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 … Murray State.
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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MURRAY STATE (5-6 IN 2018)
The OVC (MSU was 4th in 2018)
COACH: Mitch Stewart – At School: 5th year (15-29 record) Overall: Same
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2002 (lost in 1st round to Western Kentucky)
2018 OFFENSE: 27.9 ppg. (59th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 34.9 ppg. (98th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Oct. 19 – vs. Eastern Kentucky: This homecoming game, featuring two Kentucky rivals, is going to be a big one for both programs. Last year, when EKU was riding high? Murray State effectively knocked the Colonels out of FCS Playoff contention. You know EKU wants revenge, but it'll have to come to the Racers' home field in front of their homecoming crowd to get it. Mark this one down, folks.
SUM IT UP: Last year, Murray State was a serious factor in OVC play — even knocking off playoff-bound SEMO two weeks before the Redhawks won their first FCS Playoff game in school history. When it came to league play, the Racers put up some points on just about everybody aside from five-time OVC champ Jacksonville State. That's a positive for Murray State to build off of.
With what Murray State and head coach Mitch Stewart like to do, the quarterback position is absolutely critical. The Racers have had some good ones in recent years with Drew Anderson, Shuler Bentley and K.D. Humphries. What they need now is for a new name to step up. In the spring, Preston Rice, Brendan Bognar, Michael Hiers and Garrett Bass competed for the spot. Bognar will be a senior this year and has played sparingly in the past, while Rice took snaps last year as a freshman. Hiers is a redshirt freshman and Bass is no longer on the roster. Whoever gets the nod will have talent in the receiving corps, with the top five 2018 receivers all returning and Florida transfer DaQuon Green to throw to. Return specialist/wide receiver Malik Honeycutt is big-time playmaker, too. Bottom line? The offense is what makes this program go, so a passer needs to step up. As for the offensive line? Four of the five guys who started in the season finale are back on the roster.
On defense, a lot of talent has moved on, including NFL draft pick Quincy Williams at linebacker. This program has been on the bottom half of the FCS statistically for a few years, but the Racers have done a pretty darned good job recruiting defensive studs the past few years — including three DBs in February who made the HERO Sports FCS Top 300 signee list. There's no question Murray State would like to see improvement here, and it has brought in some fresh new talent. This side of the ball should be improved.
OUR TAKE: We're not going to mince words here, folks — Murray State can be perplexing. Last year, the Racers beat eventual 9-win, playoff bound SEMO, and also blew out an Eastern Kentucky team that finished 7-4 (with two FBS losses). That's the good news for the Racers, that they could handle those kinds of teams. On the flip side, they gave 1-10 Tennessee Tech its lone win of 2018. You didn't quite know which Murray State team you were going to get in 2018, and obviously that's something Stewart and his staff will work on fixing this fall. In this year's 12-game slate, there are two likely non-conference wins (Pikeville and Morehead State) and then two underdog games (FBS national title contender Georgia and likely bowl-bound Toledo). So we'll say Murray State enters OVC play 2-2 — and truly, aside from the road trip to Jacksonville State and probably the homecoming matchup with what looks like a loaded Eastern Kentucky team, the Racers should be either favored or considered "50/50" in the other games. The OVC will be full of parity this year. We think Murray State has five-to-seven win potential, if (very key if) the quarterback situation is solid going into OVC play. The Racers can use the non-conference slate to work out the kinks, but need to know what's going on behind center going into the OVC.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./RS-WR Malik Honeycutt (HERO Sports Preseason All-American at RS – 1 PR TD, 27.0 PR avg.; 1 KR TD, 35.2 KR avg — 29 receptions, 477 yards, 4 TDs).
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./LB Kendrick Catis (74 tackles, 5.5 TFLs – 2nd leading tackler last year); Jr./LB Anthony Koclanakis (66 tackles, 4 TFLs, 2 INTs); Sr./PK Gabriel Vicente (First Team All OVC – 15 of 19 on field goals, long of 50 yards); Sr./P Steve Dawson (First Team All OVC – 42.1 yards per punt); Sr./OL Cam Carter (multi-year starter); Jr./SS Don Parker (43 tackles); Sr./WR James Sappington (24 receptions, 439 yards, 2 TDs); Jr./RB Rodney Castille (471 yards rushing, 2 TDs; 156 yards receiving, 1 TD).
THE NEWCOMER: Fr./DB A.J. McCorkle (No. 14 FCS signee in the HERO Sports Recruiting rankings — held Syracuse offer and 16 FBS totals)
THE QUOTE: "Looking at our conference schedule. It is very similar to last year's schedule. There will be new faces with some of the teams so that always makes for new and exciting challenges as well. However, I don't care who the opponents are or what order they are in, the biggest opponent we have is ourselves. That is what we are focused on now and what we continue to be focused on, this team and being the best version of this team we can be." — Head Coach Mitch Stewart said about the schedule
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Murray State Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The OVC
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