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 … Stetson.
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Stetson (8-2 IN 2018)
Pioneer Football League (Stetson finished T2nd in 2018)
COACH: Roger Hughes – At School: 7th Year (24-42) Overall: 17th Year (71-94)
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: None
2018 OFFENSE: 37.3 ppg (11th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 29.6 ppg (T73rd in FCS)
KEY GAME: Nov. 9 vs. San Diego: What a game this could be for Stetson's Homecoming. The Hatters eye a conference title, but USD looks to remain the gold standard in the PFL and keep its winning streak going that started in 2015.
SUM IT UP: "Look for 2018 to be that big jump this team is looking for."
That was in last year's Stetson preview when talking about how it's been a challenging process to build this football program back up after a 57-year hiatus. Roger Hughes was named the new head coach in 2011, and the Hatters kicked off their first season in 2013. Last year was that breakthrough season with an 8-2 record and a 6-2 finish in the PFL League. It was the best season in more than 65 years, and Hughes earned the conference's Coach of the Year honor.
With 19 starters coming back (seven on offense, nine on defense and three specialists), 2019 could be a special season for Stetson.
Offensively, the Hatters have to find a new starting quarterback. Gaven DeFilippo served as a team captain and was the backup last season. He sat out 2017 due to injury after starting as a redshirt sophomore in 2016. DeFilippo was named a captain again this year and looks to be the favorite to win the starting job. He should have a strong running game with three starters returning on the offensive line and running back Jareem Westcott coming off a season where he was a semifinalist for the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman in FCS.
Stetson's big tight end target Donald Parham is getting a shot in the NFL. Watch for Steven Burdette to step up to become the go-to guy and complement the rushing attack.
The defense is loaded with experience and returning productions. The top nine tacklers are all back, led by Colby Duncan's 88 total tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss. The secondary looks especially good with JJ Henderson, Reggie Gantt and Jalon Scott coming off All-Conference seasons.
OUR TAKE: The Stetson offense was one of the top units in the PFL last year with 37.3 points per game. There are some key pieces gone, but strong weapons remain to put up big points still. Even if the offense takes a small step back, the defense should make huge strides, and it was already a decent unit last year, giving up 29.6 points per game. One of Stetson's PFL losses in 2018 was a close one, 28-23 at Butler. The other loss was a 49-10 result at San Diego, who hasn't lost a conference game since 2015. USD is the benchmark in the PFL, but the standings look to be as competitive as ever this season. Several teams believe they have what it takes to capture the conference title. And Stetson is absolutely one of them.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./LB Colby Duncan (1st Team All-PFL, 88 tackles and 9.5 TFLs)
THE FOUNDATION: Sr./WR Steven Burdette (2nd Team All-PFL, 52 rec. for 769 yards and 10 TDs); So./RB Jareem Westcott (2nd Team All-PFL, 774 yards rushing and 13 TDs); Jr./DB JJ Henderson (2nd Team All-PFL, 2 INT and 10 PD); Jr./OL Bradley Alexander (All-PFL HM); Jr./OL Alex Brown (All-PFL HM); Sr./DB Reggie Gantt (All-PFL HM, 58 tackles and 2 INT); Jr./FB Grant Hodges (All-PFL HM); Jr./WR Justin Jordan (All-PFL HM, 22 rec. for 377 yards and 1 TD); Jr./K Jonny Messina (All-PFL HM, 40-42 PATs and 10-11 FGs); So./DL Fermon Reid (All-PFL HM, 8.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks); Sr./DB Jalon Scott (All-PFL HM, 35 tackles and 13 PD)
THE QUOTE: "I am very thankful that Stetson, Dr. Wendy Libby and Jeff Altier have renewed their confidence in my leadership for our football program," Hughes said. "I am very excited to be at Stetson and look forward to continuing the work we are doing with our players, coaches, faculty and administration to continue improving our traditions, our competitiveness and the student-athlete experience." — head coach Roger Hughes said about his contract extension through 2021
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Stetson Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The PFL
Butler | Davidson | Dayton | Drake
Jacksonville | Marist | Morehead State
San Diego | Stetson | Valparaiso
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