#19 Sacramento State FCS Football 2020 Preview

Sacramento State Hornets
Overall Rank: #19
#5 Big Sky
 Sacramento State Logo
Sacramento State had a historic 2019 season as head coach Troy Taylor led the Hornets to a share of the Big Sky conference championship for the first time in program history. Taylor was also named the 2019 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year as he laid the foundation for what should be an extended successful run with the Hornets. Taylor and his staff will now have the task of following up the historic nature of the 2019 season by leading Sacramento State back to the FCS playoffs in 2020 to send a strong message to area recruits that you can compete for playoff spots on an annual basis by staying home in Sacramento to play college football.
2019 Record: 9-4, 7-1
2019 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Troy Taylor (9-4 at Sacramento State, 9-4 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Troy Taylor
Defensive Coordinator: Andy Thompson
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Elijah Dotson, RB, 742 yards
Passing:  Jake Dunniway, QB, 582 yards
Receiving: Pierre Williams, WR, 931 yards
Tackles: Marcus Hawkins, LB, 81
Sacks: Marcus Hawkins, LB, 5
Interceptions: Daron Bland, DB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB BJ Perkinson, TE Marshel Martin, P Sam Clark, LB Jeremy Harris, DL Josiah Erickson, DL Elijah Chambers, WR Isaiah Gable, OL Brandon Weldon, OL Troy Stiefel, OL Jordan Stanley, WR Dewey Cotton
Key Losses: QB Kevin Thomson, DB Marcus Bruce, DL George Obinna, DLDariyn Choates, K Devin Medeiros, DB Allen Perryman, LB Miguel Garcia, DB Caelan Barnes, OL Wyatt Ming, OLB Marcus Bruce, OL Nick Bianco
There will be a battle for the starting quarterback spot as Kevin Thomson transferred to Washington in the offseason. Jade Dunniway threw for 582 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions last season as he appeared in eight games. The key for Dunniway heading into 2020 will be increasing his completion percentage from 59.7 percent up towards 63-65 percent this season. Elijah Dotson and BJ Perkinson highlight a strong running back group as Dotson should have a great opportunity for a 1,000-yard season on the ground. Perkinson averaged 4.6 yards per carry on the ground in 2019, caught 35 passes and had a combined eight touchdowns as well. Pierre Williams and Marshel Martin are going to be a matchup problem for opposing defenses in the passing game as these guys combined for 93 receptions, 1,481 receiving yards, and 14 touchdowns. The offensive line took care of business last season on a regular basis and only allowed 1.23 sacks per game and did an excellent job of staying healthy.
Controlling the line of scrimmage and putting pressure on the quarterback were two clear strengths of the Sacramento State defense in 2019. The Hornets limited teams to just 131.6 rushing yards per game and averaged 3.38 sacks per game as well last season. Josaiah Erickson had 11.5 tackles for loss along with 56 tackles as a sophomore in 2019. Erickson will need to pick up some of the slack with his sack total and Sacramento State lost a combined 21 sacks from last season with the graduation of George Obinna and Dariyn Choates. Marcus Hawkins and Jeremy Harris will lead the linebackers in 2020 as both guys have an excellent nose for the football and will also have plenty of opportunities to get after the quarterback this fall. Daron Bland should be one of the top defensive backs in the Big Sky as he had two interceptions, eight pass breakups, and 6.5 tackles for loss in 2019.
The Bottom Line:
The Hornets won’t be able to sneak up on anyone in 2020 as the rest of the Big Sky conference will be looking to keep them from winning a share of another conference title.
The schedule is manageable as Sacramento State does not have to play Weber State or Eastern Washington. A trip to Missoula to play Montana on October 17 will be a critical swing game for the Hornets if they are to repeat as co-champions of the Big Sky. Look for Sacramento State to find their way back into the FCS playoffs after winning around eight regular season games.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2019 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 169.3 (41st in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 294.8 (15, 5)
Total Offense: 464.1 (11, 3)
Scoring Offense: 35.7 (15, 4)
Rushing Defense:  131.6 (29, 4)
Pass Defense: 225.3 (73, 3)
Total Defense: 356.9 (36, 2)
Scoring Defense: 22.5 (37, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.00 (58, 7)
Sacks: 3.38 (4, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.23 (17, 3)
Madness 2020 Recruit Rankings:
#46 DeShawn Lynch
#159 Patrick Dean
#223 Michael Wolfe
#299 Jared Gipson