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 … Savannah State.
SAVANNAH STATE (3-8)
The MEAC (Tied for 7th in MEAC)
COACH: Erik Raeburn – 3rd year (6-15)
2017 OFFENSE: 19.5 ppg (94th in FCS)
2017 DEFENSE: 31.5 ppg (101st in FCS)
SUM IT UP: This is an interesting situation when you consider SSU is looking to move back to the Division II level in 2019. If you look at the typical preseason measureables, you'd be in error to dismiss this program — and that's after many downtrodden SSU seasons in the MEAC. Look, we're not saying Savannah State will go down to Miami (Fla.) and come home with a win or that the Tigers are the obvious favorite to win the MEAC, but what we will point out is this team won 3 of its last 4 games and returns 10 starters on offense and 6 on defense. And in those final four games — three being wins and one being a loss to 12-0 NC A&T — there was a spark.
The game with HBCU National Champion N.C. A&T was 13-3 champs at the half … not exactly a concession by Savannah State. Now, can this spark ignite a run to being a top-half MEAC program in 2018 before moving to D-!!? That's the big question. But hey … all five O-linemen return to the lineup, along with the predominant QB. On the other side of the line? The Tigers look hungry.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: I really think this is a top half MEAC program, right before it downshifts to D-2. I'm guessing the current players would love to make a splash before the move happens. The ceiling here is 6 wins, something this program hasn't done at the D-1 level since coming in 2000. The last strong season came a decade ago when the Tigers won 5 games and came within a hair of winning 3 more in 2008.
TOP RETURNEE: DL Stefen Banks (1st Team Preseason All MEAC – 71 tackles, 18 TFLs, 10 sacks, 7 hurries)
THE NEXT BEST: TE Paris Baker (3rd Team Preseason All MEAC); DL Brandon Carswell (3rd Team Preseason All MEAC – 34 tackles, 9 TFLs); PK/P Giovanni Lugo (2nd Team All MEAC – 8 FGs, 40.1 punt average); RS JaMichael Baldwin (3rd Team All MEAC — 22.1 yards per kick return, 1 TD; 13.5 yards per punt return); QB D'Vonn Gibbons (1,259 yards passing, 10 TDs; 734 rushing yards gained, 6 TDs); DB Donald Rutledge (leading tacklers – 81 tackles); LB Isaiah Bennett (59 tackles, 7 TFLs); DB Darrell Bonner (3 INTs, 6 PBUs, 52 tackles).
TOP NEWCOMER: RB D'Angelo Durham (3-star recruit with 2 FBS offers).
DID YOU KNOW?: Shannon Sharpe, the NFL Hall of Famer turned TV personality, was an All-Conference performer for Savannah State from 1987 to 1989 — a big part of two of the best seasons in SSU history, going 16-4 his final two years. He went on to be taken in the 7th round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos, winning two Super Bowls and going to 7 Pro Bowls there before winning another ring and hitting another Pro Bowl in Baltimore with the Ravens. His No. 2 jersey was retired by Savannah State.
THE QUOTE: "Hopefully, this gives us some momentum going into the offseason that we can carry into recruiting and also into the offseason workouts. We talked about how many true freshmen we've played all season. They showed me these last four weeks they have the talent to compete in the MEAC. But we've got to develop in the weight room and get more physical. Man, if we do that, we've got a really good, young nucleus to build around." — coach Erik Raeburn said after the Tigers' win in its season finale last year
SOCIAL MEDIA SPOTLIGHT
THE HASHTAG: #HailSSU
FOOTBALL TWITTER: @SavannahStateFB
— Karl DeMasi (@KDSportsReport) June 16, 2018
FCS QB TRANSFERS: Who Tops The List?
THE REST OF THE MEAC