Friday, August 11, 2017

Angelo State 2017 Preview

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2016 Recap
The Rams won their last two games to finish the season 5-6.  The best win of the season was a 22-21 win at Texas A&M-Kingsville, while the worst loss would be either the 62-14 setback to Texas A&M-Commerce or the 14-20 loss to WNMU the following week.

The defense played well, giving up 27.4 points per game and 341.5 yards.  The numbers were a little better in the LSC games, 25.2 points and 330.9 yards.  Teams rushed for just 120.5 yards per game and 220.9 passing, with an LSC best 117.2 pass efficiency.  Individually, Markus Jones and Justin Jackson were named first team All-LSC, Bright Ihegworo, Willie Brown, Fred Lawrence and Richard Franklin were second team.  Only Brown and Franklin were seniors.

The offense did not play well, averaging 25.9 points and an LSC worst 340.6 yards per game.  That represents a drop-off of 16.7 points and 219.7 yards weekly.  QB was the primary culprit, with Jake Faber and Carsen Cook splitting the majority of snaps and neither proving to be very productive.  Combined the Rams completed 49% of the passes with a 14-19 TD to INT ratio and an LSC worst 98.8 QB rating.  The run game was better, averaging 180.3 yards per game, but just 3.8 per carry.  Josh Stevens was a second team All-LSC pick with 1,030 yards and 6 TDs.  Donovan Thompson led the receivers with 50 receptions, but for just 8.9 yards per catch and 1 TD.  Mark Munson and Lawson Ayo combined for another 48 catches for 733 yards and 9 TDs.  Up front Tyler Hamilton, Rance Layton and Reggie Harris were honorable mention All-LSC.

2017 Outlook - Offense
You should expect improvement when your top two QBs, top RB and two of your top three receivers return.  However, Hamilton, Layton and Harris were senior last year, leaving Andre Gillette and Blake Harrison as the lone returning starters on the line.  Look for Emmanuel Henry, a first NJCAA team All-American to see plenty of playing time.  The Rams also added a couple of transfers at  wide receiver - Davin Reynolds from Southwestern College and Ben Thiel (a track star at Oregon).  But the key will be the quarterback.  Will it be one of the returning starters - Jake Faber or Carsen Cook?  Will Northern Illinois transfer Charlie Rotherham get a shot?  Or could one of the three freshmen signees figure in the equation? 

***Record Watch ***With 48 receptions and 1,041 receiving yards, Donovan Thompson would become ASU's all-time leader in both categories, but the QB play will have to improve for that to happen.

2017 Outlook - Defense
The strength of the Rams defense should up front.  Markus Jones was one of our 5 players to watch this fall.  The junior had 54 tackles, with 16 for losses and 7.5 sacks.  Joining him, Bright Ihegworo, Grant Coonce, Michael Walling and Matthew Andre combine for 115 tackles, 14 for loss and 6 sacks.  At linebacker, Justin Jackson (98 tackles, 12.5 TFL) and Grant Aschenbeck (64 tackles, 6.5 for loss) should have big years.  Fred Lawrence headlines the secondary.  He had an LSC leading 13 passes broken up last year.  Myron Turner, Gilbert Gildersleeve and Josh Lewis will have expanded roles as well.

2017 Outlook - Special Teams
Casey Eyman handled both punting (40.0 avg) and kicking duties (6-9  FG), while Connor Flanigan was the kickoff man (59 yd avg, 8 touchbacks).  Donovan Thompson had 11 punt returns averaging a paltry 2.5 yds per return.  Fred Lawrence is the leading kick returner - he averaged 18.6 yards on 8 returns.

2017 Outlook - Non-Conference Schedule
The season opener is a rematch with McKendree.  The Bearcats won their final games last year to finish 8-3, their second straight 8 win season.  The offense was not explosive, averaging just 28.6 yards and 357 yards per game.  Reece Metcalf is the most experienced QB returning.  He saw action in 4 games, throwing for 630 yards and 4 TDs.  The top two running backs are back - Shayeen Edwards and Preston Thompson combined for 1,168 yards and 9 TDs.  The defense was good, only giving up 18.4 points and 315.7 yards per game.  Darrion Simmons and Tobias Cook are back up front.  The duo combined for 19.5 sacks and 29 TFL.  Linebackers Kyle Kirkpatrick and Austin Weltha had 125 tackles together.

Northern Michigan had very much the opposite season, going 3-8 and losing their final six games.  The Rams squeaked by last year, 47-41 in triple overtime.  There is no returnee at QB, but thousand yard rusher Jake Mayon and Aaron Harris are back at running back as is almost all of the receiving corps.  The defense was porous, allowing more than 40 points and 500 yards per game.

Best Case Scenario
7-3 could be within reach if the QB situation improves a great deal, and the Rams win the close games.   The defense will need to continue to be in the upper echelon of the LSC.

Worst Case Scenario
2-8 is also a possibility if the defense slips a bit and the offense does not get more productive.  The Rams should beat Northern Michgan and UTPB, but could conceivably lose the remainder of their games.

4-6, the Rams should be about the same team as last year.  With the uncertainty at quarterback, we just can't envision the Rams competing for the top of the LSC.  If they surprise there, they could be a dangerous team.

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