Friday, August 18, 2017

Midwestern State 2017 Outlook

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Previous 2017 Previews

2016 Recap
The Mustangs went 8-2 through the regular season making the playoffs for the 7th time since 2004.  It took some good a lot of great fortune to get there.  In week 2, a 74 yard drive leading to a game winning FG with 12 seconds to play at TAMK, two 75 yard drives in the last 5:22 at TAMC, culminating with a game winning TD with 28 seconds in the game, a 77 yard drive leading to the game winning TD with 16 seconds to play against Angelo State, and 74 yard drive leading to the game winning TD with 52 seconds left at Tarleton.  On the four game winning drives, Quade Coward was 16-18 for 253 yards and 2 TDs, and an amazing 243.6 QB rating (the rest of the season he threw for 2,128 yds with a 16-9 TD-Int ratio and a 130.9 QB rating).  Week 10 looked like another miracle finish as MSU scored TDs with 1:12 and 0:52 to play against ENMU, but the Greyhounds turned the tables, going 70 yards with 49 seconds to play scoring a TD as time expired, upsetting MSU 30-28.

The Mustangs traveled to Ferris State in the first round of the playoffs and got off to a good start, taking a 20-10 lead early in the second quarter, putting together TD drives of 65, 59 and 64 yards.  The offense sputtered over the next six possessions (77 total yards) and was all FSU from that point, with the Bulldogs blasting MSU 55-14 the rest of the way.  The playoff loss continues a pattern that has seen the Mustangs excel in the regular season and quickly exit the playoffs - their lone playoff win came in 2006 against Missouri Western.

Statistically, MSU held a 35.3-28.0 scoring edge, while outgaining opponents 426-405.  The run game averaged 189 yards per game and 4.8 per carry, while they picked up 237 through the air (135.2 QB rating).  The defense gave up an LSC worst 215 yards per game, and an LSC second best 190 yards passing (QB rating 120.9).  Individually, Vincent Johnson was the leading rusher, with 745 yards and an impressive 19 TDs.  Adrian Seales, Dante Taylor and Nicholas Gabriel added another 797 yards and 5 TDs.  Coward had 2,381 yards and 18 TDs passing and the late game magic intangible that cannot be quantified.  Breion Evans led an octet of players with double digit receptions.  He and Jerryl Yarbrough were the players most often on the recieving end of the late game Coward passes.  Defensively, Sir'Vell Ford led the team with 80 tackles and 2 interceptions, while Darian Childers-Brown had a team high 14 TFL and 7.5 sacks.

Named to the All-LSC first team were OL Joel Onyia and Akoakoa Paleka-Kennedy, DT Childers-Brown and DB Ford, with Paleka-Kennedy named OL of the year.  Second team choices went to RB Johnson, return specialist DeAndre Black, and DE Harold Wills.  Honorable mention honorees were OL Islam Sbeih, OL Denzell Dotson, OL Kevin Fisher, QB Coward, RB Seales, TE Dorian Johnson, WR Evans, WR Statron Jones, DL Edgar Luna, LB Jordan Meyers, DB Jaydon Cunigan, CB Cullen Craft, CB DaMarcus Wilson, P Mitchell Henton and LS Bobby Joe Nielsen.

2017 Outlook - Offense
Another contender needing a new starting QB, but at least there is some experience in this case.  Coming out of spring practice, Javin Kilgo and Layton Rabb led the group of contenders.  Both received limited playing time in 2016, with Rabb garnering a QB rating of 155.5 and Kilgo a rate of 29.4.  Hagen Hutchinson is also returning after a year off due to injury.  He was an honorable mention pick at QB in 2015, throwing for almost 1,400 yards and 10 TDs and rushing for 358 yards and 5 TDs, while splitting time with Quade Coward.

Johnson, Seales and Gabriel return and will have UNT transfer Chris Smith bolstering a group that is always among the LSC's best.  Deandre Black, Jerryl Yarbrough, Dorian Johnson and Brandon Sampson all had double digit receptions in 2017.  Another one to watch for is Xavier Land - he had 4 catches for 121 yards against TAMK last year, including a 49 yard reception on the game winning drive.  Fisher and Sbeih return up front, but the other three LSC honorees will have to be replaced.  D'Andre Despanie (Iowa Central CC) and Austin Ross (Scottsdale CC "Fighting Artichokes") should make contributions.

2017 Outlook - Defense
MSU lost a lot up front with the departures of Childers-Brown, Wills and Luna, but Alec DiValerio (10 TFL), Zach Edwards and Travon Ransom return. The Mustangs play a lot of guys, so look for transfers Christian Figueredo, Nathaniel Nicolas, Giacomo Gonzalez, Brian Guendling,  and Wesley Jacinthe (who redshirted after transferring in last year) to see plenty of action.

Returninh depth is solid at linebacker.  Drew Bolin, Tristan Shearman, Zach McMahen and J. P. Cognasi  are back after combining for 157 tackles last year.

The secondary has even more experience.  Sir'Vell Ford (1st LSC), Cullen Craft (HM), Jaydon Cunigan (HM), DaMarcus Wilson (HM), Jordan Meyers (HM), Marcus Wilkerson (spring game hero with 2 picks), Josh Wydermyer, Robert Grays and Steven Rogers bring back quality and quantity (combined 315 tackles, 6 Ints, 26 passes broken up).  Kevin Hayes, Elijah Kirkland, Jovanne Parkinson, Paul Manus and Will Weaver bring even more depth in as transfers.

2017 Outlook - Special Teams
Mitchell Henton returns at punter after averaging 36.5 yards as a junior.  Jaron Imbriani had 66 kickoffs for a 51.5 average and 12 touchbacks.  A new placekicker will need to replaceTanner Graeber (6-13 on FGs with a long of just 35 yards).  The return positions look to be filled with Deandre Black and Robert Grays handling the majority of returns in 2016.  Black averaged 22.5 on KR and 18.6 on PR with a TD.  Grays had 22.7 on KR and 8.6 on PR.  Long snapper Bobby Joe Nielsen is also back.

2017 Outlook - Non-Conference Schedule
Quincy - See UTPB Preview

West Florida will have the most interesting road venue for MSU this year - Blue Wahoos Stadium, a AA-affiliated baseball stadium.  The Argonauts were a first year program and had a very respectable 5-6 record (4-6 if you take out former ACU opponent Ava Maria).  They play in the Gulf South Conference, one of the tougher D2 conferences.  In GSC play, they went 3-5, including a win over another recent Florida addition to the GSC, Florida Tech.  The Panthers made the NCAA playoffs and defeated Valdosta State, making UWF's win even more impressive.  UWF scored 31 points per game, throwing for 309 ypg and 32 TDs, but only rushing for 99 ypg and 3.2 per carry.  The QB looks to be Grey Jackson, who had 319 yards and 4 TDs as the second string QB.  Ishmael Morrow had over 1,000 yards receiving, while Antoine Griffin added 560.  The top 3 running backs return as well.  The defense gave up 35.5 points, 270.6 yards passing and 130.5 rushing.  Ishmel Morrow was a first team all-GSC selection as well as GSC freshman of the year.  In total, 19 of the top 22 in tackles returns.

Head coach Pete Shinnick also was the HC at Azusa Pacific and had a 53-22 record (and 5 playoff appearances) from 1999-2005 as an NAIA school and another new program at UNC Pembroke where he was 50-24 from 2007-2013.  He led the Braves to the NCAA playoffs in just their third season, fastest in D2 history and again in 2013.

Best Case Scenario
10-0, The Mustangs are constantly good, sometimes really good and occasionally really, really good.  They return a lot and where  they don't they consistently reload with much disruption.  They showed a knack for pulling out dramatic wins and have the attitude that they will find a way.

Worst Case Scenario
5-5.  If Lady Luck doesn't smile on the Mustangs like she consistently did last year.  As we discussed above, last year's 8-2 regular season, required several last minute improbable scoring drives.  They could have just as easily been 4-6.

8-2, NCAA Playoffs/Bowl Game

It's true that the Mustangs were fortunate (lucky even) in winning 4 of their 5 games decided in the final minute, but good teams find a way to win.  They could be even better than last year, but not have a better record

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