Sunday, July 3, 2016

Pioneer Football League 2016 Preview

The PFL has been owned by Dayton, Jacksonville, and San Diego in recent years, and despite some changes here and there, that seems to be the case heading into the 2016 season as well. One team is making a chase this fall, and that could be Morehead State, which has been on a steady rise.
Another case for consistency could be made for how bad Valporaiso has been in league play, but they may actually break ranks and not be as bad as they have been, as they could be surpassed in the land of terrible by Stetson and Davidson.

Projected Order of Finish
1. San Diego
2. Dayton
3. Jacksonville
4. Morehead State
5. Butler
6. Campbell
7. Drake
8. Marist
9. Valporaiso
10. Stetson
11. Davidson

San Diego Toreros
USD just missed the playoffs last season by virtue of a one point loss to Dayton, but the Toreros are trying to put it behind them and take the title outright in 2016.
Anthony Lawrence is back at QB after passing for 2392 yards and 23 TDs against just six picks last season. He averaged 8.1 yards per attempt, and completed 63.7% of his passes, a number that is sure to rise in 2016.
Leading rusher Jereke Armstrong also returns after rushing for 662 yards last fall. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry, while scoring seven TDs. He would like to see his work load get somewhat heavier this fall, and he seems capable of handling it. Blake Martin, Jonah Hedges, and Chris Willson will be competing to take over the carries from the graduated Dallas Kessman.
The top five receivers (including Armstrong) all return in 2016, led by Brian Riley (782 yards) and Ross Dwelley (54 receptions).
Jonathon Peterman is the star of the defense at DE after picking up 16 TFLs last fall.
Projected Win Total: 10

Dayton Flyers
Alex Jeske was just a freshman at QB, so I am looking for improvements on his 1/1 TD to pick ratio (11/11). He passed for 2052 yards last fall, but completed just 59.3% of his passes. If Dayton is to take over the top spot once again and find a second consecutive playoff birth, the work starts there.
Tucker Yinger is back at RB, and will also be just a sophomore after rushing for 731 yards last fall. He'd like to see more  than three TDs, I am sure. Jack Adams and Jared Ruffing are competing for carries behind Yinger.
Leading receiver Cody Stuart is gone, but every other receiver who caught a pass last season returns, giving the Flyers one of the deepest receiving units in college football. Jack Euritt and Tyler Tumpane are the leaders there.
Jack Crain picked up 105 tackles last fall, and will lead the defense with CB Christian Searles (5 picks) will lead the defense.
Projected Win Total: 9

Jacksonville Dolphins
Big changes are in store at JU heading into 2016. Head Coach Kerwin Bell resigned in a huff over the administration's stance on scholarships and is now the coach at D2 Valdosta State. His son, and all league QB Kade Bell, has graduated. Ian Shields has been hired from Lenoir-Rhyne, where he went 17-6 the last two seasons.
Ryan Wells has the first crack at replacing Bell at QB, and was strong in limited action last season, including having ownership of an 8/1 TD to INT ratio.
Ulysses Bryant is back at RB after rushing for 763 yards last fall, but more may be needed from him in 2016, especially when it comes to his rushing TD total of just four. Jamal Adjamah returns as the primary number two back.
Andy Jones and his 60 receptions have moved on. Damien Strange is now the top receiver, and Brian Burnett, Pernell Rattray, Austin Leach, and Emoni Williams will all be vying for the spot left open by Jones.
LB Grady Redding is back to lead the defense after collecting 100 tackles last season, and will get plenty of help from DB Terrence Bryant.
Projected Win Total: 8

Morehead State Eagles
Austin Gahafer returns after passing for 3244 yards and 24 TDs last season, and may be a catalyst for the Eagles having a shot to slip past Jacksonville for 3rd this season.
Jake Raymond also returns at WR, giving Gahafer a top tier target after a 72 reception campaign in 2015. The receiving corps does lose their top two receivers, however, in Justin Cornwall and Tanner Napier.
Darius Pritchett, Christian Robinson and Joby Embrey will all step up into larger roles in the receiving game this fall.The run game is secondary in the offense, and the top two rushers combined to run for just 816 yards. Rob Harden, the leading rusher, is gone, so look for Brent Holman and Ryan Watkins to carry the load. Holman was almost neck and neck with Harden in rushing yards, so there should be no drop off there.
The defense gave up 30 or more points four times last fall, and that could have been the difference between their seven wins, and a run for a league title.
Projected Win Total: 6

Butler Bulldogs
Matt Schiltz has moved on at QB, so finding a replacement is job number one in fall camp for the Bulldogs. That also effects the run game, as Schiltz also, by far, led the team in rushing. Malcolm Weaver looks like the next in line, but that is no sure bet after he completed just 6/15 passes last fall.
The run game will need to find a back that can step up and lead the team in rushing. John Hall, Duvante Lane, and Anthony Scaccia are all options, but are all limited in production.
Danny Cotter is back at WR, but Marquese Martin-Hayes is gone. Guy DiBalsamo and Brandon Collins are line to get some major work, but depth is thin here.
The Bulldogs look set on defense, and that side of the football will be what keeps Butler in games this fall. Sean Horan and Ethan Brunhofer will both return at LB to lead the unit.
Projected Win Total: 5

