Q: Does Southeastern have what it takes?
Southeastern Louisiana’s first trip to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs took the Lions to the quarterfinals, where they fell 20-17 to visiting New Hampshire. That was quite a start to QB Bryan Bennett’s career at SLU, and he’ll enter 2014 with a plethora of experience.
With a veteran receiving corps, a seasoned QB and a potent rushing attack, this might be SLU’s best chance to take home a national championship. Lions coach Ron Roberts said it’s not title-or-bust for his squad, but expectations are still high.
Q: Can McNeese State overcome?
It’s safe to say McNeese State will miss its offensive catalysts from 2013. Former quarterback Cody Stroud threw for 2,935 yards and 28 touchdowns, and ex-running back Marcus Wiltz ran for 1,287 yards and 11 touchdowns.
One name to know is junior running back Kelvin Bennett, who ran for 774 yards and four touchdowns in 2013. At QB, junior Tyler Bolfing may be the early front-runner for the starting job because of his experience, but the position is very much up for grabs as August nears.
Q: What impact will UCA’s new boss have?
Steve Campbell has quite the track record: He’s 126-38 in his career; he was 87-22 in a 10-year span at his last job as coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College; he has won an NJCAA national championship; and he has been an assistant at Mississippi State, Auburn, Middle Tennessee and Nicholls State.
Now as head coach at Central Arkansas, Campbell is looking to keep the Bears moving in the right direction after a 7-5 season in 2013. Campbell has never had a losing season, and he surely doesn’t want to break that streak during his first year in Conway.
Q: Which losing squad will turn it around?
A 4-8 record may not look too appealing, but for Nicholls State fans, it’s a positive. In 2011 and 2012, the Colonels were a combined 2-20, including 10- and eight-game losing streaks.
There may be light at the end of the tunnel in Thibodaux, though, and his name is Tuskani Figaro. Last season as a sophomore, he threw for 1,135 yards and eight touchdowns while rushing for 1,103 yards and seven scores.
Heading into his junior season, he’ll try to keep the Colonels on the upswing.
Q: Which QB is the next Southland stud?
The obvious name would be Southeastern’s Bryan Bennett, but Abilene Christian has a weapon who will give opposing defenses headaches: Senior John David Baker returns to the field after an electrifying junior campaign.
Last season, he completed 247 of 369 attempts for 3,376 yards and 35 touchdowns while also rushing for five scores. Add in the fact that his No. 1 target, wideout Taylor Gabriel, will be returning for his senior season, and Baker has the tools he needs to carry the offense. Last season, Baker connected with Gabriel 73 times for 1,060 yards and 10 touchdowns.