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 … Davidson.
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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Davidson (6-5 IN 2018)
Pioneer Football League (Davidson finished 6th in 2018)
COACH: Scott Abell – At School: 2nd year (6-5) Overall: 8th year (42-25)
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: None
2018 OFFENSE: 44.9 ppg. (2nd in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 40.8 ppg. (115th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Oct. 12 vs. San Diego: Davidson lost this game 56-52 last season in an insane game. The Toreros haven't been pushed like that in the PFL in years, but still kept their unbeaten streak alive. Can the Wildcats end that streak this year?
SUM IT UP: In last year's Davidson preview, we started this section by saying "Abell has a challenging task to build up the Davidson program, but it's something he's been known to do at the high school and college level the last two decades." In his first season, Abell built Davidson's record from 2-9 to 6-5. The Wildcats almost handed San Diego its first conference loss since 2015, but narrowly lost a shootout that opened eyes around the country.
It was one of the top turnarounds in the FCS last year.
On paper, it appears this program is set for another big step forward. Fourteen starters are back on offense and defense. And here's a stat that PFL defensive coaches definitely don't want to see: every offensive touchdown is back from the 2018 squad that ranked second in the FCS with 44.9 points per game. It all starts with HERO Sports Preseason Third Team All-American running back Wesley Dugger, who ran for 1,241 yards and 16 TDs last year. But all the other playmakers in Davidson's gun triple-option return as well.
Quarterback Tyler Phelps ran for 709 yards and four touchdowns while throwing for 1,200 yards, 12 TDs and seven interceptions. William Wicks ran for 884 yards and 11 TDs, James Story had 611 yards and 13 TDs, Eli Turner ran for 525 yards and two touchdowns and Keylan Brown, Kahleel Shaw and Coy Williams add even more depth. Wicks led the team with 342 yards receiving and three touchdowns last year. The big concern, especially with a run-heavy offense, is replacing four of the five starting offensive linemen.
Defensively, no question improvements are needed. The Wildcats got in too many shootouts last year, which ball control offenses don't exactly love. The top five tacklers return, led by leading tackler Tony Collins and standout defensive lineman Bryce Perry-Martin. Add in defensive back Dreylan Hines, who was the 2018 PFL Co-Defensive Freshman Player of the Year and a HERO Sports Freshman All-American, and the talent is definitely there to make some strides.
OUR TAKE: The Wildcats had one of the most dangerous offenses in the FCS last year. The rushing attack ranked first with 428.5 yards per game. But if this team wants to compete for a conference title, the defense needs to get better. Just look at the four-game losing streak late in the season: Davidson lost 35-28, 48-41, 56-53 and 56-52. Davidson is right there. Getting some team balance is essential and if that happens, watch out. Those losses suddenly turn into wins.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Jr./RB Wesley Dugger (HERO Sports Preseason Third Team All-American, 1,241 yards rushing and 16 TDs)
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./RB James Story (Second Team All-Conference, 591 yards rushing and 13 TDs); Sr./OL Ethan Steinbacher (Second Team AC, Lone returning starter on OL); Sr./DT Bryce Perry-Martin (Second Team AC, 58 tackles, 15 TFLs, 4 sacks); Sr./LB Tony Collins (AC HM, 71 total tackles); So./DB Dreylan Hines (AC HM, PFL Co-Defensive Freshman Player of the Year, 4 INT); QB Tyler Phelps (1,200 yards throwing, 709 yards rushing); RB William Wicks (884 yards rushing and 11 TDs)
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./OL Luca Dellosa (6-foot-5, 267-pound true freshman who could add depth or push for a starting job)
THE QUOTE: "But as the dust settles, we know we need to play better defense. The offense won’t always be this way. It will be harder at times. But we’ve got young guys here this spring that weren’t with us last spring. This is an opportunity for them to learn our system better and get comfortable." — Head Coach Scott Abell told the Charlotte Observer
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Davidson Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The PFL
Butler | Davidson | Dayton | Drake
Jacksonville | Marist | Morehead State
San Diego | Stetson | Valparaiso
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