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2011 C-USA Preview - East Team Breakdowns
Memphis DT Dontari Poe & UCF QB Jeff Godfrey
Memphis DT Dontari Poe & UCF QB Jeff Godfrey
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 27, 2011


Preview 2011 - CFN Conference USA East Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish


Preview 2011

C-USA Team By Team


EAST
- 2011 East Carolina Preview | 2011 Marshall Preview 
- 2011 Memphis Preview | 2011 Southern Miss Preview 
- 2011 UAB Preview | 2011 UCF Preview

WEST
- 2011 Houston Preview | 2011 Rice Preview 
- 2011 SMU Preview | 2011 Tulane Preview
- 2011 Tulsa Preview | 2011 UTEP Preview 

- 2011 C-USA Preview | 2011 C-USA Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN C-USA Schedules & Picks | 2011 C-USA Thoughts
- 2011 CFN All-C-USA Team & Top 30 Players
- 2011 C-USA East Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2011 C-USA West Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish 
- 2011 C-USA Big Questions | 2010 C-USA Preview 
- Suggestions or something we missed? Let us know

Predicted Champion: Tulsa over East Carolina

C-USA East Predicted Finish

1. East Carolina
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6
Predicted Conference Record: 6-2

Offense: The change taking place in Greenville is no more obvious than on offense, where a conservative attack is being scrapped in favor of a completely opposite look. As his offensive coordinator, Ruffin McNeill hired young Lincoln Riley to run a similar version of the “Air Raid” attack that was so prolific for so long at Texas Tech. The Pirates will operate a shotgun spread offense that floods the field with receivers and aims to strike as quickly as possible. Naturally, the existing personnel wasn’t recruited for this type of a system and achieving the right tempo and rhythm could take all year. East Carolina has a multi-dimensional star in WR Dwayne Harris, the ingredients of a decent line, and a ton of question marks. For starters, who’s the triggerman? Coming out of spring, untested sophomore Brad Wornick has the best chance of getting the ball in the opener.

Defense: In the blink of an eye, East Carolina’s reputation as a physical defensive team had vanished. The squad that was so feisty and stout under Skip Holtz was a sieve in Ruffin McNeill’s first year. Sure, he inherited a D that lost nine starters, but even that was a weak excuse for what took place in 2010. The Pirates were one of the country’s worst defenses, ranking 119th in points allowed and dead last in total defense. In the offseason, McNeill opted to switch to a 3-4 in order to get more playmakers on the field and recruited JUCO transfers capable of contributing right away. They’ll join a seasoned unit, including CB Emanuel Davis and S Bradley Jacobs, that realizes the only way is up in 2011. Above all else, the Pirates have to get more of a push up front in order to help the beleaguered last two lines of defense.

2. Southern Miss
Predicted Overall Record: 8-4
Predicted Conference Record: 6-2

Offense: Larry Fedora is getting awfully close to having the kind of balanced, explosive offense he was hired to develop in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles ranked no lower than 35th nationally in rushing or passing, averaging 453 yards and almost 37 points a game. They became more potent as the season progressed, ringing up at least 40 points in seven of the final nine games. The spread has officially sunk in. Fedora will once again have the services of multi-faceted QB Austin Davis, a microcosm of the diverse attack. He thinks pass first, but won’t hesitate to burn defenses with his legs. He’ll have to fight for carries this fall in a backfield loaded with upside in the form of Kendrick Hardy and Desmond Johnson. Southern Miss will have few problems running the ball, but the passing game needs help from a receiving corps and offensive line that was bitten by the graduation bug. While WR Kelvin Bolden is a potential game-changer, he’s more of the exception than the rule on the outside.

Defense: After one too many defensive implosions, head coach Larry Fedora decided to make a dramatic change on defense, hiring coordinator Dan Disch. The coach arrives by way of Illinois, armed with a new 4-2-5 alignment designed to get more playmakers on the field and compete with some of Conference USA’s better offenses. The Golden Eagles harbor a nice assortment of talent on the front six, including DE Cordarro Law and LB Korey Williams, which will frustrate opposing lines. A turnaround, however, will depend on the play of the secondary, the weakest defensive link a year ago. Southern Miss allowed 28 touchdown passes, wilting in the red zone. The current edition is a youthful one that’s hoping up-and-coming CB Deron Wilson can shake off some offseason issues and return to the team in August.

3. UCF
Predicted Overall Record: 8-4
Predicted Conference Record: 5-3

Offense: UCF found its long-awaited offensive savior from an unlikely source—a 5-11, 182-pound rookie playing quarterback. The Knights took a chance on diminutive Jeff Godfrey when other wouldn’t, handing him the job last September. He responded by lighting a fire under the perpetually stagnant offense, leading the program to unprecedented success with the ball. A born leader, with great wheels, he gave an added dimension to the attack. A year older and wiser, the staff is hoping its Doug Flutie impersonator will be even better. He’ll get plenty of help from one of Conference USA’s deepest backfields, a group that includes Latavius Murray, last year’s leading rusher Ronnie Weaver, and former 1,000-yard runner Brynn Harvey, who’s coming back from an ACL tear. Elsewhere, though, UCF has reason to be worried. The passing game, for instance, will be missing last year’s top two receivers and best pass blocker, Jah Reid, who was chosen in the third round by the Baltimore Ravens.

Defense: When Dave Huxtable moved on to Wisconsin, it opened the door for a familiar face to take over at coordinator, veteran John Skladany. Already on staff as an assistant, he’ll be reprising a role he held in the past under George O’Leary. He takes control of a D coming off one of its best seasons, ranking in the top 15 in total defense and scoring defense. The Knights play the game fast and furious, employing the speed of its recruits. While a handful of starters are gone, including all-time sack leader Bruce Miller, UCF plans to pick up where it left off in 2010. The line returns a bunch of lettermen, pointing to Troy Davis as the possible successor to Miller off the edge. The secondary will insert a pair of new starters, but welcomes back first team all-stars Josh Robinson and Kemal Ishmael. The linebackers took a hit from graduation, needing to regroup around Josh Linam.

