Samford is looking to build off a 7-5 2016 season which resulted in a playoff berth. Coach Hatcher has what could be his best team yet overall with the best quarterback in the conference and an extremely experienced defense. The Bulldogs open the 2017 season 19th in the Stats Preseason Poll and hope to be a top 10 contender with a somewhat favorable conference schedule.
The Bulldogs offense is led by junior QB Devlin Hodges building off a 4,000 yard 2016 season with 36 TD passes. Top target Karel Hamilton is gone, but speedy wide out Kelvin McKnight returns and will likely be a favorite target in 2017. The concern on offense is a glaring lack of experience up front with 4 freshmen or sophomore starters and a lone junior. The weapons are there on the perimeter but the young line will have to give Hodges time to make plays.
Samford was a middle of the pack defense last season but has a very experienced group returning. Conversely to the offense, the defense is loaded with experience with all juniors and seniors starting in 2017. The Bulldogs leading pass rusher Ahmad Gooden leads the way along with linebacker Shaheed Salmon as the leading returning tackler. This is a really good group on defense that should be among the best in the Southern Conference in 2017.
The young offensive line is a concern, but Hodges does get the ball out quickly. If this offense can even come close to replicating their production from a year ago, this could be a special season for Coach Hatcher and his team. With The Citadel and Chattanooga at home, the biggest challenge is an October 21 visit to Wofford. I don’t see anyone running the table in 2017, but this is a playoff team.