Campbell Fighting Camels
The first task for the Camels is finding a new QB to replace the erratic Kameron Bryant, who threw more picks (16) than TD passes last season (12). David Salmon is the only passer returning with any game experience, as he completed just 7/15 passes in a backup role in 2015.
Senior RB De'Shawn Jones led the league in rushing with 1079 yards and 8 TDs las fall. Jared Joyner will be the primary backup at RB, but could get pushed somewhat by Austin Fleming and Angelo Crawford-Reid in fall camp.
There were no real standouts at WR last season, but leading receiver Aaron Blackmon (453 yards) returns as a sophomore. Andre Davis led the team in actual receptions (30), but has moved on. Damon Simmons and Trey Sanders are the next options in line,  but really need to step up production.
LB Jack Ryan (66 tackles) and CB Chris Beaty (3 INTs) return to lead a defense that has suffered some serious personnel losses.
Projected Win Total: 6

Drake Bulldogs
A  common theme in the PFL this season is replacing QBs, and Drake is not immune to this issue in 2016. Andy Rice has moved on, but Cody Thibault attempted 105 passes last fall, and should step right in as a senior. He must turn around his abysmal 4/6 TD to INT ratio, and must find accuracy after completing just 44.3% of his passes last fall.
Conley Wilkins led the team with 834 yards rushing, and scored nine times on the ground last fall, and he returns. He will have to carry the load for a bit while the passing game develops. Depth at RB took a hit with the loss of Gary Scott, Jr, but Brock Reichardt is back and got some decent time in last season. Tyler Updegraff should push him for playing time.
The top three receivers are back in Eric Saubert, Keegan Gallery, and Zach Ziabis. Andrew Yarwood, AJ Spitz, and Grant Menard are also back to give the Bulldogs a deep group at receiver.
On defense, the loss of John Hugunin will be huge, but DE Mike Marrin is back after leading the league in sacks last season.
Projected Win Total: 6

Marist Red Foxes
QB Mike White returns after passing for 2564 yards last fall. His major issues are that his TD/INT ratio is a dead even 10/10. That has got to improve, as does his passing completion percentage of 51.8%.
Marcellus Calhoun returns at RB, but his production was moderate, at best. Garrett Clay has moved on, so look for Leon Cummings to fill in as the primary number two. There is virtually no depth after that.
Justin Christian picked up 826 receiving yards as a freshman last fall, and will return to lead the group. Matt Tralli picked up 56 receptions last season, but has moved on. Lawrence Dickens, Joe Jordan and Malik Simmons will all battle to replace him in camp.
LB Jimmy Braun and CB Cameron Gibson should be the leaders on defense after several key losses to the group after last season.
Projected Win Total: 3

Valporaiso Crusaders
Both Ryan Clarke and Dalton Stokes played at QB last season, but both went down with injuries. The Crusaders will hit the reset button by having them battle it out in camp for the starting job. Clarke has a slight edge based on production from last season.
Jake Hutson and Brandon Hall both departed after last season at RB, and neither of them shook the ground much. Legend Choudhry, Jarrett Morgan, and Grayson Bastin are the next three options in line, but whomever wins the carries will have to far outpace their predecessors.
Eight of the top nine receivers return, led by Jean Rene and Frank Catrine, so the passing game should see some marked improvement.
The Crusaders are loaded in the secondary with the return of Kellen Hughes and Joey Diaz-Martinez, as the two combined for seven picks last fall. JJ Nunes joins them after collecting 76 tackles. Kye Hall leads the LB unit heading into camp.
Projected Win Total: 3

Stetson Hatters
Ryan Tentler returns at QB, but he had a horrible season in which he tossed just 6 TDs to 11 INTs in 265 passing attempts. He has one of the lowest TD to pass attempts percentage in the nation. Colin McGovern returns as a sophomore, and could push him for the job.
Cole Mazza returns as the leading RB, but rushed for just 277 yards last fall. This unit will need some serious help if this team is to get out of the PFL basement. Arkee Brown and AJ Washington will push for playing time.
Ja'Vonta Swinton and Darius McGriff will both return to lead an anemic receiving group.
Donald Payne, a safety, is a legitimate NFL prospect. He collected 126 tackles, 16 TFLs, and two picks last fall. Eric Martin joins him to form a solid secondary. DE Davion Belk is a disruptive edge rusher, and will lead from the front this season.
Projected Win Total: 2

Davidson Wildcats
Davidson had not won a league game in three years before beating Stetson in the finale last fall. Expect the Wildcats to remain in the basement, however, as they have made few strides to show improvement is coming.
Taylor MItchell returns at QB as a junior, and did manage an even 10/10 TD to INT ratio, but he has a long way to go. John Cook is back as his primary backup.
Jeffrey Keil is back as the starting RB, and managed to lead the team in rushing despite running just 90 times last fall. He will have to seriously increase the workload in 2016 if the Cats have any hopes of moving the needle. Depth at the position is a myth.
Top receiver William Morris is gone. Cam Cheuveront, Nick Wheeler, and Derek Jones are the only other receivers who collected a double digit reception number last fall, and all return.
DB Ben Powell is a bright spot on defense, and led the team with 623 return yards on special teams in 2015.
Projected Win Total: 1

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