#8 McNeese State FCS Football 2014 Preview

McNeese State Cowboys

Overall Rank: #8
#2 Southland

McNeese State Team Page#8 McNeese State FCS Football 2014 PreviewBuy McNeese State Football Tickets

McNeese State made it back to the playoffs after a three year drought. The Cowboys had some very impressive early wins in 2013, beating South Florida, Central Arkansas and Sam Houston State. Losses at Northern Iowa and Southeastern Louisiana were certainly understandable. Earning a spot in the playoffs, Coach Matt Viator’s team lost their opener 31-10 to Jacksonville State.

2013 Record: 10-3, 6-2
2013 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Matt Viator (62-27 at McNeese State, 62-27 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tim Leger, Rob Sale
Defensive Coordinator: Lance Guidry

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kelvin Bennett, RB, 774 yards
Passing: Tyler Bolfing, QB, 165 yards
Receiving: Ernest Celestie, WR, 565 yards
Tackles: Aaron Sam, DB, 84
Sacks: Kevin Dorn, DT, 5.0; Everett Ellefsen, DE, 5.0
Interceptions: Kevin Dorn, DT, 1; Everett Ellefsen, DE, 1; Deonte Thompson, LB, 1; Wallace Scott, LB, 1

Other Key Returnees: RB Dylan Long, OL Nick Gorman, LB Bo Brown

Key Losses: RB Marcus Wiltz, QB Cody Stroud, WR Diontae Spencer, TE Nick Jacobs, OL Arinze Agada, S Terence Cahee, CB Guy Morgan, S Ryan Bronson, CB Gabe Hamner, K Ryan Rome

The McNeese State defense was not particularly effective for long stretches of last season, but the unit should be much improved. In their three losses, the Cowboys allowed 113 points. They only scored 23 in those games, but the defense did not nearly do enough to even give this team a chance in those contests. The improved defense will stem from a very talented line. End Everett Ellefsen is one of the best in the conference and tallied 5.0 sacks in 2013. Tackle Kevin Dorn also recorded 5.0 sacks. There are also high hopes for junior college transfer Brian Hine. The linebackers will be led by Bo Brown, who totaled 75 tackles and a team high 12.0 tackles-for-loss. Deonte Thompson and Correy Middleton are experienced players who can fill in around Brown, but watch out for redshirt freshman Ed Duplessis. He is a big linebacker who will make a big splash for this defense sooner or later. Aaron Sam is moving to free safety after leading the team with 84 tackles in 2013. He will anchor a young, but talented unit. Junior Gabe Hammer has experience, but after that the Cowboys will need underclassmen to quickly live up to their potential.

The offense was very good last season with senior quarterback Cody Stroud leading the way. He threw for 2,935 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior and leaves the program holding many passing records. Also gone is running back Marcus Wiltz, who ran for 1,287 yards and 11 scores, and top receiver Diontae Spencer. But Coach Viator has options. At quarterback, Kansas State transfer Daniel Sams will take over the team. Sams threw for just 452 yards with the Wildcats in 2013, but rushed for 807 yards and 11 scores. His legs will add something that Stroud could never do. At running back, the team does return Kelvin Bennett, who rushed for 774 yards, but also bring in a couple of transfers who will be in the mix. Both Nate Holmes, from Arkansas, and Derrick Milton, from Mississippi State, will help this team replace Wiltz. Touchdown vulture Dylan Long also returns. Wide receiver Ernest Celestie was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA and that is huge for the Cowboys. He is a big play receiver. Kent Shelby is just a big receiver. The 6-4 redshirt freshman was making waves a year ago, but ended up not being eligible to play in 2013. Now he is eligible.

The Bottom Line:
Many of the faces on offense will be different, but there is a lot of talent. If something goes awry, it will likely come from the inexperience on offense. But the consistency on defense is a potential issue too as it was in 2013. Experience for the defense should shore up those concerns though. The schedule is also tough this year. Adding new teams like Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word to the conference slate makes some games easier, but McNeese State has to play both Sam Houston State and Southeastern Louisiana on the road. Those are the two games that will determine how well this team does in 2014.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 208.9 (24th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 242.0 (31, 5)
Total Offense: 450.9 (17, 4)
Scoring Offense: 40.0 (6, 2)
Rushing Defense: 173.2 (68, 5)
Pass Defense: 242.9 (97, 5)
Total Defense: 416.1 (83, 5)
Scoring Defense: 28.5 (75, 4)
Turnover Margin: 0.30 (38, 3)
Sacks: 1.77 (80, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.92 (61, 6)

Madness 2014 FCS Football Recruit Rankings:
#130 Andre Fuller
#154 Jamari Oayne


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