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 … Sacramento 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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Sacramento State (2-8 IN 2018)
Big Sky (Sac State finished 13th in 2018)
COACH: Troy Taylor – At School: 1st Year Overall: 1st Year
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: None
2018 OFFENSE: 24.1 ppg (89th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 35.4 ppg (100th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Oct. 5 vs. Eastern Washington: Troy Taylor's first Big Sky Conference matchup comes against the team he was the offensive coordinator for back in 2016. EWU is loaded once again this year coming off a trip to the national title game. Predicting an upset is too bold for even the hottest of takes. And say whatever you want about moral victories. But a game like this shows Sacramento State how close or how far away they are from the top of the Big Sky Conference.
SUM IT UP: A new era is underway for Sacramento State football after going 0-7 in Big Sky play last year. Troy Taylor enters as head coach and he brings with him a new-look coaching staff that has plenty of experience within the Big Sky Conference. Taylor most recently served as the offensive coordinator at Utah, the same position he held at Eastern Washington in 2016.
There won't be a lack of talent for the Sacramento State offense in 2019. Running back Elijah Dotson is HERO Sports Preseason All-American and he'll run behind an experienced offensive line. Guard Wyatt Ming is back after missing the final nine games last season, and so is Nick Bianco, who filled in for Ming. Thomas Parker started 10 games on the line as a redshirt freshman in 2018 and Brandon Boccaleoni and Brysen Klinefelter both have solid experience as well.
Quarterback Kevin Thomson began his college career at UNLV before starting a combined 15 games in 2017 and 2018 for the Hornets. The junior has been extremely efficient, throwing for a combined 3,208 yards, 25 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Thomson has also added 628 yards rushing and nine scores these two seasons. He gets his No. 1 (Pierre Williams) and No. 3 (Johnnie Rucker) wide receivers back from last year.
For this team to compete at a higher level, improvements on defense are a must. Sacramento State ranked 100th in the FCS last year with 35.4 points allowed a game. Getting defensive end George Obinna back is huge. He was a 2017 First Team All-Big Sky performer and a 2018 Preseason All-American before missing all but two games due to injury.
But the Hornets do have to replace four of their top five tacklers from last season. The linebackers will have three new starters, although Marcus Bruce started in 2017 and was a Third Team All-Big Sky outside linebacker. He also missed last season because of an injury. The secondary brings back decent experience with Daron Bland and Caelan Barnes both starting all 10 games in 2018. Barnes is the top returning tackler after ranking second on the team with 71 tackles.
OUR TAKE: The weapons are there offensively for this team and the line has experience. Troy Taylor is a great offensive mind, so we could be looking at a very good unit in 2019. The concerns are on defense. While the Big Sky still has explosive offenses and shootout games, the teams at the top of the standings have put more focus on their defense in recent years. It will be a work in progress in Taylor's first season. And with Sacramento State having the ninth-toughest schedule in the FCS, taking some lumps is expected. But the offense should be good enough to win some games in the conference, which is a step in the right direction.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Jr./RB Elijah Dotson (HERO Sports Preseason All-American, 1,154 yards rushing and 9 TDs)
THE FOUNDATION: Jr./QB Kevin Thomson (1,380 yards passing, 8 TDs, 1 INT in 7 games); So./WR Pierre Williams (Team's top WR, 31 rec. for 553 yards and 5 TDs); Sr./WR Johnnie Rucker (17 rec. for 274 yards and 2 TDs); Sr./DL George Obinna (Hurt most of last year, 2018 Preseason All-American); So./OL Thomas Parker (Started all 10 games last year); Sr./DB Caelan Barnes (Top returning tackler with 71 last year);
TOP NEWCOMER: Jr./LB Marcus Hawkins (2018 Valley League Co-Defensive Player of the Year at Fresno City College, had 88 tackles)
THE QUOTE: "I love our attitude and I love our guys. We have good guys that want to do well and please us. They want to be great and the willingness is there." — head coach Troy Taylor said
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Sac State Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The Big Sky
Cal Poly | EWU | Idaho | Idaho St
Montana | Montana St | NAU | UNC
Portland St | Sac St | SUU | UC Davis | Weber St
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