4. Marshall
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6
Predicted Conference Record: 5-3

Offense: Marshall’s struggles on offense show no signs of going away. A year after ranking No. 11 in Conference USA scoring and total offense, the Herd could be stuck in neutral once again in 2011. The problem is that the program has a dearth of catalysts to get the attack cranking and put defenses on their heels. Whoever wins the job, A.J. Graham or Eddie Sullivan, quarterback will be the domain of a raw and untested sophomore. The running game ranked 114th nationally a year ago and the offensive line has undergone some serious turnover. The wide receiver tandem of Aaron Dobson and Antavious Wilson will be the strength of the offense, but will you know it if the young quarterbacks can’t deliver the ball consistently? Lacking the scoring punch to make a quick turnaround, Marshall will continue to have problems moving the chains and putting points on the board.

Defense: Thrust into the coordinator’s seat last February, Chris Rippon did a fine job in his first season in Huntington. The Herd ranked fourth in Conference USA total defense and scoring D, while leading the league in sacks. Now, the coach is demanding that his unit be even better. Marshall returns nine starters from that group. While LB Mario Harvey is a monstrous loss, the return of DE Vinny Curry, who considered leaving early, softens the blow. He’s an early candidate for the conference’s defensive player of the year, with a shot to go national in 2011. A lot of the credit a year ago belongs with a secondary that flew past expectations to become an unexpected strength. With FS Omar Brown carrying the banner, just about everyone of significance returns to the defensive backfield. The biggest need area, though, centers on takeaways, something the Herd has been unable to master over the past few seasons.

5. UAB
Predicted Overall Record: 4-8
Predicted Conference Record: 2-6

Offense: Life after star QB Joe Webb was ... unexpectedly productive. Pegged as a rebuilding year, 2010 wound up being surprisingly prolific for UAB, which was balanced and ranked 30th nationally in total offense. The key was supplied by QB Bryan Ellis, who took over in September and went on to throw for almost 3,000 yards and 25 touchdown passes. He’s back, as is all-purpose RB Pat Shed and nearly all of the components of one of Conference USA’s best lines. In other words, the Blazers are going to score, a must when the defense figures to be suspect. The only question mark exists in a receiving corps that lost some of last season’s top performers. Not only do more hands need to be cultivated, but a pass-catching tight end will be necessary to work the middle of the field.

Defense: As many as ten starters are back on defense, yet the biggest splash is being made by coordinator Tommy West, who’s making his return to Conference USA. Out of the game in 2010, the former head coach at Memphis and Clemson has been tasked with the job of making the Blazer D tougher to navigate. He inherits a veteran team bringing back last year’s top five tacklers. The coach’s biggest concern will be up front on a defensive line that was hardest hit by graduation. DT Elliott Henigan has leading man qualities, but his supporting cast is weak. And if UAB is unable to generate pressure the traditional way, it’ll put more pressure on already vulnerable secondary. LB Marvin Burdette and S Jamie Bender are a pair of last year’s first-time starters on the verge of becoming Conference USA all-stars.

6. Memphis
Predicted Overall Record: 2-11
Predicted Conference Record: 0-8

Offense: The only direction is up for the Memphis offense ... at least statistically. The Tigers were among the nation’s feeblest attacks, ranking 119th nationally in scoring and 117th in total offense. In an attempt to address myriad issues, the staff is moving from a pro-style approach to more of a spread system. Apparently, it didn’t meet the approval of starting QB Ryan Williams, who has decided to transfer, leaving the school with unproven Andy Summerlin and Will Gilchrist to compete for the job. Whoever gets the ball will try to get it in the hands of RB Jerrell Rhodes and WR Marcus Rucker, Memphis’ two best threats, as often as possible. Even more than the uncertainty behind center, the Tigers need to address an offensive line that got trucked regularly in 2010 and returns few familiar faces. While there’s speed and upside potential at the skill positions, it’ll get lost in the mix if the front wall can’t do a much better job of controlling the line of scrimmage.

Defense: After having absolutely nothing go right in 2010, Memphis is seeking a defensive do-over. The Tigers were shredded in every way imaginable, ranking no higher than eighth in Conference USA in run defense, pass defense, scoring D, sacks, or takeaways. The promising news for second-year coordinator Jay Hopson is that he used a ton of young players throughout last season. DL Frank Trotter, NT Dontari Poe, and LB DeRon Furr will continue to be the mainstays, but there’s hope that last fall’s freshmen have grown up. Underclassmen, such as DE Corey Jones and corners Lonnie Ballentine, Taurean Nixon, and Mohammed Seisay represent hope for better days down the road. It’s hard to imagine things getting any worse for a unit that was treated like a piñata in 2010.

EAST
- 2011 East Carolina Preview | 2011 Marshall Preview 
- 2011 Memphis Preview | 2011 Southern Miss Preview 
- 2011 UAB Preview | 2011 UCF Preview

WEST
- 2011 Houston Preview | 2011 Rice Preview 
- 2011 SMU Preview | 2011 Tulane Preview
- 2011 Tulsa Preview | 2011 UTEP Preview 

- 2011 C-USA Preview | 2011 C-USA Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN C-USA Schedules & Picks | 2011 C-USA Thoughts
- 2011 CFN All-C-USA Team & Top 30 Players
- 2011 C-USA East Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2011 C-USA West Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish 
- 2011 C-USA Big Questions | 2010 C-USA Preview 
- Suggestions or something we missed? Let us know