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 … Lamar.
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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LAMAR (7-5 IN 2018)
Southland Conference (Lamar was 3rd in 2018)
COACH: Mike Schultz – At School: 3rd year (9-14 record) Overall: Same
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2018 (First round loss to Northern Iowa)
2018 OFFENSE: 30.9 ppg (32nd in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 28.3 ppg. (64th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Nov. 23 vs. McNeese State: The "Battle of the Border" has been played since 1951 and last year this was the four-point win that got the Cardinals into the FCS Playoffs. One can bet the Cowboys will be hellbent for revenge. This should be a good battle and may have playoff implications once again.
SUM IT UP: Sorry for the cliche folks, but I don't think Charles Dickens would be too offended (well, maybe he would be … sorry Chuck) … Lamar was the FCS' version of "Tale of Two Seasons" last year. Lamar lost to what turned out to be the eighth and ninth-place teams in the Southland Conference, fell by 77 points to a Texas Tech team that didn't make a bowl game, and generally looked like a non-factor at 1-4 going into October.
Then, the Cardinals exploded for six straight wins — plowing over eventual Southland co-champ Incarnate Word, beat ranked Sam Houston State, 2017 Southland champ Central Arkansas and rival McNeese. Then, Lamar traveled in the FCS Playoffs to MVFC power Northern Iowa and gave the Panthers all they wanted through three quarters — with only a fourth-quarter field goal by UNI breaking the deadlock. It was an impressive October/November run for Lamar. So what can the Cardinals do for an encore?
Well, any repeat success is going to have to start with the run game on offense. Lamar returns four of the five offensive linemen who started against Northern Iowa in the playoffs, and running backs Myles Wanza and A.J. Walker are also back. Jordan Hoy — who once started at quarterback for Old Dominion against the ACC's North Carolina — started three games last year and was very effective, and he is also a big-time threat to run. Statistically, this was one of the top rushing attacks in the nation last year (13th at 241.8 yards per game). Look for that success to continue.
Defensively, there is work to do. Only four players who started on defense in the playoff game at UNI return to the lineup. Statistically, this was a trouble spot for Lamar — but one has to take into account that the reason for last season's turnaround was, frankly, defense. Case in point, in the October/November stretch? The defense gave up only 18.1 points per game. Statistically, this unit was pretty good against the run, too. And turnover margin was a strong point. The secondary will have to be mostly rebuilt, but there is talent to work with on defense.
OUR TAKE: We feel like we're saying this in all of the Southland teams' previews — the team we're previewing here is looking pretty good, but the entire Southland is also looking 'up'. So parity may be a problem for some of these promising looking programs. Hey, somebody has to be in the bottom half of the league, right? Lamar is an intriguing program that has the potential to win around eight ballgames this fall. The non-conference schedule should be two pretty easy wins to open the year, then a trip to Texas A&M. So the Cardinals will hit Southland play with nine league games on the schedule, and league favorite Nicholls has rotated off the league schedule — which is a big deal. Could Lamar win six of those nine league games and couple those six wins with two non-conference wins to go 8-4? Absolutely. Does that deliver an FCS Playoff berth? Not necessarily — that'll depend on who Lamar's league wins were over. This will be an interesting program to watch this year.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Jr./DL Daniel Crosley (2nd Team All Southland — 16 TFLs, 58 tackles, 9 sacks, 6 hurries)
THE FOUNDATION: Jr./RB Myles Wanza (683 yards rushing, 3 TDs); Sr./TE Case Robinson (269 yards receiving, 5 TDs); Sr./QB Jordan Hoy (654 yards passing, 6 TDs; 516 yards rushing, 7 TDs); Sr./RB A.J. Walker (623 yards rushing, 2 TDs); Sr./LB Isaiah Spencer (45 tackles, 8 TFLs, 4 hurries); Sr./OL Hayden Kaaiohelo (17 career starts on the line); Jr./DT Reggie Boseman (35 tackles, 4 hurries); Sr./OL Stephon Cooper (returning starter at center); Sr./DT James Jeffery (6 TFL, 31 tackles).
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./DB Jalen Wells (Top 200 FCS signee in the HERO Sports Recruiting rankings — reported 6 FBS offers)
COACH SAYS: "I was excited that we had some explosive plays on offense. We've been working on that. We want to get players like Zae Giles isolated where we can get him the ball and let him do some things. On the flip side, we allowed too many explosive plays. We have to decrease that number, but we are very young on the back end of the defense. We graduated a huge number on the defensive side from last year. We're not where we want to be but we're making improvement and that's the most important thing ." — Lamar head coach Mike Schultz said after the spring game
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Lamar Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The Southland
Incarnate Word | Lamar | McNeese | Nicholls
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