#35 Central Arkansas FCS Football 2022 Preview

Central Arkansas Bears
Overall Rank: #35
 Central Arkansas Logo
Central Arkansas will be one of the better teams in the new look ASUN. The Bears have missed out on the playoffs the last two seasons though and it will be a tough go this year too. Coach Nathan Brown has some big holes to fill, but there remains enough talent on this team to remain competitive in the battle for a spot in the playoffs.
2021 Record: 5-6, 3-3
2021 Postseason: None
Coach: Nathan Brown (25-19 at Central Arkansas, 25-19 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Ken Collums
Defensive Coordinator: Matt Kitchens
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Darius Hale, RB, 1,015 yards
Passing: None
Receiving: Christian Richmond, WR, 342 yards
Tackles: TaMuarion Wilson, DB, 66
Sacks: Logan Jessup, DE, 5.0
Interceptions: 5 tied with 1
Other Key Returnees: OL Justin Lairy, DB Cameron Godfrey, DB Christian Cain, DL Caden Brown, LB Darin Davenport, DL Jalen Bedell
Key Losses: QB Breylin Smith, WR Tyler Hudson, WR Lujuan Winningham, DB Deandre Lamont, LB Trenton Dunn, LB TJ Campbell
Quarterback Breylin Smith left early for the NFL after throwing for 2,884 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. He will be replaced by Northern Iowa transfer Will McElvain. With the Panthers McElvain was a starter in 2019 and threw for 2,778 yards and 20 touchdowns. Two games into the 2021 campaign, McElvain lost his starting job, but he is still a very experienced quarterback who can put up some big numbers. Having Tyler Hudson back at wide receiver would have been nice, but Hudson is now at Louisville and that leaves Christian Richmond as the team’s top returning receiver. Should the passing game need some time to reload, Darius Hale is ready to pick up the slack. He rushed for 1,015 yards and 17 touchdowns and finished second in the Jerry Rice Award voting, honoring the FCS’ top freshman.
The defense was a little disappoint last season, but they have the experience to see a turnaround in 2022. Logan Jessup has been a stalwart in the Central Arkansas defensive front and recorded 5.0 sacks last season and 6.5 the year prior. Jalen Bedell is another experienced senior who will take advantage of the opposition keying in on Jessup. Darin Davenport will need to emerge as the new leader at linebacker, but the secondary is stacked with experience. TaMuarion Wilson led the team with 66 tackles in 2021 and Cameron Godfrey and Christian Cain are both upperclassmen with plenty of starting experience.
The Bottom Line:
The toughest games for Central Arkansas in ASUN play will come later in the campaign. It starts with a trip to Kennesaw State on October 15th. Two games later they play another very tough game at Eastern Kentucky. The regular season concludes with a home date with Jacksonville State. If things go as expected, the Bears could need a win at season’s end to reach the playoffs.
Projected Postseason:  None
2021 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 141.8 (66th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 280.6 (16, 2)
Total Offense: 422.5 (22, 3)
Scoring Offense: 34.5 (11, 2)
Rushing Defense: 166.9 (79, 5)
Pass Defense: 229.7 (71, 3)
Total Defense: 396.6 (84, 6)
Scoring Defense: 28.7 (73, 6)
Turnover Margin: 0.36 (31, 2)
Sacks: 1.73 (79, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 2.18 (69, 6)