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2011 Sun Belt Preview - Team Breakdowns
Florida Atlantic RB Alfred Morris
Florida Atlantic RB Alfred Morris
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 31, 2011


Preview 2011 - CFN Sun Belt Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finishes


Preview 2011

Sun Belt Team By Team


- 2011 Arkansas State Preview | 2011 Florida Atlantic Preview
- 2011 FIU Preview | 2011 Louisiana-Lafayette Preview 
- 2011 Middle Tenn. Preview | 2011 North Texas Preview 
- 2011 Troy Preview | 2011 ULM Preview | 2011 WKU Preview 

- 2011 Sun Belt Preview
- CFN Thoughts on the Sun Belt | 2011 Sun Belt Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN All-Sun Belt Team & Top 30 Players
- 2011 Sun Belt Schedules & Picks
- 2011 Sun Belt Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish  
- 2010 Sun Belt Preview  


Sun Belt Predicted Finish

1. Troy
Predicted Overall Record: 7-5

Offense: The Troy offense was supposed to undergo a little bit of a change after bombing away in 2009, but offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield didn’t mix things up too much as the offense finished 11th in the nation in passing, and first in the Sun Belt in both passing and rushing. Sophomore Corey Robinson is the star of the passing game with good rushing ability and the potential to once again put up huge numbers following a 3,726-yard campaign. Shawn Southward and Chris Anderson and small, quick backs who can crank out yards in chunks and they can also catch. The receiving corps is full of options, and while some new players need to step up to replace Jerrel Jernigan, there’s good potential. The line gets back two key starters, led by James Brown at tackle, but the pass protection has to improve.

Defense: The defense didn’t exactly dominate, struggling to keep the better passing games under wraps, allowing a Sun Belt-worst 245 yards per game, while the run defense wasn’t too much better. There’s a chance for a big step up in overall production with eight starters returning led by linebackers Xavier lamb and Kanorris Davis, two small, speedy defenders who’ll get all over the field. Three returning starters in the secondary should help the cause, and now they have to take advantage of a killer pass rush with Jonathan Massaquoi back to lead the way at one end. Consistency is the key for a defense that allowed 24 points or more nine times before stepping up late in the year to allow 42 points in the final three games.

2. FIU
Predicted Overall Record: 7-5 

Offense: Offensive coordinator Scott Satterfield came in last year and made a night-and-day difference for the FIU attack. All of a sudden, the line started to produce, the running game was great, and the passing game was shockingly efficient. The return of Sun Belt Player of the Year, T.Y. Hilton, gives the receiving corps a star to work around, but there are other veteran targets good enough to make the air attack even stronger. The ground attack should be terrific with four productive backs returning led by 16-touchdown rusher Darriet Perry and speedy home-run threat Darian Mallary. Quarterback Wesley Carroll has the job all to himself, and he’s just the type of veteran who can utilize all the weapons as long as he gets time.

Defense: Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando enters the mix after working at Connecticut, and while FIU has its third defensive coordinator in the last three seasons, having a defensive head coach in Mario Cristobal is a big help. The D led the Sun Belt total defense and scoring defense, and while it was hardly a brick wall, it was productive. The pass rush was terrific, and it should be again with Tourek Williams leading a fast defensive front. There’s athleticism to burn at linebacker, but the bulk isn’t there to hold up against the bigger and badder running games. The secondary loses some key stars, but it’ll still be a strength led by the return of all-around playmaking safety Jonathan Cyprien.

3. ULM
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6 

Offense: There’s no excuse for offensive coordinator Steve Farmer’s attack to not be better and more consistent. This isn’t going to be the most balanced of offenses, but it should be extremely effective, especially through the air. QB Kolton Browning had a strong first season, and now he should be a better decision maker and should be a threat to throw for over 3,000 yards helped by a terrific receiving corps. Lightning fast Luther Ambrose leads a veteran group that gets all of the top options back. The running game is going to play second-fiddle, but it has three decent backs with separate skill sets to play around with. The key will be the improvement on the line. A disaster at times last year with injuries and inconsistency keeping the front five from finding the right combination until late, now it’s a big, experienced group with six starters returning and plenty of versatility to fill in the gaps when needed.

