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 … Western Carolina.
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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WESTERN CAROLINA (3-8 IN 2018)
The SoCon (WCU was 8th in 2018)
COACH: Mark Speir – At School: 8th year (29-51 record) Overall: Same
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 1983
2018 OFFENSE: 31.5 ppg. (31st in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 41.0 ppg. (116th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Aug 31 vs. Mercer: Last year's WCU-Mercer game saw 105 points scored combined and WCU sent home with a tough-to-swallow loss. This year, the game is in Cullowhee and the Catamounts want to end the eight-game losing streak in week one. This game is as 50/50 as it gets, two hungry SoCon programs that want to get off on the right foot in 2019.
SUM IT UP: Western Carolina comes into 2019 on an eight-game losing streak and you know that doesn't sit well with Coach Mark Speir, his staff and his team. Look for that streak to end quickly. The Catamounts have three seven-win seasons in their past five years. This is a program that knows how to win games, and it knows how to score points.
WCU quarterback Tyrie Adams is one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the FCS, and he has been since being named the starter as a freshman in 2016. In five career games against FBS opponents (North Carolina twice, South Carolina, Hawaii and East Carolina once apiece) Adams has been good for nearly 1,400 yards of total offense and five touchdowns. This year he'll get his shot at N.C. State and … drum roll please … Alabama. But those two FBS games aren't as important as the SoCon games WCU will face head-on. The league will be nuts again this year, and the Adams factor makes WCU a factor in every single game. Adams has the skill-player weapons he needs, but one thing he definitely needs is for some solid line play out of the new guys who are stepping into the lineup.
The defense has seven starters back and definitely wants to improve on last year's numbers. There is a good core of young but experienced players coming back, and a good chunk will be back on this defense next year, too. What the Catamounts want is to be able to take that defensive scoring average (41.0 points per game, one of the worst marks in the FCS) down a solid chunk. If this offense is rolling like it usually does, the 28 to 30 points-per-game given up range may be enough to get to a winning record. That should be the goal here.
OUR TAKE: WCU is going to be one of the big question marks in the SoCon ranks this year. Nobody questions that Adams can change a ballgame. But will four new starting offensive linemen develop quickly enough? Can the defense drop its points against average at least 10 points per game, if not more? The answer is, yes, those two things can happen, but nobody can guarantee they will. That leaves the Catamounts as one of the most perplexing teams. They do get three tough SoCon road games in Chattanooga, The Citadel and Wofford — all teams that look mighty stocked and ready for big years. WCU's fate will hinge on games like those. Can it throw a wrench into that machinery?
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./QB Tyrie Adams (7,279 yards passing, 53 TDS; 2,110 yards rushing, 13 TDs — Career Numbers at WCU in 3 seasons)
THE FOUNDATION: Jr./TE Owen Cosenke (1st Team 2018 All SoCon; 23.7 yards per catch, 8 TDs); Soph./DB Ronald Kent Jr. (45 tackles, 5 TFLs, 12 PBUs); Jr./LB Michael Murphy (114 career tackles, 3 INTs last year); Jr./LB Ty Harris (105 career tackles, 2 INTs last year); Sr./WR Nate Mullen (55 receptions, 600 yards, 2 TDs); Sr./WR Daquan Patten (567 yards receiving); Jr./OL Grady Thomas (lone returning starter); Sr./RB Connell Young (1,462 career all-purpose yards); Jr./PK Will Horton (17 of 22 field goals last year); Sr./DB Jermichael White (104 career tackles, injured in 2018); Jr./DB Reggie Jones (32 tackles, 3 PBUs).
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./DE Christian Harris (Ranked as No. 25 FCS Signee in the HERO Sports Recruiting ratings — 8 FBS offers and 31 total)
THE QUOTE: "The Catamount Nation has created a game day atmosphere second to none here in Catamount Country – you have helped us lay the foundation for Western Carolina football. We can’t wait to see the Catamount Nation back out in full force again this fall. We have a great home slate of games that starts out Labor Day weekend with a Southern Conference opponent, the Mercer Bears. We continually talk to our team about ‘starting fast’ – and we need your help to pack Whitmire Stadium for that home opener on Aug. 31 to do just that – and then, hit repeat for each of the five home dates." — coach Mark Speir said after the schedule was released
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's Western Carolina Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The SoCon
Chattanooga | ETSU | Furman
Mercer | Samford | The Citadel
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