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2011 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 111 to 120
Eastern Michigan QB Alex Gillett
Eastern Michigan QB Alex Gillett
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 3, 2011


How do the teams rank from top to bottom going into the season? Here we go with the CFN Preseason Rankings from one to 120, starting out with The Bottom Ten.


    
Preview 2011 - Preseason Rankings

The Bottom Ten - No. 111 to 120


2011 CFN Preseason Rankings  
Preview 2011 | 1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50
51 to 60 | 61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 120 
 - CFN Preseason Rankings 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007

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There's one very important distinction in the CFN preseason rankings: these are based on how good the teams are going into the season and NOT how they're going to finish. Some teams have easier schedules than others, some get tougher road games and some will need a little bit of time to jell meaning they might be better than their final record might indicate. Going into the year, these are how good the teams appear to be from No. 1 through 120.

111. UTEP Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Offensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The situation at quarterback. While it’s not as if Trevor Vittatoe is irreplaceable, UTEP failed to establish his successor over the last couple of seasons. The quartet battling for the job includes a rookie, a walk-on, a journeyman, and a junior-college transfer. The latter, Nick Lamaison, came out of spring with the lead. A hard-throwing hurler from Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) College, he also spent time at Tennessee as a Lane Kiffin recruit. He’ll need to be the answer in the passing game because no one else appears ready to lead this offense.

What to watch for on defense: The maturity of the defensive tackles. The Miners handed the inside of the line to a pair of freshmen in 2010, and lived to tell about it. Now the program would like to crow about it. DT Germard Reed and NT Marcus Bagley did solid jobs in their debuts, combining to make 59 tackles and 5.5 stops for loss. Active and, in the case of the 330-pound Bagley, stout, the pair provides a ray of hope to a Miner defensive front that’s been far too ineffective for far too long.

112. Bowling Green Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Receiver, Quarterback
Relative Weaknesses: Running Back, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: Schilz to Jorden. In 2009, QB Tyler Sheehan threw for 4,051 yards and 27 touchdowns with seven picks. He completed 373 passes, and Freddie Barnes caught an NCAA record-setting 155 of them for 1,770 yards and 19 touchdowns in an unstoppable season. There wasn’t any semblance of a running game, but Sheehan and Barnes were throwing it around the yard at will. Last year, Matt Schilz, trying to figure out what he was doing, only threw eight touchdown passes with 14 picks, and he only threw for 2,223 yards, but Kamer Jordan still had a huge season catching 96 passes for 1,109 yards and four scores. While there will be some attempt to start running the ball, the bread will be buttered again by the passing game, and the combination of Schilz to Jorden will be among the most productive in America.

What to watch for on defense: The secondary. The run defense was among the worst in college football over the last few seasons, and it’ll still be a problem for the front six in the 4-2-5 alignment, but the secondary also has to be tighter after struggling last year finishing 91st in the nation and 11th in the MAC in pass efficiency defense. Four starters are back, and while it’s still a young defensive backfield, it’s athletic and it should be better. If the line can come up with any semblance of a pass rush, the production will be there.

113. Louisiana-Lafayette Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Special Teams

What to watch for on offense: Getting the quarterback situation right. Head coach Mark Hudspeth was used to dealing with a decent quarterback controversy at Mississippi State with Tyler Russell and Chris Relf two starting-caliber playmakers who needed to see time. Relf, partly because of injury, emerged as the main man, and now the coaching staff needs to figure out which of the three good quarterback options should lead the Ragin’ Cajuns. Chris Masson is the best of the lot, and he has the leadership and experience to know what he’s doing, but he might not be the runner the coaches are looking for. Blaine Gautier is mobile and can make things happen in a variety of ways, but he’s not going to bomb away. Brad McGuire will end up being a fullback/H-Back again, but he has a live arm and can get the ball down the field.

What to watch for on defense: The corners. If the secondary got the benefit of a pass rush – any pass rush – the world would change for a defense that might have the best corner tandem in the Sun Belt. Melvin White is very tall and is a terrific athlete, but he has to make more big plays and has to use his size to bully more receivers. Dwight “Bill” Bentley is a crusty veteran who has seen it all and doesn’t make any mistakes against the run. The two should lock down at times, even after getting ripped apart last year, but they need some semblance of help from the front seven. Providing a boost in the rotation will be JUCO transfer Jemarious Moten and Trevence Pratt, who can both serve as nickel and dime defenders.

114. UNLV Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. The running game will be left to the backs, but the offense only works if the passing game gets the production needed from the new, inexperienced bombers. The Rebels couldn’t find the right fit at quarterback last season, starting out with Mike Clausen to try to get the passing game going, and ending up going back to veteran Omar Clayton, a playmaker who struggled with no room to move and no time to throw. They’re both gone, but there might be an improvement at the position with sophomore Caleb Herring a good passer who fits exactly what Bobby Hauck wants to do. He’s a winner with the right leadership abilities and the attitude the team needs, but he’ll be pushed hard by JUCO transfer Sean Reilly, a great passer who came up with 2,425 yards and 26 touchdowns with just six picks for Saddleback College.