Defense: Defensive coordinator Troy Reffett’s 3-3-5 defense didn’t exactly dominate last year, but it got the job done finishing second in the Sun Belt in total defense and first against the run for the second year in a row. There was decent pressure on the quarterback from time to time, but there weren’t enough plays made in the backfield on a regular basis. That might change this year with ends Ken Dorsey and Troy Evans among the best in the league, while Cameron Blakes and Jason Edwards are tremendously disruptive linebackers who’ll have to be gameplanned for. The secondary isn’t special and there’s no size, but there’s decent experience and everyone can move. Safety Darius Prelow should be an all-star in the third safety spot, or the Hawk.

4. Arkansas State
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6 

Offense: The Hugh Freeze no-huddle, high-octane offense worked. After finishing second in the Sun Belt in scoring offense and total offense, the potential is there to do even more. The passing game was explosive and was among the best in school history, and now the sky’s the limit if the protection is there. Four starters are gone from the line and it’s going to take a little while to find the right combination. Fortunately, everything else is in place with QB Ryan Aplin, one of the best all-around playmakers in the Sun Belt, leading the way. Running backs Derek Lawson and Jermaine Robertson are veterans who can average five yards per carry, and the receiving corps could be the best in the conference with top targets Dwayne Frampton, Allen Muse, and Taylor Stockemer returning along with both tight ends.

Defense: There’s falling off the map, and there’s the 2010 ASU defense. The Red Wolves led the Sun Belt in total defense and scoring defense in 2009, and even though there was some rebuilding to be done, the production was supposed to keep on coming. Instead, the D was the worst in the league giving up 437 yards per game while giving up 31 points per outing. Seven starters are back and there’s hope for a big improvement with a decent-looking line looking to quickly improve the awful run defense. Linebacker Demario Davis has the potential to be a special, Sun Belt Player of the Year type of playmaker, and safety Kelcie McCray is the leader of a promising five man secondary.

5. North Texas
Predicted Overall Record: 3-9 

Offense: The offense was supposed to be special under former head coach Todd Dodge, but the attack got worse and worse. While finishing fourth in the league in total offense isn’t that bad, the passing game stunk and RB Lance Dunbar carried the team. With the uptick in production over the final part of the year when Mike Canales took over the coaching duties, that was enough to keep him on as offensive coordinator for the new coaching staff. The key will be the health of the quarterbacks with Derek Thompson needing to come back from a broken leg to give the attack a passing game again, while the offensive line combination has to be figured out to pave the way for Dunbar, who has Sun Belt Player of the Year potential. Darius Carey and Tyler Stradford should form a terrific receiving pair.

Defense: Clint Bowen might be the North Texas defensive coordinator, but head coach Dan McCarney is going to get this defense working. McCarney became a star as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator in the early 1990s and has done a whale of a job with Florida’s defensive line over the last few seasons. He has a veteran corps returning led by a secondary that dealt with a slew of injuries last year and now is loaded with options. The linebacking corps should be fine with Zach Orr ready to be a big factor in the middle and Jeremy Phillips a playmaker on the outside. The key will be to generate more of a pass rush, and both starting defensive ends are back. Overall the run defense has to be far tougher and the D has to come up with more big plays. McCarney will make sure both things happen.

6. Florida Atlantic
Predicted Overall Record: 3-9 

Offense: After a 2009 with a veteran attack that produced some decent numbers, the Owls had to completely rebuild parts of offense, and it showed. The pass protection was miserable and the passing game was wildly inefficient. Now the line returns all the key parts and Alfred Morris is one of the Sun Belt’s best backs, but the concern is at quarterback where there are some very big, very strong bombers who have to have to fight it out for the job. David Kooi and Graham Wilbert are huge, but they need time. The receiving corps has to find a No. 1 target to replace Lester Jean, but tight end Darian Williams should be fine in place of the ultra-athletic Rob Housler.

Defense: The defense wasn’t that bad finishing first in the Sun Belt against the pass, but it got blown away against the better running teams. In an effort to get even more speed and athleticism on the field, the Owls are moving to a 3-4 alignment and now several smallish defensive linemen will be in more natural linebacker spots. There’s plenty of rebuilding to do, especially in the secondary, but safety Marcus Bartels is a great one to work around. The front seven should get plenty of big plays from the linebackers, especially Cory Henry who moves from end to strongside linebacker; he’ll thrive with more room to move. Size isn’t the issue it normally is for FAU, but the front three has to do a better job of holding up.

