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2011 Spring Preview - C-USA Key Positions
UCF RB Latavius Murray
UCF RB Latavius Murray
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Mar 11, 2011


The positions to watch for each Conference USA team going into spring practices.


2011 C-USA Spring Preview

The Spring Position Concerns

Click for each team's spring preview
East  UAB | UCF | East Carolina | Marshall | Memphis | Southern Miss
West  Houston | Rice | SMU | Tulane | Tulsa | UTEP

2011 Conference USA Spring Preview
- 2011 C-USA Schedules & Game-By-Game Picks
- 2011 C-USA Spring Buzz   
- 2011 C-USA Spring Attitudes 
- 2011 C-USA Big Spring Questions  
- 2011 C-USA Positions To Watch  
- C-USA Spring Rankings 

East 

UAB

The defensive line. Elliott Henigan is a good one, but he’ll be a little easier to double now that DE Bryant Turner and DT D.J. Reese have graduated. The Blazers need more help up front, preferably a couple of guys who can get penetration and make life a little easier on the defensive backs. Finding a complement on the interior will not be easy, but young Cody Payne and Connor Boyett have potential on the outside. Payne played his sophomore year at 6-6 and 260 pounds, and Boyett closed his rookie season as a starter.

UCF

Linebacker. For the past few seasons, UCF has prided itself on a group of athletic linebackers who cover ground like safeties. A couple of those playmakers, Derrick Hallman and Lawrence Young played their final game last December. After finishing third on the team with 78 tackles, Josh Linam becomes the new leader of the unit, and will be looking for help on the outside. The competition will be fierce at weakside and strongside, as the staff looks to bolster its second line of defense during the spring.

East Carolina

Linebacker. As much as anything else, East Carolina needs to tighten up the run defense after being gutted for 226 yards a game and more than five yards a carry. While the line is expected to be better than in 2010, an already average group of linebackers will be without two of its top tacklers, Dustin Lineback and Melvin Patterson. The return of junior Lamar McLendon is encouraging, but he’s going to need help from the likes of Cliff Perryman, Matt Thompson, and Ty Holmes, who played an ancillary role last year.

Marshall

Running back. The Herd is pining for a capable runner after finishing 114th nationally on the ground. Everyone returns, but that guarantees little for a team that didn’t have a player rush for more than 350 yards on the season. Martin Ward and Andre Booker are budding upperclassmen, with 100-yard games a year ago, but if they can’t become more productive, they’ll fall victim to rookies. Travon Van comes to Huntington after originally signing with Florida, and Steward Butler is a heralded recruit from the most recent class.

Memphis

The secondary. From a group that allowed 38 touchdown passes and picked off just eight, Memphis is losing three seniors. Depending upon your viewpoint, that’s either a grave concern or good news. The Tigers must completely regroup around the likes of Mitch Huelsing, Tremaine McKenzie, Taurean Nixon, and Mohammed Seisay, who played extensively as underclassmen. It certainly won’t be easy, but if they can grow during the offseason, the pass defense might have some hope by the second half of the year.

Southern Miss

The secondary. The Golden Eagles were burned way too often last fall, ranking 99th nationally in pass defense and yielding 28 touchdown passes. Complicating matters, S Justin Wilson, CB C.J. Bailey, and nickel Chico Hunter are no longer around. The coaches will lean on S Kendrick Presley and CB Deron Wilson, while keeping their fingers crossed about the younger defensive backs. Marcal Robinson, Jacorius Cotton, Jerrion Johnson, Alexander Walters, and Alex Smith will all get a chance to dramatically increase their field time.

West 

Houston

The secondary. Three of the Cougars’ four corners on last year’s two-deep, along with S Jacky Candy, are out of eligibility. That’s going to leave the defense vulnerable in a conference built on its passers and passing games. Sumlin looked to the junior college ranks for help, signing Chevy Bennett and D.J. Hayden from Navarro (Tex.) College. Houston rarely recruits JUCOs to watch from the sidelines, so both players will have a legitimate shot of starting in their debut seasons.

Rice

Defensive end. Okay, so Solomon is healthy again, but his return is somewhat offset by the graduations of Kramer Lucio and All-Conference USA first teamer Cheta Ozougwu. With Solomon likely to see double-teams and the other team’s best pass protector, the Owls will need at least one other pass rusher to generate heat on a consistent basis. The program has high hopes for Cody Bauer and Dylan Klare, who ascended to the second team in his first season on campus and will only get better with more snaps.

SMU

Linebacker. Yeah, two quality starters return, Ja’Gared Davis and Taylor Reed, but two quality starters are gone, Youri Yenga and Pete Fleps. Since the Mustangs rely so heavily on the linebackers to make plays all over the field, it’s incumbent upon on the holdovers to fill the void with as few hiccups as possible. While Cameron Rogers is back after caddying for Fleps at Buck linebacker, Yenga’s backup at strongside, Justin Smart, has also graduated. The staff is looking for a defender who goes at least 235 pounds and can rush the passer.

Tulane

Wide receiver. Whatever strides the D might make, this remains a program that’ll sink or swim based on the performance of the offense. Darkwa is set as the workhorse of the ground game, but who catches Ryan Griffin’s passes, as he attempts to evolve in his junior year? While Ryan Grant is a terrific place to start, three of last season’s top four pass-catchers are no longer on campus, which is a concern. Devin Figaro also shows upside, but Tulane is assured of being green on the outside this fall.

Tulsa

The secondary. While no unit lacks experience, the defensive backfield could use an overhaul. The Golden Hurricane ranked last nationally in pass defense a year ago, giving up 32 touchdown passes and 319 yards a game. Everyone except bandit Charles Davis returns, which is encouraging on some level. However, everyone, from veteran CB John Flanders to rookie sensation Marco Nelson, must do a better job of sticking in coverage and batting down balls.

UTEP

The offensive line. All of the uncertainty at quarterback and the skill positions wouldn’t be so dire if the front wall was intact. Unfortunately for the Miners, all five of last season’s opening day starters are gone, adding to the concern on offense. Although Eloy Atkinson took over at the pivot and has the potential to become an anchor, he’ll be surrounded by a bunch of fresh faces and fresh faces, who’ll are going to be thrown into the deep end of the water.

Click for each team's spring preview
East  UAB | UCF | East Carolina | Marshall | Memphis | Southern Miss
West  Houston | Rice | SMU | Tulane | Tulsa | UTEP

2011 Conference USA Spring Preview
- 2011 C-USA Schedules & Game-By-Game Picks
- 2011 C-USA Spring Buzz   
- 2011 C-USA Spring Attitudes 
- 2011 C-USA Big Spring Questions  
- 2011 C-USA Positions To Watch  
- C-USA Spring Rankings