HERO Sports welcomes you to "Two-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 125 FCS programs, with two being released each day from June 18 to August 18 (with the final day having three in one day). Today we give you … Gardner-Webb.
Big South (GWU was 6th in the Big South in 2017)
COACH: Carroll McCray – 6th year (21-36)
2017 OFFENSE: 16.1 ppg (109th in FCS)
2017 DEFENSE: 28.3 ppg (83rd in FCS)
SUM IT UP: At first glance, you look at Gardner-Webb and see one win, 10 losses — with no wins against FCS teams in 2017 (a win over D-2 Shorter). Then you look at the games they were "in", a 3-point loss to SoCon champion Wofford, a one-TD loss to North Carolina Central, a 1-point loss to Charleston Southern — teams that combined to go 23-12 last year — and you realize there is a spark here. Even Big South champion and FCS quarterfinalist Kennesaw State didn't exactly run away with things versus the Runnin' Bulldogs, scoring only 17 points in their win over GWU. The big loss is 1000-yard man (both rushing and passing) Tyrell Maxwell, who got a shot this spring in the NFL. Two freshman (Jaylen Myers and Jordan Smith) battled it out in the spring to replace him, and whoever emerges this fall will have a veteran line to protect them. The defense returns about half of its lineup, and the defense had a lot to do with the Runnin' Bulldogs being in those close games with good competition. GWU needs some new names to emerge this year.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: With one of the toughest FCS schedules on paper — facing Celebration Bowl champion North Carolina A&T, FBS team Appalachian State, SoCon champion Wofford and a 7-win Western Carolina team and an ETSU team that has its first full senior class — the Runnin' Bulldogs are certainly not taking the easy route here. The goal should always be to beat your mark from last year, so we'll go with that — because with a young roster like this one, every step forward is a good one. We'll go with an improvement in the win total for sure, with home games against Limestone and Presbyterian looking favorable right off the bat. As tough as GWU played some of the stronger teams on the schedule last fall, don't be surprised by an upset win over one of those tougher opponents listed above.
TOP RETURNEE: NG Josh Ramseur (2nd team All Big South – 50 tackles)
THE NEXT BEST: LB Corey Horne (61 tackles, 4 TFLs); RB Jayln Cagle (479 yards rushing, 1 TD); OL Will Millikan (four-year starter); WR/QB Brody Rollins (leading receiver in 2017); OL Charlie Eudy (started most of last year); DB Josh Carter (35 tackles, 5 PBUs, 1 INT); DB Devin Mines (41 tackles, 3 PBU, 1 INT).
TOP NEWCOMER: DB Malachi Buckner (3-star recruit who also held offers from FBS schools like Southern Miss, Tulane and Central Michigan).
DID YOU KNOW?: Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Artis Gilmore began his college career at Gardner-Webb and went on to score nearly 25,000 points in the ABA and then in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics. He played in six NBA All-Star games.
THE QUOTE: "Our teams will play aggressively and with purpose on the field. They will also respect the educational opportunity they are blessed with and pursue a degree with the same purpose. Fielding a good team isn’t the only part of the equation. Building a program this university can take pride in, a highly-respected program, is the ultimate goal. The wins will come." — Head Coach Carroll McCray said when he was hired
SOCIAL MEDIA SPOTLIGHT
THE HASHTAG: #RunninBulldogs
FOOTBALL TWITTER: @GWUFootball
— Gardner-Webb Football (@GWUFootball) June 26, 2018
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