7. Middle Tennessee
Predicted Overall Record: 3-9

Offense: New coordinator Willie Simmons has some excellent players to work with from an attack that was good last year, but not great. The offense became way too reliant on Dwight Dasher over the last few seasons, and he struggled too often with big mistakes at the wrong times. However, he was a playmaker who occasionally came up with the sensational throw or run to turn games around. He’s gone, and while the quarterback combination of Logan Kilgore and Jeff Murphy won’t be as dynamic, it should be far more efficient. Top back Phillip Tanner is gone, but Benjamin Cunningham and D.D. Kyles will produce behind one of the Sun Belt’s best lines. The Blue Raiders get four starters back up front, but as good as the line will be, the receiving corps could be the O’s strength with Malcolm Beyah and Sancho McDonald two dangerous deep threats.

Defense: New defensive coordinator Steve Ellis has a ton of work to do. The D had its down moments, but the pass rush was tremendous finishing second in the Sun Belt in sacks and first in tackles for loss. Only three starters are back, but there’s athleticism and speed up and down the depth chart. The line needs Omar McLendon on the end and Patrick McNeil on the inside to pick up the slack left by the loss of all four starters up front, while the return of safety Derrick Crumpton from a knee injury should help ease the pain of all the newcomers in the secondary. The linebackers are the strength with Darin Davis one of the league’s best on the outside, while the return of Stephen Roberts from a knee injury will be a huge help in the middle.

8. Louisiana
Predicted Overall Record: 3-9

Offense: New offensive coordinator Jay Johnson will try to mix it up a bit and will try to create a balance, but nothing will work unless the line, one of the Sun Belt’s biggest disappointments last year, starts to do more. There’s plenty of turnover and lots of question marks up front, but it’s a huge, HUGE line that should be able to shove some people around. There’s a ton of experience among the skill players with Chris Masson leading a good threesome of quarterbacks, while tight end Ladarius Green is one of the league’s best weapons and should be the centerpiece of the attack. The running backs are extremely quick, but they need room to move after getting little last year.

Defense:
Defensive coordinator Greg Stewart’s main goal is start getting pressure into the backfield. This has been a big, big problem over the last several years, but there’s enough depth and athleticism in the front seven to start hitting quarterbacks on a regular basis and to start making more plays behind the line. There’s good depth and several decent options at linebacker and on the front four, but the secondary, a particular strength this offseason, still needs work developing the backups. Dwight Bentley and Melvin White could be the Sun Belt’s best corner tandem, but they need more help from the pass rush and the safeties have to be more consistent. After allowing 400 yards and 37 points per game, it shouldn’t take much to improve the production.

9. Western Kentucky
Predicted Overall Record: 2-10

Offense: The offense might have sputtered at inexplicable times – six points against North Texas is unforgiveable – but it was effective running the ball with Bobby Rainey establishing himself as one of the nation’s premier workhorses. The key to the 2011 attack is finding more options to work into the running rotation and to get more out of a miserable passing game. Kawaun Jakes is a veteran, but he needs to become a more efficient passer and a better all-around playmaker. Marcus Vasquez and tight end Jack Doyle will anchor an improved receiving corps, while tackle Wes Jeffries leads a big line that can run block that needs to be far better in pass protection.

Defense: The youth movement of the last few seasons should start to pay off for a defense that was miserable two years ago, better last year, and promising going into 2010. While WKU allowed 380 yards per game and gave up 33 points per outing, it was far better against the pass and got several players into the rotation. The line is full of veterans, but a pass rush has to come from Jared Clendenin, Bo Adebayo and Quanterus Smith on the outside for a team that’s been among the worst in America at quarterback sacks over the last few years. The secondary should be a strength with a pair of great-looking sophomore corners in Tyree Robinson and Arius Wright, along with veteran Derrius Brooks, but the issue could be at linebacker where Thomas Majors will be tough to replace.

- 2011 Arkansas State Preview | 2011 Florida Atlantic Preview
- 2011 FIU Preview | 2011 Louisiana-Lafayette Preview 
- 2011 Middle Tenn. Preview | 2011 North Texas Preview 
- 2011 Troy Preview | 2011 ULM Preview | 2011 WKU Preview 

- 2011 Sun Belt Preview
- CFN Thoughts on the Sun Belt | 2011 Sun Belt Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN All-Sun Belt Team & Top 30 Players
- 2011 Sun Belt Schedules & Picks
- 2011 Sun Belt Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish  
- 2010 Sun Belt Preview