Independent Football Teams Preview 2016
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Coach: Brian Kelly
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Sanford Jr.
Defensive Coordinator: Brian VanGorder
Stadium: Notre Dame Stadium (80,795)
2015 Record: 10-3
Brian Kelly is hoping that the offensive line will be solid this season. The left side is in good hands with Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson. The right side however has questions. The production upfront will lead to wins and losses for the Irish.
Whomever the offensive line is protecting should have a successful season. Both DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire are fulling capable of taking ND to double digit wins. Malik Zaire led the Irish to a 38-3 win over Texas passing for 3 TD and a 86.4 COMP PCT. DeShone Kizer took over during the Virginia game and was successful but didn’t get wins over Clemson, Stanford or Ohio State. Brian Kelly has a tough decision.
All eyes will be on Alize Jones at WR. Jones is moving from TE to WR. He has great size and will help the running game with his blocking ability. Torii Hunter is the team's top returning receiver. Hunter had 28 catches last season, two of those touchdowns.
The running game will be tough to stop no matter who is at QB. Add in Josh Adams and Tarean Folston in the backfield and the Irish will soon forget about C.J. Prosise.
Defensively the Irish might take a step back. They lost their top stat leaders in sacks, TFL, tackles and interceptions. The Irish will hope to reload with past recruiting classes. The secondary is the weak spot to start the season. Cole Luke and Max Redfield will both play key roles as seniors. After them we have questions. Crawford and Tranquill are returning off ACL injuries and will compete for starting roles.
Brian VanGorder is confident in his front four. Jerry Tillery has everyone’s attention after showing flashes as just a freshman. In the game at Clemson he had four solo tackles from his DT spot. Isaac Rochell had 7.5 TFL last season and he will be asked to be even more of a factor this season in getting in the backfield.
Linebacker could end up being the teams best unit with James Onwualu returning at SLB. Greer Martini proved he could fill a starting spot after totaling 8 or more tackles in three games in a limited role last season. MLB should be Nyles Morgan’s job. In 2014 as a freshman he totaled 47 tackles. He is now in his junior year and ready to prove himself.
The Irish are in good hands the next few years with Tyler Newsome (punter) and Justin Yoon (kicker). C.J. Sanders did a great job handling return duties. He took back a punt and kick for a TD. If they can get him better protection down the field he could have a big impact this season.
Brian Kelly is looking to have another double digit win season under his belt. The schedule has plenty of home games and neutral site games, 3 true road games. The defense will have to overcome all their losses. They face three solid opponents in their first three game so there isn’t much time to figure things out. The offense will put up over 30 points a game for the third straight year with Kizer or Zaire under center. Playoff talk in South Bend will heat up after the Michigan State game.
DeShone Kizer, SO, QB
13 G, 334 ATT, 210 COMP, 62.9 PCT, 2880 Yards, 21 TD, 10 INT, 150.06 Rating
Josh Adams, FR, RB
13 G, 116 ATT, 838 Yards, 6 TD
Torii Hunter Jr., JR, WR
13 G, 28 REC, 363 Yards, 2 TD
Cole Luke, JR, DB
13 G, 2 INT, 0 TD
James Onwualu, JR, LB
11 G, 3.0 Sacks
Max Redfield, JR, DB
11 G, 39 Solo, 25 Assisted, 64 Total
Last Five Year Win Totals
Notre Dame Schedule
Coach: Kalani Sitake
Offensive Coordinator: Ty Detmer
Defensive Coordinator: Ilaisa Tuiaki
Stadium: LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,725)
2015 Record: 9-4
Tanner Mangum came in and lit the college football world on fire with his hail mary to beat Nebraska. What got lost is Heisman hopeful Taysom Hill would miss the remainder of the season. Will both QB’s are back and the Cougars have a tough decision to make on who starts. While a tough decision has to be made, it is a situation many coaches would love to have.
The line could be in good shape if former freshman All-American center Tejan Koroma decides to return. The Cougars have three starters but they may be without Kyle Johnson as well. Johnson and Koroma take this line from average to great with both players returning.
