#37 Chattanooga FCS Football 2020 Preview

Chattanooga Mocs
Overall Rank: #37
#5 SoCon
Chattanooga Logo
Chattanooga’s difficult schedule came back to haunt them last season. The Mocs started the year with a nice win against Eastern Illinois, but then lost to Jacksonville State, Tennessee and James Madison. There was still time to reach the playoffs though and the Mocs looked like they might do it, losing only to Wofford in overtime and against Furman, the two teams that finished above them in the standings. However, a tough loss at VMI ended the season on a sour note.
2019 Record: 6-6, 5-3
2019 Postseason: None
Coach: Rusty Wright (6-6 at Chattanooga, 6-6 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Pizzo
Defensive Coordinator: Lorenzo Ward
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Ailym Ford, RB, 1,081 yards
Passing: Drayton Arnold, QB, 36 yards
Receiving: Bryce Nunnelly, WR, 794 yards
Tackles: Ty Boeck, LB, 101
Sacks: Devonnsha Maxwell, DL, 7.0
Interceptions: Kameron Brown, DB, 2; CaMiron Smith, DB, 2; Brandon Dowdell, DB, 2
Other Key Returnees: TE Chris James, WR Reginald Henderson, OL Cole Strange, DB Jordan Jones, LB Rashun Freeman
Key Losses: RB Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, QB Nick Tiano, LB Marshall Cooper, DL Khayyan Edwards, DL Telvin Jones
The balanced Mocs offense should be in great shape again in 2020. Running back Ailym Ford had an amazing freshman campaign, rushing for 1,081 yards and nine touchdowns. Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks missed one-third of his final season with the Mocs and added 630 yards and six scores on the ground. Ford will be the premier weapon on offense this season, but Tyrell Price, who missed most of last season and was a second team All-SoCon honoree in 2018, is back to once again give Coach Rusty Wright two great options at running back. The biggest question is at quarterback where Nick Tiano needs to be replaced. Senior Drayton Arnold is the next in line, but Cole Copeland started as a freshman back in 2017 before redshirting in 2018 and not playing in 2019. The new quarterback will have some very experienced pass catchers to help him along. Most notable is Bryce Nunnelly, who caught 57 passes for 794 yards and five touchdowns, and tight end Chris James, who tallied 23 receptions for 257 yards and seven scores.
The defense returns eight starters to a unit that ranked fifth in the SoCon in total defense. The biggest losses are in the front seven, but the defensive line should be able to rebuild around pass rusher Devonnsha Maxwell. Linebacker Ty Boeck had a great freshman campaign, tallying 101 tackles. With experienced upperclassmen Rashun Freeman and C.J. Winston also back, the linebacker corps should be in good shape despite the loss of leading tackler Marshall Cooper. The secondary was pretty good in 2019 and should be even better in 2020 with all four starters returning. Safeties Brandon Dowdell and Jerrell Lawson are both experienced seniors and cornerbacks Jordan Jones and CaMiron Smith are both upperclassmen as well.
The Bottom Line:
Coach Wright has brought in some transfers to help fill up the roster and overall this is an experienced group. If the quarterbacks can provide enough of a threat to throw the ball, it will open up plenty of space for the running backs to carry the offense. The toughest part could be the schedule. The non-conference slate once included brutal road trips to James Madison and Western Kentucky, but at least the JMU game will not happen. Trips to The Citadel and Furman and home dates with VMI, Wofford and Samford will likely be the key conference games. And that is most of the schedule so Chattanooga will have to remain consistent if they are going to push for a spot in the playoffs.
Projected Postseason: None
2019 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 197.7 (24th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 192.2 (85, 4)
Total Offense: 389.8 (53, 5)
Scoring Offense: 26.3 (63, 7)
Rushing Defense: 205.4 (99, 5)
Pass Defense: 193.2 (25, 5)
Total Defense: 398.6 (74, 5)
Scoring Defense: 30.0 (80, 5)
Turnover Margin: 0.08 (52, 3)
Sacks: 1.50 (94, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.17 (15, 2)
Madness 2020 Recruit Rankings:
#6 Jaquari Wiggles
#85 Jamoi Mayes
#154 John Prince
#165 Bo Spearman
#186 Shamar Sandgren