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 … McNeese State.
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MCNEESE STATE (6-5 IN 2018)
Southland Conference (McNeese was Tied for 4th in 2018)
COACH: Sterlin Gilbert – At School: 1st year (0-0 record), Overall: Same
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2015 (lost 2nd round to Sam Houston State)
2018 OFFENSE: 20.8 (101st in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 24.2 ppg. (34th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Nov. 23 vs. Lamar: Look, Lamar got hot down the stretch in 2018 and this "Battle of the Border" rivalry — which goes back to 1951 — played a big part in the Cardinals making the playoffs. Lamar's win last year broke a three-game McNeese winning streak, so you know that doesn't sit well with the Cowboys
SUM IT UP: So we'll start with the offense. Last year, the offense didn't go very well for the Cowboys, which was strange after the program posted pretty good numbers in 2017 when it went 9-2 and narrowly missed the FCS playoffs (because of strength schedule). However, early in 2018, the Cowboys were 5-1 with just a loss to FBS to Brigham Young coming into what looked like a benign matchup at Incarnate Word. Boy oh boy does the word "benign" not describe the end result, as McNeese was throttled and this is one of the games that ignited UIW's run to being first in the Southland and making the playoffs.
Seriously, midway through October? McNeese seemed like a shoo-in to get into the playoffs after a win over eventual Southland champ Nicholls and a non-conference win over the Big Sky's Northern Colorado. Then things sort of fell apart, and long-time McNeese head coach/assistant Lance Guidry was let go, and former Texas Longhorns and South Florida offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert came in — a solid hire.
So what could the offense do in 2019? Well, a starting point is QB Cody Orgeron, son of LSU head coach Ed Orgeron. Cody threw for 406 yards and two TDs backing up James Tabary, and he's much more mobile than Tabary was. He is talented and will be interesting to watch, but new names must emerge around him.
On defense? Hey, this was a pretty solid group in 2018. Seven critical contributors are back from last year, and this historically has been a pretty stout defense against FCS competition. Overall, McNeese listed 15 starters and 54 letterwinners back on the roster this fall.
OUR TAKE: We're very interested to see where this goes, offensively. Last year, UIW head coach Eric Morris came from Texas Tech and the program shared the Southland title and made the FCS Playoffs for the first time. If Gilbert and his background have the same effect on the Cowboys offense, this could be interesting. McNeese has always been a brawler in the Southland when it comes to defense. And there's some serious talent back on that side of the ball. When you look at the non-conference schedule? Well … two of the SWAC's top programs come to McNeese — Southern U and potential HBCU national champ Alcorn State. That's no cakewalk to pair up with a trip to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State. Road trips to three recent Southland playoff teams (Central Arkansas, Nicholls and Lamar) don't make things easy. To us? This looks like a tough road. This 12-game schedule seems to have the potential for six wins, in our opinion.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./DB Colby Burton (1st Team All-Southland – 2 INTs, 31 tackles, 8 PBUs).
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./DL Chris Livings (2nd Team All-Southland – 10.5 TFLs, 8 sacks, 11 hurries); Sr./OL Grant Burguillos (2nd Team All-Southland); Jr./WR Cyron Sutton (609 yards receiving, 3 TDs – leading receiver returning); Jr./DL Cody Roscoe (8 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, 33 sacks); Jr./QB Cody Orgeron (406 yds passing, 2 TDs); Jr./WR Trevor Begue (23 catches, 240 receiving yards, 3 TDs); Jr./DB Cory McCoy (59 tackles, 6 TFLs); Jr./DB Darion Dunn (33 tackles, 9 PBUs); Sr./DB Jovon Burriss (48 tackles, 3.5 TFLs).
TOP NEWCOMER: Sr./WR Rashid Bonnette (La. Tech transfer – former 3-star recruit, career numbers: 1,065 yards and 3 TDs at La Tech)
COACH SAYS: "From an offensive standpoint, we turned the ball over too much. We have to be able to take care of the football. From a defensive standpoint, we created turnovers with some physicality. We saw some guys flash and do some things that were expected and needed to get done. We obviously have some room for a lot of growth and improvement. We still have a lot of work left to do. That's the challenge we're going to put out to our guys going forward; going into the summer and going into fall camp ." — McNeese head coach Sterlin Gilbert said after the spring game
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's McNeese 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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