Though the Bearkats play on the second tier of college football, SHSU does have one of FCS’ prouder traditions. The Bearkats have reached the FCS playoffs in each of the last three seasons, falling in the second round to Southeastern Louisiana a year ago.
SHSU will provide a much different challenge offensively than last week’s opponent. While Wisconsin was built to pound it on the ground, the Bearkats want to spread it out and throw it all over the field. SHSU has one of the best offenses in FCS, ranking third in the country after two games with an average of 613.5 yards per contest.
We’ll break down what the Bearkats bring offensively after the jump. Here are the projected starters for SHSU:
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
QB: Jared Johnson (So., 6-1, 215)
RB: Jalen Overstreet (So., 6-2, 212)
SLOT: Yedidiah Louis (Fr., 5-8, 187)
SLOT: Kiante Griffin (So., 6-0, 209)
LWR: Gerald Thomas (Jr., 5-10, 183)
RWR: Ladarius Brown (Jr., 6-4, 220)
TE: Shane Young (Sr., 6-3, 296)
LT: Casey Devries (Jr., 6-4, 286)
LG: Donald Jackson III (Jr., 6-2, 277)
C: Zachary Stevens (Jr., 6-1, 296)
RG: Bridge Blount (So., 5-10, 295)
RT: Brandon DeWitt (So., 6-3, 277)
Key Backups: RB Keshawn Hill (Sr., 5-10, 201), RB Donavan Williams (Jr., 6-0, 212), WR Jeffrey Thomas (Fr., 6-3, 200), WR Derreck Edwards (Jr., 6-1, 170), WR Rickey Smith (Sr., 6-1, 208)
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The SHSU offense has soared under first-year head coach KC Keeler. The Bearkats have racked up 613.5 yards per game (356.5 passing, 257 rushing) and have averaged 43 points between their first two contests. Those stats all rank in the top 17 nationally at the FCS level.
SHSU’s system revolves around speed. The Bearkats play at an extremely fast pace and rack up a high number of plays. SHSU’s averaging 95 plays per game, including 105 last week against Alabama State.
It all centers on redshirt sophomore quarterback Jared Johnson. He appeared in 10 games with two starts as a backup in 2013 and won the starting job entering the 2014 season. Johnson’s arm has gotten plenty of use this year, already throwing 99 passes in the Bearkats’ two games. He’s completed 63.4 percent of his passes, totaling 703 yards with five touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. He can make some plays on the ground as well (17 attempts for 95 yards and a touchdown), but Johnson’s game is through the air, and that’s how this Bearkat team will test LSU.
SHSU has an impressively deep corps of pass catchers. Already 14 different players have a reception this season for SHSU, 10 of those reeling in at least two catches and five recording a touchdown. The Bearkats love to spread it out, often going to four-wide sets, rotating in new receivers every few plays.
Yedidiah Louis headlines the group. After redshirting in 2013, Louis has emerged as a favorite target for Johnson, totaling 13 catches for 104 yards. LaDarius Brown has also eclipsed the 100-yard mark this season, making nine catches for 110 yards. Jeffrey Thomas, Derreck Edwards and Rickey Smith all have seven receptions this seson, and that deep stable of receivers will serve as a good challenge to the LSU secondary, the Tigers’ strongest defensive unit.
SHSU isn’t just a throwing team though. The Bearkats regularly count on three different running backs. Senior Keshawn Hill leads the team statistically, racking up 190 yards this season on 32 carries. He’s also the team’s leading receiver with 136 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown catch. Sophomore Jalen Overstreet has actually moved to the top of the depth chart though as the SHSU coaches look to get him more involved in the offense, and you can expect to see Donavan Williams as the Bearkats spread the ball around to their different backs.
SHSU returned three starters along the offensive line this season — Donald Jackson, Zachary Stevens and Brandon DeWitt. The Bearkats have allowed five sacks thus far.