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 … Stephen F. Austin.
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.
[divider]MORE FCS FOOTBALL:
- FCS Home
- FCS Preview Schedule – Team Links
- The HERO Sports Preseason Top 25 Poll
- Preseason All-American Teams
STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (2-8 IN 2018)
Southland Conference (SFA was T-10th in 2018)
COACH: Colby Carthel – At School: 1st yr (0-0 record) Overall: 7th yr (59-18)
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2014 (First-round loss to Northern Iowa)
2018 OFFENSE: 18.1 ppg. (110th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 33.3 ppg. (89th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Nov. 21 @ Northwestern State: The 54th Battle for Chief Caddo will be critical from the standpoint of giving an exclamation point for 2019's improvement and to set the tone for 2020. This is a big rivalry game for these two schools and could be a signature game for SFA.
SUM IT UP: Something special seems to be brewing at Stephen F. Austin, and it started with the hiring of highly successful Division II coach Colby Carthel from Texas A&M-Commerce. Carthel led the Lions to the 2017 national title and 59 wins in six seasons. After he was hired by SFA in December, he and his staff got cracking on recruiting and finished with a headline-making class that ranked No. 3 in the FCS. How'd they do it? They gambled, waited until the 11th hour to see which recruits had "waited too long" on FBS offers, and snatched up all kinds of Texas talent. In all, nine of the national Top 300 chose SFA, and 12 of the Lumberjacks' recruits held FBS options.
That's a coveted class and shows this program is going to rebuild from the ground up. Now, when you rebuild from the ground up, it rarely succeeds overnight, but it usually ends up succeeding down the road. That's something you can bank on here.
On offense, let's cut to the chase — last year was a struggle for the 'Jacks. While they beat 6-5 Abilene Christian and played Lamar and McNeese tough before falling, there weren't too many bright spots. But this year, eight players return to the offense with starting experience. Seasoned QB and leader Jake Blumrick isn't a guarantee this fall after dealing with back surgery, so that's one key question mark, but redshirt freshman Cam Arnold looked good in the spring game and several newcomers could also play a factor at the position. Whoever emerges has a super talented receiver to throw to in Tamrick Pace, a senior who has been a factor since he arrived in 2016. The O-line also has some familiar names back.
The defense just feels like it is going to be the unit to flourish quickly. Remember that recruiting talent we talked about above? Most of the elite talent being brought in is on the defensive side of the ball, and nine players with starting experience return to the defense. This is where an immediate turnaround may just take place, as statistically, this was a stronger area for the Lumberjacks last year. Look for major strides on this side of the ball and the 33.3 points per game clip to dip into the mid-20s or better this year. That will allow the offense time to gel some and SFA to begin becoming competitive and set up things for the future.
OUR TAKE: We're not projecting a Southland Conference title here, but we're not afraid to say we think this program will be competing for one within the next couple of years. The positive vibe begins now in Nacogdoches. You'll begin seeing improvements immediately and the two-win mark of last year should at least double this year as this program begins its rebuilding process with this stellar freshman class. Look for a youth movement at SFA.
[divider]SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast
COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./FS Alize Ward (2nd Team 2018 All-Southland – 58 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FF)
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./WR Tamrick Pace (42 catches, 623 yards, 7 TDs); Sr./DB Aretavious Hendrix (26 tackles, 7 PDs); Jr./DB Trenton Gordon (47 tackles, 4 PDs); Sr./QB Jake Blumrick (1,597 yards passing, 9 TDs); Sr./PK Storm Ruiz (9 of 12 FGs); Sr./LB Quin Jones (48 tackles, 5 TFL); Jr./WR Remi Simmons (58 catches, 559 yards, 1 TDs); Sr./OL A.J. Brown (3-year starter on the line).
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./DL Carl Williams (The No. 1 FCS signee ranked in HERO Sports 2019 Recruiting rankings – Arkansas decommitment)
COACH SAYS: "This league is crazy, it's basically who wants to play more on a Saturday. Anybody can win on a Saturday … See I'm from California, and I can actually say Texas talent is better than Cali's, and I wouldn't say by a whole lot. Texas ball is it. That's where it's at, where the competition is. The community has a huge part to do with it." — SFA star Alize Ward told HERO Sports' Brian McLaughlin on July 18 at Southland Media Days
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Stephen F. Austin Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The Southland
Incarnate Word | Lamar | McNeese | Nicholls
SUBSCRIBE: HERO Sports FCS Podcast