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 … Samford.
The Southern Conference (Tied for 2nd in SoCon)
COACH: Chris Hatcher – 4th year (21-14)
2017 OFFENSE: 28.0 ppg (44th in FCS)
2017 DEFENSE: 22.3 ppg (35th in FCS)
SUM IT UP: Let's break down Devlin Hodges for a second so all of you out there "get it". First of all, the Bulldogs' quarterback is within striking distance this year of setting all kinds of FCS career records. That's pretty well known. But when you get curious about how he does against the "big boys" you see that he has held his own (and then some) against Georgia and Mississippi State (695 yards passing, 6 TDs) and even started game as a freshman against Louisville and Lamar Jackson. That's the first thing NFL scouts are going to check out when curious about Hodges, along with this year's Florida State game in week two. They won't be disappointed in the near 4,000-yard passer (in 2017).
Hodges is legit, and that's why he was the First Team HERO Sports All American QB against some unbelievable competition around the FCS. But he's far from the only talent on this team, and that's why the team is ranked in the FCS Top 10. Ahmad Gooden on defense is a behind-the-line-of-scrimmage beast, and there are weapons that most of the FCS nation would love to have at receiver. This is the best team Chris Hatcher has had at Samford, and it has "winner" written all over it, even in a brutally tough Southern Conference. Keep an eye on the non conference game at Kennesaw State in September — it will help make Samford's statement.
Let's just wrap this "summary" up here — 10 offensive starters are back for one of the best offenses in the nation. Another 6 return on defense, along with one of the best defensive talents in the level (Gooden). Kicker Tripp Weaver is back too after a great season. The Bulldogs are loaded, folks.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Honestly? Because of the SoCon's incredible parity this year, Samford is the only program in the conference that I think is an absolute FCS Playoff lock — but I also think 7 of the 9 will have a chance to get in. Samford is going to have to avoid the schedule landmines on the road, which at times in the past it hasn't done. That will define this team as a possible FCS Playoff seed with a week one bye. But make no mistake, this is a program that can easily be a double digit-winner and be a serious threat to make it as far as the quarters/semis. Beyond that? It's possible, but frosting on the cake.
TOP RETURNEE: QB Devlin Hodges (HERO Sports Preseason All American – 1st team: 3,587 yards passing, 30 TDs)
THE NEXT BEST: DL Ahmad Gooden (HERO Sports Preseason All American – 98 tackles, 5.5 TFLs); WR Kelvin McKnight (HERO Sports Preseason All American – 86 catches, 1,179 yards, 12 TDs); RS/DB Darius Harvey (22.5 yards per kickoff return, 1 TD); WR Chris Shelling (61 catches, 721 yards, 6 TDs); DB Christian Stark (65 tackles, 4.5 TFLs); LB Aaron Harris (8 TFL, 47 tackles); OL Nick Nixon (1st Team Preseason All SoCon selection).
TOP NEWCOMER: LB Jaleel Laguins (Georgia transfer – former 4-star prospect)
DID YOU KNOW?: Legendary Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden played his college football at Samford when it was then known as Howard College, competing from 1949 to 1952 — and he is the program's leader in win percentage (.838). He was an All American quarterback in 1952. In 1959, he began his head coaching career at Samford and went 31-6 there. Later, he became the head coach at West Virginia and in 1976 he took over at Florida State. He still resides in Tallahassee.
THE QUOTE: "I thought we had a good spring. We were able to get a look at a lot of young guys, especially at certain positions defensively. We're going to have a lot of inexperience there, so we were able to get some good work with those guys, to have a baseline heading into summer practice for us. The energy was good, the want-to was good and I thought we learned a lot. Fortunately for us, we came out very healthy. We had a couple of minor injuries, but I really believe that we got better at the fundamentals and just the base schemes that we need to build upon as we head into next season." — coach Chris Hatcher said after spring ball
SOCIAL MEDIA SPOTLIGHT
THE HASHTAG: #SamfordStrong
FOOTBALL TWITTER: @SamfordFootball
— Devlin Hodges (@DevlinHodges10) June 21, 2018
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