HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs from June 17 to August 6. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 12-15. Today, we present … Richmond.
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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RICHMOND (4-7 IN 2018)
CAA (Richmond was T10th in 2018)
COACH: Russ Huesman – At School: 3rd year (10-12 record) Overall: 11th year (69-49)
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2016 (Quarterfinal loss to Eastern Washington)
2018 OFFENSE: 22.1 ppg. (97th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 32.6 ppg. (86th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Nov. 23 – vs. William and Mary: The Capital Cup has been contested since 1898 and this year's 130th version of it may settle whether Richmond gets back to having a winning record (or possibly .500) and not allowing last year's losing record to begin a trend. So, not only is there a trophy at stake, there's a program bounceback likely on the line.
SUM IT UP: Last season was a rough one for Richmond in the post-Kyle Lauletta era. The former quarterback, who was drafted by the New York Giants, was a big part of the previous success and the offense struggled at times in 2018. The Spiders took care of the two opponents below them in the standings (11th place William & Mary and last place Albany) but really weren't in any other CAA ball game. This year, there is hope for massive improvement — to get back to the success of 2014-16 (29 wins) and even 2007-09 (35 wins and a national title). This program has that kind of potential and still has players within it that felt what it was like to win 10 games (in 2016).
The offense struggled last year, especially in the run game. One spark was that of this year's redshirt freshman Aaron Dykes, who played in just four games but was a massive help last season. Couple him with an O-line returning four guys who started games, along with QB Joe Mancuso who also saw considerable time … and there is something to build on. Also, 2017 leading rusher RB Xavier Goodall is back after injuries knocked him out in 2018. That's something to build and improve on last year's 22.1 points per game and the 100th best rushing offense in the FCS.
The defense is intriguing. Statistically, it gave up some points last year, but it was pretty tough on the run (39th in the FCS) in a conference that prides itself on running the ball and playing great defense. That's something to build on, as is having monster defensive end Maurice Jackson back to pulverize the competition after being named the CAA Preseason Defensive Player of the Year this summer. There is a nice group of returnees on the D-line, and the secondary is almost completely intact. If some stud linebackers can be found to step up, this defense may cut its 32.6 points per game pace down considerably, and that makes the Spiders dangerous. In all, six of the top eight tacklers return to this defense. That would take a load of pressure off the offense to have to outscore everybody.
Lastly, recruiting went well for the Spiders this offseason (ranked No. 14 in the HERO Sports FCS Recruiting Rankings for 2019). Four of the best 202 FCS signees are heading to play for the Spiders. All held multiple FBS offers, and the first two held Power Five Conference offers. That's a good sign of things heading in the right direction.
OUR TAKE: The problem for Richmond is it plays in the CAA, the first conference in I-AA/FCS history to have six teams selected to participate in the playoffs (last year). That's half of a 12-team league moving on to the postseason, showing how deep this group is. Well there's no indication that it's any easier this year and therein lies the problem for the Spiders. They must improve on offense, and the passing game that worked rather well last year needs some new names to step up — especially with an early declaration for the pros with leading receiver and Richmond graduate Cortrelle Simpson (1,000-yard receiver in 2017) leaving with a year left of eligibility (he is on the Tampa Bay Bucs' roster heading into fall camp).
A top receiver or two has to step up and the run game must improve. The defense looks primed to have a good year, especially if the offense rebounds and gives it a breather from time to time. Richmond would love to get out of the shadow of having its first losing season since 2011. The six-win mark seems doable, and a couple of the home games look like 50/50 affairs (like Elon and Stony Brook) that might push that win total to seven.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./DL Maurice Jackson (1st Team All CAA in 2018/Preseason CAA Def. POY – 10 sacks, 15 TFLs, 4 FFs, 46 tackles)
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./DB Daniel Jones (Preseason All CAA; 86 tackles led team in 2018, 3 INTs, 5 PBUs); Jr./OT Tim Coleman (HERO Sports Freshman All-American at Furman in 2016 – 22 career starts with two years to go); Sr./LB Billy Caughell (74 tackles was 2nd on team last year); Jr./DT Colby Ritten (49 tackles, 8 TFLs); Jr./DE Darius Reynolds (47 tackles, 11 hurries, 6.5 TFLs); Jr./CB Markus Vinson (11 PBUs led team, 47 tackles); Sr./S Trent Williams (42 tackles, 6 PBUs); Jr./QB Joe Mancuso (1,185 yards passing, 7 TDs; 391 yards gained rushing, 3 TDs); R-Fr./RB-KR Aaron Dykes (injured and played in 4 games, but got a year of eligibility back – 25.3 yards per kickoff return, 163 yards rushing, 2 TDs)
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./WR Ben Castellano (No. 34 rated signee in the FCS in HERO Sports Recruiting Rankings for 2019 – Indiana and Syracuse offers, 10 FBS offers total and 18 overall)
THE QUOTE: "They have done really well. They have jumped in there and are not afraid to get their hands dirty really quick. I really like what they have brought to the program and we have had a lot of great work this week. I have to give Bobby Maffei a lot of credit as he started on the first day of practice. He shows up and is coaching immediately. He hasn't missed a beat in practice and we now have a chance to really sit down this week and work on our special teams play moving forward." — coach Russ Huesman said in the spring when asked about several new coaching staff members
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Richmond Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of CAA
Albany | Delaware | Elon | James Madison
Maine | New Hampshire | Rhode Island | Richmond
Stony Brook | Towson | Villanova | William & Mary
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