The running game will produce big numbers Jamaal Williams can stay away from the injury bug. Williams is chasing the record books this season as he needs 929 yards to be the all time BYU rushing leader. BYU will play with a fullback this season. Algernon Brown will fill that role and look for him to make a difference at the goalline as he punched in 11 TD’s last season.
Mitch Mathews and Devon Blackmon have moved on. The two combine for 100 catches last season. Who fills the void? Start with Nick Kurtz who had 39 catches last season. JUCO transfer Jonah Trinnaman will get a shot early as well. With inexperience here look for the Cougars to have a more balanced approach this season.
The strength of the defense lies in the secondary. Three starters return including FS Kai Nacua who had 6 INT last season. The second corner spot is up for grabs between Troy Warner (R FR) and Akile Davis (SO).
BYU’s top returning tackler is Havey Langi (68). Francis Bernard has moved to OLB from RB. Returning starter Fred Warner had 67 tackles last season and will fill the other OLB spot. The depth behind them are young. If BYU has to use them heavily early it will be against top competition.
The new 4-3 defense success will rely on the play upfront. There is uncertainty here but Tuiaki is confident in the guys he has. One starter returns, Tomasi Laulile. Laulile had 5.5 TFL in 12 games. He will play a key role in the rebuilt line as well as, Handsome Tanielu. Tanielu is a top 20 JUCO DT.
Jonny Linehan returns at punter after year one going well. James Baird has emerged as the kicker after spring camp. Baird is a freshman. Michael Shelton handle most of the punt return duties as a freshman last season. Riley Burt had 13 kick returns for the Cougars with an average of 24.46 a return.
The schedule is unforgiving for whomever starts at QB. Six power 5 games on the schedule and trips to Boise State and Cincinnati. Nine wins is a possibility again if the offensive and defensive line pan out.
Tanner Mangum, FR, QB
13 G, 446, 267, 59.9 PCT, 3377 Yards, 23 TD, 10 INT, 136.01 Rating
Algernon Brown, JR, RB
11 G, 127 ATT, 709 Yards, 11 TD
Nick Kurtz, JR, WR
13 G, 39 REC, 578 Yards, 3 TD
Kai Nacua, JR, DB
13 G, 6 INT, 2 TD
Harvey Langi, JR, LB
11 G, 4.5 Sacks
Fred Warner, SO, LB
13 G, 46 Solo, 20 Assisted, 66 Total
Last Five Year Win Totals
Army Black Knights
Coach: Jeff Monken
Offensive Coordinator: Brent Davis
Defensive Coordinator: Jay Bateman
Stadium: Blaik Field at Michie Stadium (38,000)
2015 Record: 2-10
Let’s start with wide receiver, yes wide receiver for a team who doesn’t pass. Edgar Poe is back and for a player who only caught 16 balls last season, six of them were TD.Poe also averages 27.56 yards a catch.
QB Ahmad Bradshaw will be looking to go to the air around 100 times this season but what happens on the ground is key to the Black Knights success. Bradshaw led the team in carries with 130 ATT. QB Chris Carter could push Bradshaw but the job should be his.
As for any team who runs the option, the line plays a key role in the team's success. Three guys with experience are back and the left side should be strong. Running behind the line are nine guys who have over 100 yards rushing. The main focus is finding a few guys you can count on. The leading returnee in the backfield is Aaron Kemper who led the team in yards and touchdowns. For a team that runs the ball a majority of the time they will need to find the endzone more than 24 times.
The defense as a whole was one of the better ones they have a had in the past 5 years. The linebacking core is impressive with Jeremy Timph, Andrew King, and Alex Aukerman as returning starters. Both King and Timph both had 92 tackles. King was always in the backfield 4.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss.
Upfront the Black Knights John Voit and Jordan Smith return at defensive end. The key nose guard spot will be held by Raymond Wright or Cordarrell Davis.
