior season. He will be joined by Tavon Lawson, who missed most of last season with an injury. C.J. Fritz and Trevor Wright are back to start at the cornerback spots. Wright is a three-year starter and picked off a team high three passes in 2016.
The Bottom Line:
Chattanooga has some work to do, especially with a new coaching staff coming in, but this is still the deepest team in the Southern Conference. Despite limited time, Coach Arth has done a great job of bringing in talented freshmen and transfers to plug the few gaps on the roster. With games against Jacksonville State, LSU and Tennessee-Martin to start the season, Chattanooga has very little time to adjust to the new staff. Those will all be very tough games. After that the schedule lightens up until late October. Following a home game against The Citadel on October 21st, Chattanooga travels to Samford and Wofford. Those three games will likely decide the Southern Conference title and the Mocs’ playoff hopes.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 206.3 (24th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 206.2 (65, 6)
Total Offense: 412.5 (30, 3)
Scoring Offense: 34.2 (16, 2)
Rushing Defense: 128.6 (25, 2)
Pass Defense: 164.5 (6, 1)
Total Defense: 293.2 (6, 2)
Scoring Defense: 19.6 (9, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.38 (36, 4)
Sacks: 2.92 (12, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.31 (28, 4)
HERO Sports 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#76 McClendon Curtis
#81 Brandon Dowdell
#144 Jeffery Wood
#218 Jabril Malone
#250 Parker Mallet