2011 M-West Spring Preview
The Big Spring Questions
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Force | Boise State
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2011 Mountain West Spring Preview
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Can the run defense be any better? That the Falcons were so good last year was impressive considering the defensive front was such a disaster at times. There was no pass rush, no push into the backfield, and little production against the run allowing 202 yards per game compared to allowing 134 per outing in 2009. With LB Jordan Waiwaiole leading a promising front seven that needs to show more this spring, the key to the season could be a wee bit of improvement.
- Boise State
Is Trevor Harman ready to take over all the kicking duties? The offense will be just fine with Kellen Moore working behind a strong offensive front, and he defense is loaded with good players to build around. The difference between another good season and a BCS run could be in the kicking game where Kyle Brotzman is gone after handling the punting and placekicking duties. Hiccup against Nevada aside, Brotzman was a solid field goal kicker and wasn't a bad punter the few times he got his chance. Sophomore Trevor Harman has a bigger led than Brotzman, and the pressure will be on to see if he can handle himself.
Will the offensive line be any better? Fairchild got off the bus a few years ago preaching about Colorado State being more physical and doing more with the power running game. Last year, the Rams were 103rd in the nation in rushing and was 118th in sacks allowed. Four starters return to the offensive front that's experienced, relatively athletic, and is in place to do far more. Job One: Keep Pete Thomas upright. Job Two: Create some semblance of a ground attack.
Can the Lobos actually move the football? The Mountain West was full of miserable offensive teams, and it took something special to be the worst of the lot. New Mexico took things to another level and was dead last in the nation in total offense averaging a mere 266 yards per game. The defense was awful, too, ranking second-to-last in the nation, but it's the offense that needs to find something that works and it desperately needs to find players. Experience has to translate into production now.
Will things change all that much under Long? Not necessarily. Brady Hoke might have been a great offensive head coach, but coordinator Andy Ludwig is going to keep things the same, for the most part, even though Long enjoys using more of a power running game. The difference might be more of an emphasis on defense as Long will try to get more out of his veteran group with seven starters returning. Hoke was the main reason the program came up with a great season, but Long and Ludwig had a big part of it.
Can the Horned Frogs handle the bull's-eye? The coaching staff isn't planning on doing anything differently, but things have changed. 2011 will be a true test of the system and the coaching staff with six offensive starters and five defensive starters gone from last year, and most of the lost veterans were the top playmakers like QB Andy Dalton, WR Jeremy Kerley, Rimington Award-winning center Jake Kirkpatrick, and OT Marcus Cannon. It's asking a lot to keep the production going at the same high level with all the turnover, but there won't be any excuses made this spring.
Can Hauck get better line play? You don't go 2-11 without having problems all across the board, but the biggest problem for the Rebels were the lines that were among the worst in college football. The offensive front didn't generate any push whatsoever and got the quarterbacks beaten up, while the defensive line was 115th in the nation in sacks and 118th in tackles for loss. Several true freshmen were in the mix on the defensive line last year and have to step up and shine, while the offensive line loses three starters and has to hope that the true freshmen of last year are ready to step up in key roles at left tackle and center.
Can the Cowboys generate any more offense? With top quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels transferring, the offense is looking for new playmakers. Actually, the offense is looking for any playmakers as the offense was disastrous last season finishing 116th in the nation and without any pop until the 44-0 season finale against Colorado State. Outside of Carta-Samuels and the top two targets, David Leonard and Zach Bolger, everyone else is back on offense and there's no excuse to not be stronger.