#9 Jacksonville State FCS Football 2021 Preview

Jacksonville State Gamecocks
Overall Rank: #9
 Jacksonville State Logo
Jacksonville State played four games in the spring, where they picked up a win over Florida International, and then a full schedule in the fall as well. They ended up going 9-2 during the “regular” season and earned the #4 overall seed in the FCS Playoffs. The Gamecocks easily handled Davidson, but were upset by Delaware in the quarterfinals.
2020-21 Record: 10-3, 6-1
2020-21 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: John Grass (68-21 at Jacksonville State, 68-21 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jimmy Ogle
Defensive Coordinator: Kelvin Sigler
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Josh Samuel, RB, 773 yards
Passing: Zion Webb, QB, 1,777 yards
Receiving: Dave Russell, WR, 352 yards
Tackles: Nicario Harper, DB, 92
Sacks: DJ Coleman, DE, 9.0
Interceptions: Nicario Harper, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Uriah West, RB Pat Jackson, WR Michael Pettway, WR Ahmad Edwards, OL Tylan Grable, OL Cam Hill, OL Zack Cangelosi, LB Marshall Clark, LB Markail Benton, DL Chris Hardie, LB Stevonte Tullis, DE Jaylen Swain
Key Losses: TE Trae Barry, CB Jacquez Payton
Jacksonville State returns just about everybody to an offense that ranked first in the OVC in total offense and scoring offense. Quarterback Zion Webb stepped into a full-time starting role in the spring and showed a ton of promise. The junior threw for 1,777 yards and 13 touchdowns, while rushing for 399 yards and five more scores. Webb is an explosive playmaker, but with a year of starting experience under his belt, he should now also be more consistent and reliable. Losing tight end Trae Berry takes away Webb’s favorite target from last season, but Dave Russell, Michael Pettway and Ahmad Edwards were the next three top receivers and are returning. Josh Samuel and Uriah West split carries last season and combined for 1,460 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. Add in Webb’s ability to run the ball and Jacksonville State should have one of the best ground attacks in the FCS.
DJ Coleman, Chris Hardie and Jaylen Swain highlight a great defensive front. Those three alone accounted for 19.0 sacks. Marshall Clark, Markail Benton and Stevonte Tullis are back to lead the way at linebacker. Clark stepped into a starting job last season and had a great year, tallying 85 tackles, 10.5 tackles-for-loss, one interception and three quarterback hurries. Despite the loss of playmaker Jacquez Payton, it is in the secondary where this team has the most potential to grow. Nicario Harper transferred into Jacksonville State and was named the OVC’s Defensive Player of the Year. He led Gamecocks with 92 tackles and added three interceptions.
The Bottom Line:
Jacksonville State’s season could come down to two weeks in late October. That is when the Gamecocks head to Sam Houston and host Central Arkansas. Those two games will have huge implications to who wins the AQ7 automatic bid to the playoffs. The Gamecocks may not have to win the automatic bid to reach the playoffs though. Opening games against UAB and Florida State will likely result in losses, so the key non-conference game will come on an October 2nd trip to Kennesaw State.
Projected Postseason:  FCS Playoffs
2020-21 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 189.0 (15th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 195.1 (53, 4)
Total Offense: 384.1 (27, 1)
Scoring Offense: 28.4 (23, 1)
Rushing Defense: 92.4 (10, 1)
Pass Defense: 190.4 (39, 3)
Total Defense: 282.8 (15, 1)
Scoring Defense: 17.6 (13, 1)
Turnover Margin: -0.08 (59, 6)
Sacks: 2.15 (48, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.31 (18, 2)