#20 Stephen F. Austin FCS Football 2012 Preview

Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

Overall Rank: #20
#2 Southland
Stephen F. Austin FCS College Football 2012 Team Preview
Stephen F. Austin Team Page


Stephen F. Austin won its last five games and is heading in the right direction. But they started the season 1-5 for good reason. The Lumberjacks faced a brutal schedule to start the year. Unfortunately, that same schedule is in store for the 2012 SFA squad. After what should be an easy win against Southwest Oklahoma, the Lumberjacks hit the road to take on SMU, Montana State and Texas State. And, just like in 2011, next up is Central Arkansas and Sam Houston State. The good news is that SFA gets Central Arkansas at home this year and will play SHSU at Reliant Stadium. But it was a schedule like that which took the Lumberjacks out of the playoff picture by the middle of October and that could be the case again in 2012.

2011 Record: (6-5, 5-2)
2011 Postseason: None
Coach: J.C. Harper (29-30 at Stephen F. Austin, 29-30 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Richard Olin
Defensive Coordinator: David Gibbs

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jeremy Barnes, RB, 511 yards
Passing: Brady Attaway, QB, 3,181 yards
Receiving: Cordell Roberson, WR, 794 yards
Tackles: Ryan Epperson, LB, 113
Sacks: Willie Jefferson, DE, 15.0
Interceptions: Willie Jefferson, DE, 2

Other Key Returnees: S Jordan Aubrey, CB Josh Aubrey, WR Graly Crawford, RB Fred Ford, WR Ryan Gambel, G Greg Hall, DT Corey Hill, DT Malcolm Mattox, WR Marquis Mosley, S Caleb Nelson, OT Andrew Ratliff, C John Steel, G Austin Wright

Key Losses: OT George Bias, LB Derrick Choice, LB Devin Ducote, DE Jacob Fincher, DT Weekendfer Saurit, CB Ben Wells

Ten starters return to an offense that ranked tenth in the nation with 35.73 points per game. Quarterback Brady Attaway threw for 3,181 yards and 27 touchdowns and the Lumberjacks had one of the best passing offenses in the nation. He was just a junior last year, but still completed 60.4 percent of his passes. Unfortunately, he also completed 22 passes to the opposition and he must make better decisions and avoid all of those interceptions. SFA will throw the ball around a lot so interceptions will happen, but as an upperclassman Attaway should be able to decrease that number. The pure talent at wide receiver should help. Graly Crawford and Cordell Roberson are the top targets, and combined to catch 16 touchdown passes last year, but Marquis Mosley, Kris Lott, Mike Brooks and Ryan Gamble return as well. That is pretty much the entire receiving corps returning. The ground game will be led by Jeremy Barnes. He only garnered 99 carries last year, but he rushed for 491 yards and is a quality pass catcher out of the backfield as well. Junior Keith Lawson and sophomores Fred Ford and Gus Johnson all tallied at least 45 carries in 2011 and that experience will help those young players take the next step. The only loss on offense is that of tackle George Bias. It is a big loss, but returning four offensive linemen, led by senior guard Austin Wright, will only make the offense that much more explosive and dynamic.

It is tough to call the defense a weakness when they do such a great job of getting to the quarterback. This is a team that ranked first in the nation in sacks and tackles-for-loss. There are some key losses in the defense, but the unit should not take too much of a step back. Jacob Fincher and Weekendfer Saurit are gone from the front four, but end Willie Jefferson returns after tallying an impressive 15.0 sacks. He even led the team with two interceptions. Tackle Malcolm Mattox is a fine tackle who can get into the backfield, but Colorado State transfer Trevor Murphy and sophomore Darren Robinson will need to be ready to step into starting roles. The losses at linebacker are pretty big too with Derrick Choice and Devin Ducote gone. However, Ryan Epperson is a superb middle linebacker who totaled 113 tackles as a junior. Marvin Gray and Ortavious Hypolite have some big shoes to fill. SFA sported a very good secondary in 2011, but all of that pressure on the quarterback certainly made their job easier. Corner Ben Wells is gone after a solid senior season, but there is a ton of experience in the secondary with cornerback Josh Aubrey and safeties Caleb Nelson and Jordan Aubrey leading the way. The depth at cornerback is pretty slim and that could turn into a big problem.

The Bottom Line:
The Lumberjacks will have to get off to a quick start or they could end up with another 6-5 record. There is enough returning talent to get off to a quick start, but beating SMU, Montana State, Texas State or Sam Houston State on the road may be asking too much. That makes the Central Arkansas game on September 29th a huge game. But then there is no room for error down the stretch and a road trip to McNeese State will not be an easy game for example. That means this team will have to pull off some upsets on the road to reach the playoffs, but they have the talent to do it.

Projected Postseason: None

2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 120.55 (86th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 318.82 (6, 1)
Total Offense: 439.36 (9, 1)
Scoring Offense: 35.73 (10, 2)
Rushing Defense: 126.73 (24, 2)
Pass Defense: 178.91 (20, 1)
Total Defense: 305.64 (14, 2)
Scoring Defense: 24.91 (49, 2)
Turnover Margin: -.55 (86, 6)
Sacks: 4.36 (1, 1)
Sacks Allowed: .45 (1, 1)