FCS: 5 Offseason Questions For Sac State Football
As the 2023 FCS season approaches, HERO Sports will look at the five biggest offseason questions for the 2022 quarterbacks.
Next up is Sacramento State.
Sac State finished 12-1 last year, losing 66-63 to UIW in the quarterfinals. Here are five questions facing the Hornets in 2023.
RELATED: Sac State Football 2023 schedule
Can Sac State continue its climb without Troy Taylor?
Sac State went from 2-8 in 2018 to 9-4 in Taylor’s first season as coach in 2019. After sitting out the 2020-21 COVID season, the Hornets finished 9-3 in 2021 and 12-1 last season. In those three years under Taylor, Sac State was 23-1 in Big Sky play, including 16-0 the last two years. Sac State was 1-3 in the postseason during that span, reaching the quarterfinals in 2022.
Taylor did a masterful job turning Sac State into a consistently top-ranked program. But now he is the head of Stanford. Sac State promoted Andy Thompson from defensive coordinator to its incoming head coach.
An internal hire was a strong move to keep the culture, continuity and vision in place. Sac State has built a talented roster and its fan support is growing, ranking 11th in FCS regular season attendance last year with an average of 15,502 fans per home game. This season will tell if the program is built for long-term success, or if it regresses without arguably the best FCS coach in recent years.
Who is QB1?
Sac State ran a successful 2-QB system. Jake Dunniway was a Third Team All-Big Sky selection, throwing for 2,417 yards, 19 TDs and 15 interceptions. Asher O’Hara was a First Team All-Conference selection at the all-around position, throwing for 873 yards, 11 TDs and no interceptions while rushing for 937 yards and 19 scores.
Both QBs have exhausted their rights.
Sac State currently has four QBs on its spring roster. Kaiden Bennett is a junior who began his FBS career as a three-star recruit before transferring to Sac State in 2021. Dorian Hale is a sophomore, coming to Sac State as a three-star recruit in the 2021 class. Carson Conklin is a freshman and another three-star recruit. Carson Camp is a junior and one of the top FCS-to-FCS transfers this offseason.
Camp had a strong first two seasons at South Dakota. A 2021 Spring MVFC All-Rookie Team selection, he threw for nearly 1,000 yards in four games. That fall, the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,252 yards, 17 TDs and seven interceptions. In 2022, Camp played in seven games before being replaced as the starter after throwing for 904 yards, four TDs and five interceptions.
The new starting QB has leading man Marshel Martin at TE (65 catches for 879 yards and 12 TDs) as well as last year’s No. 2 WR Jared Gipson (33 receptions for 385 yards and two TDs).
What does the rushing attack look like without Cameron Skattebo?
Skattebo took Sac State’s offense to another level in 2022, adding a physical running presence to an explosive passing attack. He was the toughest RB to bring down in the FCS, rushing 196 times for 1,373 yards and seven TDs while adding 31 catches for 371 yards and three scores. The 5-foot-10, 212-pounder was named Big Sky Conference Player of the Year and earned four different All-American honors.
Skattebo entered the transfer window after the season and is now at Arizona State.
Marcus Fulcher now looks set to step into a bigger role. With Skattebo rushing 196 times last year and O’Hara rushing 211 times, Fulcher didn’t get much of a chance. But he lit up when he did, rushing 74 times for 474 yards (6.3 YPC) and eight TDs to earn Third Team All-Big Sky honors. The 5-9, 212-pound senior will need a big year behind an experienced offensive line to keep Sac State’s offense hot.
Who replaces Marte Mapu?
Mapu was a big part of Sac State’s defense, impacting the game in several ways. He was named the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year and is a potential 2023 NFL Draft pick. The safety/OLB hybrid totaled 76 tackles, 6.5 TFL, one sack, two QB hurries, two interceptions and four pass breakups . He allowed the Hornets to do a lot of different things schematically with his ability to protect the run and the pass.
There are many candidates to step up and be the leader of the defense in 2023.
Notable is LB Armon Bailey, who led Sac State in all major categories with 88 tackles, 12.5 TFL and six sacks. The First Team All-Big Sky selection returns along with eight of Sac State’s top 11 players.
Can the Hornets pull off close wins on the road?
Sac State had some late-game spells last year, making clutch plays when needed. The Hornets beat No. 7 Montana 31-24 in OT, No. 14 Idaho 31-28 on a layup with 1:48 left, No. 24 UC Davis 27-21 to hold off a late-game comeback and no. 13 Richmond 38-31 in the second round of the playoffs.
All these victories were at home.
Sac State showed its ability to win a close game on the road, however, defeating No. 5 Weber State 33-30.
The Hornets face a tougher road in 2023, going to Idaho, Montana and UC Davis, three teams also likely to compete for playoff bids.