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Abilene Christian looks to bounce back after under .500 season in 2023

With spring ball ending and fall camp slowing approaching, another football season in Abilene, Texas will soon be underway.

Head coach Keith Patterson is going into his third full season at the helm of the Wildcats.

ACU head coach Keith Patterson (Photo by Riley Fisher of The Optimist)

In his first season in 2022, he led his team to a 7-4 record before going 5-6 just a year ago. 

While looking to improve and fight for a United Athletic Conference championship, Patterson has decided to make some moves on his staff.

Coaching Changes

On the offensive side of the ball, Rick Bowie takes over as the offensive coordinator along with the quarterbacks coach title. Most recently, Bowie coached the Valdosta State Blaze to the Division II quarterfinals. In his two seasons as the play-caller in Titletown, Georgia his squad averaged over 36 points per game. 

A season ago under former OC Ryan Pugh, who moved back to strictly coaching the offensive line, the Wildcats averaged only 26 points per game, ranking 58th in the FCS. 

With Bowie’s explosive spread offensive scheme, the Wildcats will look to improve this season. 

Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium (Photo Credit: Abilene Christian University)

“He brings a comfort zone for me as a play-caller and what he believes philosophically,” Patterson said of the addition of Bowie. “I really like what I’ve seen to this point. We’ve got playmakers all over the field and excited to see us spread the ball around and become an explosive offense.”

Bowie coached quarterback Sammy Edwards, who was named D2 CCA Super Region Two Offensive Player of the Year, last season. Edwards threw for 4,223 yards, 34 passing touchdowns, and completed 66% of his passes. 

Continuing on the offensive side of the ball, Jason Smith takes over as the tight ends coach. The St. Louis Rams selected Smith as the second overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Most recently, Smith was an offensive analyst and worked with the offensive line at North Texas.

Also coming from Valdosta State as the wide receivers coach, Pat Brown is coaching the running backs in Abilene. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Jarred Holley joined the staff. Previously at James Madison coaching the cornerbacks, Holley will be in charge of the safeties. 

Transfer Portal Additions

The Wildcats have added some playmakers through the Transfer Portal that’ll look to come in and contribute.

Javon Gipson, a Baylor University redshirt junior, will join Abilene’s wide receiver room. The 6’3” 208-pounder appeared in five games last season off the bench. The former three-star high school prospect recorded only two catches for 22 yards in his college career. 

Jayvon Gipson is one of the newest Wildcats. (Photo credit: Baylor Athletics)

On the defensive line, the Wildcats have the addition of Devin Dawson, a three-tech tackle from Alcorn State University. In his three seasons in Mississippi, Dawson recorded 69 tackles, seven sacks, and one pass deflection.

Key Returners

Colby Coheley earned UAC Defensive Player of the Week against Texas A&M in the last week of the season. The 6’4 220-pound linebacker had a game-high 13 tackles, three sacks, and an interception he took back 51 yards. 

Coheley, who will be a senior, racked up 61 total tackles and led the team in sacks (5.5) and quarterback hits (5).

Another returner on the defensive side is the Wildcats 2023 leading tackler (78) Darius Moore. The senior linebacker was named 2023 Phil Steele Fourth-team Preseason All-UAC a season ago.

On offense, the Wildcats starting quarterback, Maverick Mcivor will enter his third season under center. In 11 starts, Mcivor threw for 1,972 yards, 17 touchdowns, and only five interceptions. With hungry newcomers like Colton Haggard and Leighton Adams, Mcivor must continue to show improvement in the offseason before week one.

Maverick Mcivor will lead the Wildcats in 2024 (Photo credit: Abilene Christian Athletics)

On the outside, Blayne Taylor returns for his senior season. The 6’5 205-pound receiver led the team in receptions (41), receiving yards (620), and receiving touchdowns (7). Taylor will look to continue to be a valuable playmaker under OC Rick Bowie.

Final Thoughts

Like every offseason in college football across the nation, there are many moving parts. From coaches to incoming freshmen to transfers through the portal, the locker rooms are constantly changing. If Abilene Christian wants to take a step in the right direction this upcoming season, the meshing of new faces, personalities, and schemes begins immediately. 

The Wildcats start the season off against Texas Tech University at Jones AT&T Stadium. Following that game, the non-conference opponents continue with West Georgia, Northern Colorado, and Idaho before UAC games begin.

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