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 … McNeese State.
MCNEESE STATE (9-2)
Southland (McNeese was T3rd in the SLC in 2017)
COACH: Lance Guidry – 3rd year (15-7 record)
2017 OFFENSE: 29.8 ppg (34th in FCS)
2017 DEFENSE: 17.1 ppg (11th in FCS)
SUM IT UP: McNeese featured one of the top statistical defenses in the FCS last year, and hit the 9-win mark, but a season-opening loss to Southland Conference rival Nicholls cost the Cowboys a spot in the FCS playoffs — while the Colonels went to the postseason and nearly got to the second round. One has to think that left a nasty taste in the mouths of the McNeese players, staff and fans. This year, nearly all of the offense is back for a group that was pretty solid last year, and Guidry is a defensive-minded coach first and will be more hands on this year with a group that is traditionally strong at McNeese.
When one looks around the Southland Conference, programs like Nicholls, Sam Houston State and Central Arkansas have been the better programs the past few years, but defending SLC champion UCA may have a slight transition year ahead of it and Sam Houston State isn't on McNeese's slate this year because of schedule rotation. The Cowboys may have a similar situation to last year, in that they must prove themselves in games like the home game with Nicholls, the non-conference game at Northern Colorado, and even the FBS matchup (Brigham Young) would be a good opportunity to turn some heads. This is a solid program, but it'll need some measuring-stick type games to make an impression with the selection committee.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: McNeese will have a winning season — probably no lower than the 7 to 8-win level. But last year, 9 wins wasn't enough to get the Cowboys in. The program needs a non-conference win at Northern Colorado, and it needs to be able to handle Nicholls and Central Arkansas (both home games) and avoid any other slipups on the conference schedule. That's the recipe for an FCS playoff spot, something a handful of these current players (David Hamm, Tre Porter, Micah Udeh, Kyle Zenon, etc) experienced in 2015 when the Cowboys went undefeated in the regular season and won the Southland.
TOP RETURNEE: TE Lawayne Ross (1st Team All Southland – 42 catches, 570 yards, 2 TDs)
THE NEXT BEST: RB David Hamm (1st Team All Southland – 805 yards rushing, 6 TDs); PK Bailey Raborn (2nd Team All Southland – 12 of 13 on FGs, long of 52 yards); DB B.J. Blunt (leading returning tackler – 43 stops, 9.5 TFLs); QB James Tabary (2,511 yards passing, 21 TDs); LB Tre Porter (33 tackles, 5 TFL); OL Kyle Zenon (started all 11 games); DL Micah Udeh (7.5 TFLs, 3 sacks, 3 hurries, 28 tackles).
TOP NEWCOMER: QB Cameron Smith (chose McNeese over Southern Miss, App. State, among others)
DID YOU KNOW?: It wasn't that long ago, so maybe most people haven't forgotten McNeese's trip to Tampa to take on South Florida in 2013 — scoring 53 points in the win, a record for an FCS team against an FBS. The Cowboys have another interesting nugget on their resume — they won the 1976 Independence Bowl, and also played in the 1979 and 1980 Independence Bowl games against Syracuse and Southern Miss, respectively, before moving to the I-AA/FCS level.
THE QUOTE: "It seems like we're going to be faster than we were in all areas of the defense. We're not as good as we were right now because we don't have a lot of experience. Every day is a different day with these young guys. But talent-wise, we have a chance to be better, but that has to transfer over into Saturday nights." — Head Coach Lance Guidry said about the 2018 season
SOCIAL MEDIA SPOTLIGHT
THE HASHTAG: #GeauxPokes
FOOTBALL TWITTER: @McNeeseFootball
Breathtaking moment for James Tabary at Manning Academy https://t.co/Qu65ZtxRue
— McNeese Athletics (@McNeeseSports) June 27, 2018
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