#17 Jacksonville State FCS Football 2020 Preview

Jacksonville State Gamecocks
Overall Rank: #17
#2 Ohio Valley
 Jacksonville State Logo
Jacksonville State has turned into one of the best programs in the FCS. Heading into last season they had been to the playoffs six straight seasons. During Coach John Grass’ five seasons heading into 2019, the Gamecocks lost just one Ohio Valley Conference game. But last season was very, very different. Jacksonville State won just six games and went 3-5 in OVC action. Was last year just a small setback or the start of a larger decline?
2019 Record: 6-6, 3-5
2019 Postseason: None
Coach: John Grass (58-18 at Jacksonville State, 58-18 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jimmy Ogle
Defensive Coordinator: William Green, Owen Kilgore
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Michael Matthews, RB, 585 yards
Passing: Zerrick Cooper, QB, 3,404 yards
Receiving: Trae Barry, TE, 330 yards
Tackles: Zack Woodward, LB, 96
Sacks: DJ Coleman, DE, 5.0
Interceptions: 3 tied with 1
Other Key Returnees: OL Michael Shaddix, CB Yul Gowdy, CB Malik Feaster, DL Jackson Luttrell
Key Losses: WR Jamari Hester, WR Josh Pearson, WR KJ Stepherson, DB Traco Williams, LB Jalen Choice, DB Marlon Bridges, P Jason Pierce
The Gamecocks were not an inexperienced team during their forgettable 2019 campaign. Heading into 2020 they are much more inexperienced. The top three wide receivers from the 14th best passing offense in the FCS are gone. That leaves tight end Trae Barry and a bunch of unproven wide receivers. The good news is Zerrick Cooper is back for his senior season. He threw for 3,404 yards and 28 touchdowns during his junior campaign and will certainly help create some new stars at the wide receiver position. Jacksonville State does not look to the ground too often, but Michael Matthews will make the most of his opportunities. This will still be a potent offense, but they will need to be more efficient.
The defense does not deserve all of the blame for Jacksonville State’s disappointing 2019 season, but they will still get most of it. When the Gamecocks lost four of their last five games, the defense only allowed 24.8 points per game. Jacksonville State expects better, but that is not bad. And now JSU will hope to ride some of that defensive momentum into 2020 and beyond. There are quite a few holes to fill, but Coach Grass has some experience to build around. Linebacker Zack Woodard will be the leader of the unit after leading the team with 96 tackles. DJ Coleman will again give opposing quarterbacks nightmares from his defensive end spot. And there is some talent in the secondary with cornerbacks Yul Gowdy and Malik Feaster. There is plenty of talent ready to step in, but it remains to be seen if that will lead to a more productive unit.
The Bottom Line:
This will be a very interesting season for Jacksonville State. It seems based on their talent level alone, they should be a playoff caliber team. They were last year too though. No matter when the Gamecocks play next, it will be very important for Jacksonville State to send a message to the rest of the conference that they are still the team to beat.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2019 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 123.4 (93rd in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 296.0 (14, 1)
Total Offense: 419.4 (29, 1)
Scoring Offense: 27.3 (60, 5)
Rushing Defense: 155.2 (57, 6)
Pass Defense: 225.1 (70, 5)
Total Defense: 380.3 (56, 5)
Scoring Defense: 27.6 (62, 5)
Turnover Margin: -0.75 (111, 8)
Sacks: 1.17 (111, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 2.42 (76, 7)
Madness 2020 Recruit Rankings:
#14 Jayson Jones
#69 Ron Wiggins