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 … Houston Baptist.
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.
[divider]MORE FCS FOOTBALL:
COACH: Vic Shealy – At School: 7th year (13-49 record), Overall: 10th year (40-63-1)
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: None
2018 OFFENSE: 27.4 ppg. (63rd in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 43.7 ppg. (122nd in FCS)
KEY GAME: Sept. 21 vs. Northwestern State: This one really hurt last year, as HBU was up 28-10 midway through the third quarter before the Demons ran away with things late and won by three points. HBU quarterback Bailey Zappe threw for 271 yards and 3 TDs and rushed for 132 and a score in this game last year, and you know he'll be ready to reproduce the effort.
SUM IT UP: Since beginning its football program in 2013, Houston Baptist has won only six games against FCS-level opponents — only four of which are Southland competition. But looking at this year's roster, it's hard to see this program going 1-10 for the third straight season. Last year the Huskies came within three points of a Southland win at Northwestern State and 10 points at Southeastern Louisiana. Those were the two most competitive FCS games for the Huskies. With nine starters back on an offense that did produce 27+ points per game, and another nine on defense and three on special teams, this team should improve in 2019.
But how much? A lot of that rides on the shoulders Zappe, a junior who already has two years of starting experience behind center. He has proven pass targets back and two solid contributors behind him to hand the ball off to. The interior of the offensive line is intact, also. The offense should score a lot of points. The defense is going to have some transition work to do. New names need to step up at linebacker and at cornerback, specifically. The defense really needs to step up, because the offense is going to hang some points on the board this fall and could lead to some unprecedented success. There's an outside chance this could be the most successful season in program history, and if not this fall, certainly 2020 with Zappe as a senior.
OUR TAKE: If this was the Southland Conference of a few years ago, when it was Sam Houston State and usually an unclear fight for second place? We'd predict Houston Baptist to triple or quadruple last season's win total. That's the thing about this season, though … the Southland is going to be as good as it has been, collectively, in a number of years. Where are the guaranteed wins, right? A non-FCS game against Texas Wesleyan should be a nice way to get things going in a positive direction for HBU, and a home game with the SWAC's Texas Southern should be competitive. Note the "game to watch" above with Northwestern State, a chance for HBU to win its first Southland game since beating three league teams in 2016. Let's put the prediction range at a two-to-three win improvement this fall, thanks to the experience returning to the starting lineup. And 2020 should prove to be the program's best year ever if it doesn't happen this year.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Jr./QB Bailey Zappe (2,812 yards passing, 23 TDs — 472 rushing yards gained)
THE FOUNDATION: Soph./WR Jerreth Stearns (68 catches, 684 yards, 4 TDs); Jr./LB Caleb Johnson (102 tackles, 13 TFLs, 4 fumble recoveries); Jr./RB-KR Ladarius Dickens (113.8 all-purpose yards per game); Soph./SS Colton Manning (68 tackles); Jr./DB Coi Miller (58 tackles, 4 TFLs, 8 passes defensed); Sr./DE Andre Walker (45 tackles, 5 sacks led team); Soph./LB Brennan Young (55 tackles, 8.5 TFLs); Jr./FS Patrick Wolfe (55 tackles, 2 INTs, 4 passes defensed); Sr./WR Terry Tillmon (21.1 yards per reception, 4 TDs); Sr./OL Cody Hooks (three-year starter).
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./LB Phillip Ossai (Ranked No. 57 in nation in the HERO Sports FCS Recruiting rankings of 2019 signees — reported Kansas State offer and 7 FBS offers total)
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Houston Baptist Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The Southland
SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast