HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days" where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs and all 13 conferences. Today, we present … the Southland Conference.
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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(NOTE: Team-by-team previews in this conference are below)
NAMES TO KNOW
THE NFL PROSPECT: Alize Ward, FS, Stephen F. Austin
Ward is projected already as a high-end priority free agent, if not a day three draft pick. A three-year contributor for the Lumberjacks who will be a cornerstone in 2019 with a new coaching regime on board.
TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER: Chase Fourcade, QB, Nicholls
Fourcade, the 2018 Southland Conference Player of the Year, enters his final season with the 10th-most career total offensive yards in league history (8,990).
TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Sully Laiche, DL, Nicholls
Laiche begins his senior campaign as the active FCS leader in career sacks (25.5).
SUM IT UP: A couple of years ago, it seemed like the Southland would be all sewn up by the end of September. Whether it was Sam Houston State or another program, it was rather predictable who would run away with the league and get an automatic playoff berth … and then 2018 happened. The league was topsy-turvy and programs like Sam Houston State and Central Arkansas were left out of the postseason while newbies like Incarnate Word and Lamar got in. We think that's the tone of 2019, too. The league seems to have more parity than it did just a few years ago.
THE FAVORITE: Nicholls — The Colonels play the best defense in the Southland Conference, they have a stellar four-year starter back at quarterback in Chase Fourcade, they do all the little things right (run defense, time of possession, red zone offense and defense, etc etc). And they have a senior core of players who have gotten a lot done in their careers. We think Nicholls may go from being a strong team coming out of the Southland to ansam FCS quarterfinalist or better in 2019. This is a good program that has been built from the ground up with a great recruiting philosophy. We think this year, this team becomes a national name in the FCS, potentially starting with its two FBS matchups (Kansas State and Texas State).
THE THREATS: Oh, there are a lot of them. You can't discount Incarnate Word and Lamar since they made the playoffs last year, but Sam Houston State and Central Arkansas seem primed for a bounceback after a one-year hiatus of being at the Southland pinnacle. Keep an eye on the Bearkats, who doubled down in the strength and conditioning program this year. They've always been explosive offensively, now they're aiming to get tougher in all aspects of the game.
THE DARK HORSES: Let's go with two programs that hired new coaches in 2019 — Stephen F. Austin (coach Colby Carthel) and McNeese (coach Sterlin Gilbert). We're really curious to see what these two teams do, because they made fantastic hires, and they may be early factors.
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