Depth plays a nice role in the secondary with three starters back. Steven Johnson, Josh Jenkins and Mike Reynolds all capable of filling the 2nd corner spot for the Knights. Xavier Moss and Rhyan England both return at safety both third and fourth in tackles last season.
Army is starting over at punter and kicker. Mitchell Howard and Avery Walas are battling for the starting spot. J.D. Mote is the leading candidate at punter. If the Black Knights could find anything in the return game that would be a positive.
It is hard not to like the defense this season. Plenty of experience and talent coming back and they had one of their best season on that side of the ball last year. The offense has to score more to get wins. If they can get to six wins that would earn Army their 6th trip to a bowl game
Ahmad Bradshaw, SO, QB
8 G, 48 ATT, 23 Comp, 47.9 PCT, 429 Yards, 5 TD, 2 INT, 149.05 Rating
Aaron Kemper, JR, RB
11 G, 101 ATT, 544 Yards, 3 TD
Edgar Poe, JR, WR
12 G, 16 REC, 441 Yards, 6 TD
Brandon Moss, FR, DB
12 G, 3 INT, 0 TD
Andrew King, JR, LB
12 G, 4.5 Sacks
Andrew King, JR, LB
12 G, 55 Solo, 37 Assisted, 92 Total
Last Five Year Win Totals
Coach: Mark Whipple
Offensive Coordinator: Mark Whipple
Defensive Coordinator: Tom Masella
Stadium: William P. McGuirk Alumni Stadium (17,000)
2015 Record: 3-9
Offense: Two year starting QB Blake Frohnapfel is gone after a down senior season. His replacement will likely be JUCO transfer Andrew Ford. In nine games last season at Lackawanna he passed for 23 touchdowns and 1,764 yards.
The star of the team is tailback Marquis Young. Young ran for 96 yards on 152 carries last season. Lock him in for a season over 1,000 yards rushing in 2016. Last years star, Tajae Sharpe, has graduated and so do his 111 catches in 2015. He was the team's leading receiver the past three years. Who replaces him as the go to WR? Andy Isabella is a guy that will stretch the field with his speed. Hawaii transfer, Darrian Josey will be looked at to play a big role after sitting out last season. Travis Reynolds will get a look at TE, he has good size and should be a threat in the redzone.
The line features the only returning starters, three seniors. None of the three earned any ALL-MAC accolades last season. .
Giving up 447.8 YPG lsat season will hopefully improve but the Minutemen will be rebuilding their whole defense. The linebacking core has the most promise with Shane Huber back and JUCO transfer Teddy Lowery coming in. Huber nearly eclipsed 100 tackles last season and will be over the century mark this year.
The secondary has depth at the safety spots with Lee Moses making a push for a starting job over Zeke Edmonfds. Khari Bailey-Smith is back after a season ending injury. Having Jackson Porter back after a one year trial at WR should be a good move.
Upfront the focus should be getting in the backfield something UMass has struggled to do the past four years. They have a total of 54 sacks in those four years. Last season the team totaled 15 sacks and half of those sacks are gone from the team.
Logan Laurent handles both kicking and punting duties for UMass. He hit FGs at a 66.7 PCT clip last season. The return game could bring some excitement to the field with Andy Isabella and James Oliphant.
UMASS moves out of the MAC and into the life as an Independent. The Minutemen totaled 3 wins last season with proven talent. This season they return a total of 6 starters from last years team and have a more difficult season. The minutemen will struggle on both sides of the ball. It won’t be pretty in 2016, bowl game is out of the question.
Ross Comis, FR, QB
6 G, 21 ATT, 15 COMP, 71.4 PCT, 171 Yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 171.26 Rating
Marquis Young, FR, RB
12 G, 152 ATT, 960 Yards, 7 TD
Shakur Nesmith, SO, WR
9 G, 15 REC, 204 Yards, 3 TD
De’Sean Downey, SO, LB
9 G, 1 INT
Sha-Ki Holines, SO, DL
10 G, 1.5 Sacks
Shane Huber, SO, LB
12 G, 39 Solo, 56 Assisted, 95 Total
Last Five Year Win Totals