#17 Nicholls 2018 FCS Football Preview

Nicholls Colonels
Overall Rank: #17
#3 Southland
 Nicholls Logo
Nicholls had a superb 2017 campaign, going 7-2 in conference play and reaching the playoffs. The Colonels have steadily improved during Coach Tim Rebowe’s three seasons leading the program. In 2015 the team went 3-8. In 2016 they went 5-6 and last year they finished at 8-4. The trip to the playoffs ended quicker than preferred with a 38-31 home loss to South Dakota in the first round, but Nicholls returns eight starters on each side of the ball and should get back to the playoffs in 2018.
2017 Record: 8-4, 7-2
2017 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Tim Rebowe (16-18 at Nicholls State, 16-18 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Rob Christophel
Defensive Coordinator: Tommy Rybacki
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kyran Irvin, RB, 764 yards
Passing: Chase Fourcade, QB, 2,316 yards
Receiving: Damion Jeanpiere Jr, WR, 770 yards
Tackles: Allen Pittman, LB, 80
Sacks: Sully Laiche, DL, 7.5
Interceptions: Austin Dickerson, DB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Dontrell Taylor, RB Tahj Smith, WR Dai’Jean Dixon, OL Ryan Hanley, OL Chandler Arceneaux, DB Corey Abraham, DB Ahmani Martin, DL Kenny Dotson, DB Darryl Adams Jr, DB Darren Evans, K Lorran Fonseca
Key Losses: WR Jarrell Rogers, DL Terrell Encalade, DL Marcel Andry, DB Christian Boutte
The Colonels return most of their offense and that leaves high hopes for vast improvement in 2018. Quarterback Chase Fourcade threw for 2,316 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore, but he also was intercepted 13 times and completed just 54.4 percent of his passes. Fourcade has now started for two years and the hope is he can at least cut down on the turnovers as an upperclassman. Top receiver Damion Jeanpiere returns after catching 40 passes for 770 yards and four touchdowns. Dai’Jean Dixon is also a talented big play receiver who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Nicholls will rely heavily on their ground game and they have their top three rushers back. Kyran Irvin led the way with 764 yards and eight scores, while Dontrell Taylor and Tahj Smith combined to rush for an additional 796 yards.
The defense ranked third in the Southland Conference in total defense and scoring defense. With eight starters returning, they should be even better in 2018. The biggest holes are in the front four where Terrell Encalade and Marcel Andry are gone after tallying 5.5 sacks each in 2017. Sully Laiche and Kenny Dotson combined for 14.0 sacks though and will keep Nicholls among the nation’s best in sacks. Allen Pittman, Hezekiah White and Laryon James are back at linebacker. Pittman led the team with 80 tackles, while White added 54. The secondary did not make many big plays last year, but they were solid against the pass. Safety Corey Abraham recorded 79 tackles and Darryl Adams is a solid cornerback if he can stay healthy.
The Bottom Line:
This is a Nicholls team with a lot of experience and talent on both sides of the ball. And that experience and talent will be put to the test right away. The Colonels play their four toughest games of the regular season right off the bat. It begins with trips to Kansas and Tulane as the team’s only two non-conference games. That is a rough schedule, but it should prepare Nicholls for their two toughest Southland games at McNeese and at home against Sam Houston State. It is possible that Nicholls will start the season 0-4. If that happens, this team can still finish 7-4, but their playoff hopes would be all but gone without getting a big win over one of those first four opponents.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 200.3 (19th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 202.3 (65, 9)
Total Offense: 402.5 (37, 5)
Scoring Offense: 28.3 (42, 5)
Rushing Defense: 145.8 (50, 4)
Pass Defense: 206.3 (53, 3)
Total Defense: 352.2 (46, 3)
Scoring Defense: 25.2 (55, 3)
Turnover Margin: -1.08 (112, 10)
Sacks: 2.83 (21, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.67 (44, 4)