Mercer ranks No. 19 in HERO Sports’ FCS Preseason Top 25.
The Bears finished 7-4 overall last year, 7-3 vs. FCS opponents, and 5-3 in the SoCon. Their last loss came in the regular-season finale, losing 50-44 in double overtime at eventual quarterfinalist Samford.
Here’s a look at this year’s Mercer football squad.
Place College Football Wagers at BetMGM!
Returning 2022 FCS All-Conference Players (9)
WR Devron Harper
WR Ty James
OL John Thomas
LB Isaac Dowling
RS Devron Harper
DE Solomon Zubairu
S Lance Wise
OL Riley Adcock
DT Chris Hill
CB TJ Moore
Players In 2023 FCS Positional Rankings (5)
Transfer Portal Movement
Transfers Lost To The FBS (2)
Trey Turk (K/P) to Middle TN State
Nigajuan Mansell (OL) to South Carolina
Transfers Lost To The FCS (1)
Nate Boehm (WR) to Morehead State
Transfers Coming In From The FBS (6)
Micah Bell (RB), Charlotte
Gavin McKay (TE), Missouri
Matthew Johnson (OL), Troy
Ryan Attaway (LB), Virginia
Dainsus Miller (DB), Marshall
Ty Everson (TE), Navy
Transfers Coming In From The FCS (1)
Hess Horne (QB), Missouri State
Mercer returns nine of its 11 All-SoCon offensive and defensive players from last year’s 7-4 squad.
Offensively, the Bears bring back an elite wide receiver duo after scoring 38.2 points per game (No. 6 in the FCS) and throwing for 282.6 yards per game (No. 12).
Ty James and Devron Harper are two All-SoCon First Team and All-American-level targets. James (6’2″ 200 lbs) recorded 52 receptions for 1,105 yards and 13 touchdowns last fall. Harper (5’9″ 175 lbs) had 78 catches for 987 yards and 10 touchdowns, 199 yards rushing and four scores, 523 kick return yards and a TD, and 169 punt return yards and a score.
Replacing Fred Payton (3,019 yards passing, 32 TDs, eight interceptions) at quarterback will be a difficult task, but James and Harper make it easier.
Mercer has four quarterbacks currently on its roster. Carter Peevy is a fourth-year sophomore. He played in one game last year and eight games in 2021, but he started multiple games in the 2020-21 season and threw for 1,318 yards, eight touchdowns, and four interceptions with four rushing touchdowns. Daniel Shoch is a redshirt freshman. Drew Moore is a true freshman. Hess Horne is a transfer from Missouri State. He’s a third-year sophomore and was a three-star high school recruit who did not see any game action at Mo State.
The Bears have returning experience in the backfield. Al Wooten II returns after leading the team with 495 yards rushing on 130 carries and four touchdowns. Austin Douglas is also back after being last season’s No. 2 rusher, going for 403 yards on 58 carries and a team-high five rushing scores.
On the offensive line, First Team All-SoCon John Thomas (6’3″ 300 lbs) and Second Team All-SoCon Riley Adcock (6’0″ 270 lbs) return. Nate Howard (6’7″ 315 lbs) is also back after making six starts in 2022.
Mercer has talent and experience on all three levels of the defense.
The top five tacklers and 10 of the top 11 return after the Bears allowed 22.1 points per game (No. 27 in the FCS).
Isaac Dowling is back after leading the team with 99 tackles and nine tackles for loss, getting named to the All-SoCon First Team. Ken Standley had a standout season as well, tallying 85 tackles, seven TFLs, and two sacks.
Second Team All-Conference Lance Wise (58 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, two interceptions), Richie Coffey (41 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, one sack, one interception), and Myles Redding (60 tackles, two TFLs, one interception, four pass breakups) spearhead the safety position.
TJ Moore is a 6-foot-1 cornerback coming off of a Second Team All-SoCon season where he totaled 40 tackles and three interceptions. Cam Sims is a 6-foot-2 cornerback who had 30 tackles, two interceptions, and three pass breakups.
Defensive end Solomon Zubairu (6’1″ 255 lbs) and defensive tackle Chris Hill (6’2″ 284 lbs) lead the defensive front. Zubairu is a two-time All-SoCon selection with 127 career tackles, 22.5 TFLs, and 14.5 sacks. Hill has 65 career tackles, 15 TFLs, and 6.5 sacks on the interior. He was a 2022 Second Team All-SoCon selection.
Mercer allowed 120.1 rushing yards per game (No. 21) last fall and 217.3 passing yards per game (No. 54). Its 17 team interceptions were the third-most in the FCS.
8/26 North Alabama (Montgomery, Ala.)
9/2 at Ole Miss
9/9 vs Morehead State
9/23 at No. 5 Furman
9/30 vs VMI
10/7 at East Tennessee State
10/14 vs RV Chattanooga
10/21 vs Wofford
10/28 at Western Carolina
11/4 at The Citadel
11/11 vs No. 8 Samford
HERO Sports’ rankings
RV = Received Votes
Bold indicates SoCon games