Monmouth Football 2018 Preview: Can the Hawks return to FCS Playoffs
After a 9-3 season and an at-large bid to the FCS Playoffs, Monmouth brings back 18 players to West Long Branch.
2017 was a history-making season for Monmouth University football. The Hawks went 9-3, 4-1 in Big South play, and made the FCS playoffs for the first time in school history. After such a successful season, many will naturally question if they will be able to do it again in 2018.
Kevin Callahan, the only head coach in the 26-year history of the Monmouth football program, will have 18 starters return to West Long Branch. Among the returnees will be four offensive linemen that have started a combined 69 games. The consistency in line play could result in another great year running the ball. Monmouth averaged 198 yards on the ground in 2017.
Taking advantage of the offensive line will be sophomore running back Pete Guerriero. Guerriero finished with over 1,000 yards rushing in his first year on campus. The 5’10” running back also finished with 20 catches on the season, a number that could go up in his sophomore year.
Kenji Bahar returns to lead the offense at quarterback this season. A 2018 preseason All-Big South Honorable Mention, Bahar threw for 2,368 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2017. Bahar’s top target is also returning as Reggie White Jr., a STATS FCS Preseason All-American. White Jr., who had three 100-yard receiving games and eight total touchdowns, is poised to continue his assault on the Monmouth record books. Going into his senior season, White Jr. ranks third in school history in receptions and fourth in touchdowns and receiving yards.
While the offense returns 10 starters, the defense returns just six players. The story early in the season will be the secondary. Tymere Berry is the lone returning starter from the back end of the defense. While no depth chart has been released for the 2018 season at press time, a lot will be expected from Berry to hold things together while the secondary gets in tune in the first games this season.
The strength of the Monmouth defense will be the front seven which returns five starters. Among the returnees is All-Big South Preseason Honorable Mention linebacker Diego Zubieta. Zubieta finished second on the team with 62 total tackles to go along with 1.5 sacks. In addition to Tre Nelson (44 total tackles), the front of the MU defense will need to carry the load early on as the Hawks’ defense adjusts to new personnel in prominent spots in the defensive backfield.
The key for the Hawks’ season will be how fast the defense gets up to speed. With so much change, it will be interesting to see who steps up for Coach Callahan. The first game against FBS Eastern Michigan (August 31st) will be the first test for the Hawks defense. If they can find magic on defense, Monmouth will be successful and make another appearance in the FCS playoffs.
If all goes well, Monmouth could appear in those playoffs as Big South Conference champions.
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