HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs, with three teams being released each day from June 17 to July 28. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 1-4. Today, we present … Central Arkansas.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country, with HERO Sports.
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COACH: Nathan Brown – At School: 2nd year (6-5 record), Overall: Same
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2017 (2nd round loss to New Hampshire)
2018 OFFENSE: 30.5 ppg. (35th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 26.1 ppg. (45th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Oct. 5 – At Nicholls: We just get the feeling this is going to be a measuring stick for UCA. Nicholls will be very strong again this year, and they'll be on their home turf. If UCA wants to announce it is back, this is a game it needs to win.
SUM IT UP: Central Arkansas has been more than impressive since moving up to the I-AA/FCS ranks in 2007. Even with what was supposed to be a "rebuilding season" last year, the Bears still were a Southland Conference factor and had a winning record (6-5) — and here's the good news, a good chunk of that team is back. That's why UCA occupies the No. 16 spot in the HERO Sports Preseason FCS Rankings. This program hasn't had a losing season in a decade, won 20 games between 2016-17 and has been to the postseason four times this decade. The Bears will be in good shape this fall.
On offense, the program had two quarterbacks pass for more than 1,000 yards last year in sophomores Luke Hales (7 starts, 1,857 yards, 18 TDs) and Breylin Smith (4 starts before early-season ankle injury, 1,009 yards, 6 TDs – completed 69% of his passes). Both were impressive last year and provide the kind of QB depth most FCS programs salivate over. And boy do they have some weapons to work with in the backfield — one of the best RB tandems in the nation with Carlos Blackman and Kierre Crossley. The line is also nearly intact. Two wide receiver transfers from the Arkansas Razorbacks (Jarrod Barnes and Tobias Enlow) should be nice additions.
On defense, one of the most destructive defensive linemen in the country is back in Chris Terrell, and he's not alone. While there are some names missing thanks to graduation, there is a ton back … and the secondary looks especially strong. The JUCO ranks will go a long way in helping out on defense, also, just watch.
OUR TAKE: The Southland Conference looks as good on paper as it has in years, and still we feel confident we're staring at an FCS playoff-caliber program here in Central Arkansas. There is a buzz around this Bears' program this year and even its two FBS opponents (Hawaii and Western Kentucky – who Maine beat last year) had better not look past UCA. When it hits Southland play, UCA will have to go on the road to all three 2018 FCS playoff participants from the Southland — Nicholls, Lamar and Incarnate Word. Those games will be pivotal, and the home slate isn't much easier. The Bears are good enough to win the Southland this year, but it won't be handed to them. Put the Bears down for eight or more wins this year, and a playoff berth — and we'll go ahead and say that's the worst-case scenario. The best case scenario could be double digit wins and a first-round bye and playoff run.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./DE Chris Terrell (HERO Sports Preseason All-American – 16 TFLs, 8.5 sacks, 48 tackles)
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./DB Juan Jackson (1st Team All Southland – 91 tackles, led team; 5 forced fumbles); Sr./RB Carlos Blackman (1st Team All Southland – 786 yards rushing, 9 TDs); Sr./OL Hunter Watts (1st Team All Southland – 6-foot-8 returning starter at left tackle); Jr./RB Kierre Crossley (600 yards rushing, 2 TDs); Jr./WR Brandon Myers (leading returning receiver, 6-foot-3, 484 yds receiving, 5 TDs); Jr./DB Robert Rochell (4 INTs, 25 tackles, 10 passes defensed); Sr./DB Trai Mosley (12 passes defensed, 32 tackles); Jr./LB Nathan Grant (34 tackles, 8.5 TFLs); Sr./OL Dylan Desper (returning starter at RT)
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./DT James Kitt (UCA's top prep signee according to the HERO Sports FCS recruiting rankings – also reported Southern Miss, UAB and South Alabama offers, among others)
THE QUOTE: "Once again (AD) Dr. (Brad) Teague has done a great job scheduling regional FBS and FCS non-conference games for us. This is important to us for easier travel and also the ability to get as many fans and supporters to the games as possible. I am excited about the challenge of this schedule and I know my team is also. We look forward to playing great games against some of the best Division I opponents the country can offer." — Head Coach Nathan Brown said about the schedule
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Central Arkansas Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The Southland
SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast