The Presbyterian Blue Hose (FCS), enter the 2013-2014 football campaign coming off of a 2-9 record last year overall, including an 0-6 record in the Big South. Its head coach is Harold Nichols, a 1990 graduate of Presbyterian, who holds a record of 8-25 in three years. The Blue Hose lost its last six games of the year by a combined score of 266-74 (an average of 44-12).
Although last year was not a good year at all, there are a few reasons for Blue Hose fan to feel a little better about the upcoming season. The primary reason is they the coaching staff added former PC head coach Tommy Spangler as its new defensive coordinator. Spangler spent the past six years as the defensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech, where he turned around a woeful LT defense into one of the best in the WAC. He formerly served as the HC of Presbyterian from 2001-2006, where he led the Blue Hose to 42-24 (57% the best in school history).
That is a fantastic hire by PC, as Spangler was a nominee for the 2011 Broyles Award (given annually to the best coordinator in the FBS). He should get the Blue Hose defense playing much better as the year goes on and will likely bolster the entire play of the team.
Presbyterian also returns a lot of starters from last year's squad who have been around the block a couple of times. Although one might question whether a lot of returners from a 2-9 team is a good thing, I believe that it is in this case, especially in the areas that PC returns them.
Offensively, the Blue Hose were pretty horrid last year, averaging a very pedestrian 15.5 PPG. The staff relied on a balanced attack between rushing and passing, but neither side could really get the offense going very well throughout the course of the year.
The biggest question right now is at QB, one that probably should have been answered last year but is still up for grabs. R-Sophomores Tamyn Garrick and Kaleb Griffin each started five games last year, but neither one of them stood out at all. Griffin threw for 1,074 yards at a 59% completion rate with 6 TDs/5 INTS. Garrick threw for 778 yards (51%) and 2 TD's/6 INTS.
Based on the numbers it looks like Griffin should be the guy that Coach Nichols goes with, however, a starter has not been named yet. It is unclear as to whether or not a guy will show that he is better before our game, so the Wake Forest D may face two different QB's. If the game gets out of hand early, I expect both guys to get some PT anyway.
The QB position is a pretty big question mark, but it is surrounded by a lot of returning talent at the other positions on the field.
The offensive line returns all five starters from last year, plus a handful of other guys that saw some action too. These big guys up front should provide a lot of time for the QB, as well as big holes for the running backs to hit.
While PC loses its leading rusher from last year in Lance Byrd, it returns Demarcus Rouse, a a 6-foot-1, 225-pound bruiser of a back. Rouse will likely assume the starting role, and look to build on his 67 carry, 430 yard year from last year (9 TDs and a 6.4 YPC average).
The backup role at RB is a little unclear, but the Blue Hose added a Junior College transfer in LaQua Mayes, who will likely be the speed back to supplement the power of Rouse. Senior Seth Moreland will be the main competition for Mayes, but all three provide a different look to defenses. I would expect each of them to get their fair share of carries this year.
At wide receiver, there is also a plethora of experience and talent returning to the field this year. Although leading WR from last year Anderico Bailey graduated, Arthur Williams and Jeremiah McKie will look to generate similar numbers moving forward. There is also a 6-foot-6 WR in Jordan Bianchi that will prove to be a height mismatch for several cornerbacks throughout the year.
The offense will probably surprise some people this year with all the returning experience. The QB spot is really the only big question at this juncture and if Griffin or Garrick can grab the job by the horns, it will be a much improved offense that will help the Blue Hose compete in the Big South.
On the other side of the ball PC was not much better, allowing 37.9 PPG and over 500 YPG (including 293 YPG on the ground). If the Blue Hose want to have any chance at a winning season this year, the defense will have to improve by leaps and bounds. Bringing back Coach Spangler will be the kick in the shorts that this D needs to get back on the right track for the year.
The bad news is that there are not a lot of returning players defensively, and even less depth than last year. The defensive line is undersized and also extremely thin with backups. This problem is compounded by the fact that there are several teams in the Big South that run the ball up the middle at a high rate.
The defensive tackle is especially problematic at this point. Two of the three guys with game experience (Tyler Scott and Trey Still) have battled injuries over the past two years. The third option is senior Bryan Shepherd, who is a good player, but undersized at 6-foot-0, 275 pounds. It will be interesting to see who gets the go there to start the year. I'm guessing that it will be Scott unless if a freshman proves his worth over the next few weeks.
On the defensive end, the starters are locked down in Joshua Polk and Keyadd Miller. They combined for 46 tackles and 5 TFL last year.
At the linebacker position there is more of the depth and size problems. Second leading tackler L.J. Perry will redshirt this year and with it PC loses his 64 tackles and 5.5 TFL on the year. The good news is that Donnelle Williams, who lead the Blue Hose with 103 tackles last year, will be playing. The other returner (and only other upperclassman at the LB position) is Isaiah Lynn, who 5th on the team with 52 tackles and tied for the team lead with 5.5 TFL.
Other than that, there are a lot of young unproven guys who will fill in the other two linebacker spots and backup Williams and Lynn. The front seven overall will be a liability unless if Coach Spangler can employ schemes to take the pressure off of it. Either way, I could see a lot of teams having a field day taking it right at them if something isn't done quickly.
The defensive backs have a LONG way to go to get back to respectability from last year. The entire secondary got burned repeatedly throughout the year, leading to some of the embarrassing point totals towards the end of the year (56, 56, 65). The good news is that nearly everybody back there returns. There is talent back there, but like the front seven, schematically, something will have to be done to hide the deficiencies that were exploited last year.
At the punting and kicking spots there will be two new guys taking over. Stephen Doar is the only punter on the roster, and while he only punted five times last year he actually won Big South freshman of the week honors for his game against Coastal Carolina. He punted five times for 240 yards (48.0 YPP), including a 60 yard bomb. The punting game should be solid if Doar can keep up these type of numbers.
The kicking duties will fall to true freshman Brett Wilson, who is the only kicker on the team as well. He went 7-7 as a high school senior at Apopka High (FL), including 68-68 on extra points. He seems like a promising recruit, so Blue Hose fans are hopeful that he will translate well to the college game.
Overall, Presbyterian has a lot of question marks for its team this year. All three sectors of the team should be improved, but that is a formality when you go 2-9 the year before. The problem that is faced for the staff is that it would take a sizable improvement to get back to average by Big South standards.
I do think that the Blue Hose has a chance to put together a better season than last year. With only one game against an FBS school (Wake), the schedule breaks down a little better for them as well. I think that Coach Nichols can pull 4-5 wins out this year to start moving in the right direction for the future.
As far as playing against Wake, I do not expect Presbyterian to put up the fight that Liberty gave the Deacs last year. There are just too many questions and holes on the Blue Hose team to compete with an FBS school this year. I think that most fans of Presbyterian would be happy if the game were within a couple of touchdowns in the 4th quarter but I do not really see that happening.
Hopefully both teams will use the game to answer some questions that are open to mutually benefit from the first game of the year.
Stay tuned to BSD for more on Presbyterian as the 6:30, August 29th game time draws closer.
PS: Maybe we can avoid all trick plays this year as well
Presbyterian Trick Play vs. Wake Forest (via BitterlyCheerful)