#11 Central Arkansas FCS Football 2021 Preview

Central Arkansas Bears
Overall Rank: #11
 Central Arkansas Logo
Following a playoff appearance in 2019, Central Arkansas opted to play a limited schedule in the fall and thus were not in the mix for the spring playoffs. In 2020 the Bears played quite well in a tough schedule. They beat Austin Peay and Eastern Kentucky and Missouri State twice. Three of their four losses came against FBS programs UAB and Arkansas State and FCS powerhouse North Dakota State.
2020-21 Record: 5-4, 0-0
2020-21 Postseason: None
Coach: Nathan Brown (20-13 at Central Arkansas, 20-13 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Ken Collums
Defensive Coordinator: Matt Kitchens
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Cameron Myers, RB, 263 yards
Passing: Breylin Smith, QB, 1,861 yards
Receiving: Tyler Hudson, WR, 845 yards
Tackles: Cameron Godfrey, DB, 51
Sacks: Logan Jessup, DE, 6.5
Interceptions: Cameron Godfrey, DB, 2; Deandre Lamont, DB, 2
Other Key Returnees: WR Lujuan Winningham, WR Mitchell Perkinson, OL Jaylin Hendrix, LB TJ Campbell, DL Jalen Bedell, LB Nathan Grant
Key Losses: RB Kierre Crossley, LB Dre Matthews
With a potent offense largely returning, the Bears are in great shape to return to the playoffs in 2021. Breylin Smith threw for 1,861 yards and 19 touchdowns during the nine games in 2020. In total Central Arkansas had 22 passing touchdowns and receivers Tyler Hudson and Lujuan Winningham accounted for 19 of them. Hudson caught 50 passes for 845 yards with seven scores and Winninham added 37 receptions for 522 yards and a dozen touchdowns. Cameron Myers will look to play a larger role at running back now that leading rusher Kierre Crossley is gone. Myers is a great kickoff returner and now will look to lead the ground attack as well.
Just like the offense, the defense is loaded with experience. The defensive front will be led by Logan Jessup, who recorded a team high 6.5 sacks. JW Jones added 3.5 sacks and Jalen Bedell tallied 5.5 sacks. This is a group that will spend a lot of time in the opposing backfield. TJ Campbell is an All-Conference talent at linebacker and Nathan Grant, back from injury, will add another major pass rushing threat to the team. Cameron Godfrey and DeAndre Lamont will anchor a secondary that played very well for the most part. The defensive numbers were not great against the FBS teams and North Dakota State, but they were very productive against the rest of the teams on the schedule.
The Bottom Line:
Central Arkansas will be tested in their new conference; however, before they even get to that, the Bears take trips to Arkansas State and Missouri State. Two weeks later, they host a Sam Houston team with national championship expectations. An October 30th game at Jacksonville State could be a must-win game for both teams.
Projected Postseason:  FCS Playoffs
2020-21 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 114.0 (70th in nation, 9th in conference)
Passing Offense: 248.6 (24, 7)
Total Offense: 362.6 (37, 8)
Scoring Offense: 32.3 (16, 6)
Rushing Defense: 162.9 (63, 4)
Pass Defense: 224.7 (64, 3)
Total Defense: 387.6 (69, 4)
Scoring Defense: 29.0 (68, 4)
Turnover Margin: 0.44 (28, 6)
Sacks: 2.89 (20, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 2.22 (61, 5)