Five FCS storylines: Worried or not?
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - FCS football in the spring is about optimism - records are spotless - but there is a lot of time for worrying as well.
Fans tend to pick apart anything and everything.
With the 2019 FCS season drawing nearer, here are five big storylines. The question is, what is the truth to these concerns?
Concern: CAA's postseason was more telling than the regular season
Last season, CAA Football set a single-season record with six playoff qualifiers, but it went downhill from there, with four teams ousted in the first round, 2016 FCS champ/2017 national runner-up James Madison out after the second round and only conference champ Maine having a strong showing with a semifinal-round finish.The conference that embraces its "SEC of the FCS" accolades can be given a pass for one subpar postseason. Ten of the CAA's 12 teams have participated in the playoffs since 2015 and the conference has had a national semifinalist in six straight years. There is some uncertainty, though, with three of the playoff teams - Maine, James Madison and Elon - plus William & Mary under new coaches this season.
Concern: Sam Houston State's dominance is over
The Bearkats have the second-most wins in the FCS in the 2010s and reached the national semifinals in five of the previous seven years entering last season, but they trudged through mediocrity with injuries to key players, a lack of team cohesion and an offense that wasn't as explosive as in previous seasons. This year, the potential is there for the Bearkats to have their best defense in coach K.C. Keeler's sixth season. Plus, a healthier offensive line will aid in sophomore quarterback Ty Brock's development. The 'Kats may not be a national semifinalist, but a return to the playoffs appears possible.
Concern: Idaho will remain as drab as a potato
In dropping from the FBS level after 22 seasons, the Vandals were a big disappointment in going 4-7 overall and 3-5 in the Big Sky. Coach Paul Petrino's team too often tried to win with a Sun Belt style, and in the Big Sky they were not explosive enough offensively nor able to stop pass-happy opponents. Their minus-13 turnover margin tied for 120th in the FCS. Few are putting Idaho in the Big Sky title mix, like this time a year ago, but with a better sense of the conference, the Vandals figure to be improved. They still have former FBS players on their roster.
Concern: Lost quarterback a prelude to a lost chance
Nine teams in the final STATS FCS Top 25, including Top 5 North Dakota State, South Dakota State and Kennesaw State, as well as Samford with Walter Payton Award-winning Devlin Hodges, are replacing starting quarterbacks. Eight of the 10 were at least three-year starters. For every team that thrives with a QB successor, there's one that struggles to fill football's most important position. It may take baby steps early in the season, but national powers tend to have offensive players who can take pressure off the new signal caller.
Concern: North Dakota State has lost too much talent
With coach Chris Klieman off to Kansas State, the departure of the largest senior class in school history and a tougher schedule, the FCS dynasty may be hard-pressed to win a third straight national title (and an eighth in nine years). While they return only seven starters, the Bison are plugging in talented players who were part of touted recruiting classes. They may have one of the more NFL-ready FCS players in junior linebacker Jabril Cox and still have a winning blueprint under first-year coach Matt Entz, their former defensive coordinator.
Updated May 29, 2019