What to watch for on defense: Princeton Jackson. The defensive line is very big, but so was last year’s line and it didn’t matter much. While the hope is for an improvement up front, the woeful D could potentially be night-and-day better with the addition of one player. Jackson is a 6-0, 240-pound star JUCO transfer out of Houston with the range and the talent to be the team’s leading tackler as the starting middle linebacker, and he has the toughness to be the type of player the entire defense works around. While it’s obviously a stretch to call him a Cam Newton-like impact player, he was the star of the Blinn College defense that won the JUCO national title in 2009 – quarterbacked by Cam Newton.

115. Akron Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Running Back, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The backfield. The line should be better with new starters Paul Simkovich and Adam Bice good enough to fill in the gaps, and the receiving corps is big and skilled with Penn State transfer A.J. Price adding more talent to the mix. However, the offense needs running backs to add more pop to the balance with Jawon Chisolm an untested but smooth back combining with Broderick Alexander, who’s coming off an Achilles heel injury. Quarterback Patrick Nicely has good skills but he completed fewer than half of his passes. Now he has to fight off Ole Miss transfer Clayton Moore, who can throw the ball a bit but is better known for his running ability.

What to watch for on defense: The pass rush. There hasn’t been one for a few years and the problems have trickled down into the secondary. The pass defense wasn’t bad a few years ago despite the lack of quarterback hits, but there were issues last season for a secondary that was trying to retool and reload. Three starters are back helped by a pair of decent-looking corners in Manley Waller and Anthony Holmes, but there will be more problems unless JUCO transfer John Griggs and veteran Hasan Hazime can bring the heat from the outside.

116.
Buffalo Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart 

Relative Strengths: Receiver, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The offensive line will start to take over a bit more. There was no push for the running game, and the pass protection was mediocre, but most of the problem was because no one could stay healthy. On the plus side, several players got their feet wet and will be ready for this year, and now the line is experienced and good. This is the year the program starts to reap the rewards of winning a championship a few years ago, and if the line can keep the same starting five together for an extended period of time, the results should come.

What to watch for on defense: The linebackers. The front three isn’t going to get into the backfield, and the secondary is going to struggle after replacing several phenomenal talents, but the linebacking corps should be disruptive and dangerous, especially on the outside. Jaleel Verser and Khalil Mack are two of the MAC’s best young playmakers and they should do a little of everything with the speed to rush the passer and the toughness to hold up against the run.

117.
New Mexico State Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Secondary
Relative Weaknesses: Wide Receiver, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: Offensive coordinator Doug Martin. Here’s the problem with hiring the former Kent State head coach to run the offense; the Kent State offense stunk. It was the Golden Flash defense that rocked, ranking among the best in the nation against the run thanks to one of the most aggressive defensive fronts in the game. The NMSU offense couldn’t get vertical last year and the running game couldn’t seem to find a groove – ever – and Martin will try to find a balance right away that works. You can’t win in the WAC if you’re last in the league in total offense and scoring offense, and now Martin will have to try where so many have failed.

What to watch for on defense: Can the Aggies generate a pass rush? Yeah, Martin is the offensive coordinator, and Walker knows what he’s doing on D and is giving the coordinator duties over to linebacker coach Dale Lindsey, but the coaching staff might want to tap the new offensive coordinator for ideas. Kent State finished eighth in the nation in sacks, third in tackles for loss, and fourth in run defense under Martin’s watch, while New Mexico State was 119th in the nation in sacks, 119th in rushing, and 111th against the run. The WAC might not be as pass-happy as it was in the past, but it would be nice to get into the backfield against teams like Hawaii, Idaho, and Fresno State.

118. Memphis Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Offensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The Jerrell Rhodes more travelled. In an ideal world, Memphis will be able to feed the ball to its sophomore back 20-25 times a game. Not only would it mean that the Tigers aren’t constantly playing from behind, but he’s worth that many touches. Symbolic of the level of talent head coach Larry Porter is trying to attract to the campus, he has the size, speed, and balance of running backs more typically found in larger leagues, such as the ACC or the SEC.

What to watch for on defense: More help from the D-line. Relatively speaking, the strength of Jay Hopson’s defense is up front, where three starters and eight letterwinners are back. Frank Trotter is the program’s most consistent overall player, NT Dontari Poe has an NFL body, and Corey Jones is the young leader of an athletic group of ends. While it won’t be enough to erase the problems of one of America’s worst units, it will make life a little more bearable for the members of the back seven.

119. Wyoming Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Linebacker

What to watch for on offense: What will new offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon do for the offense? As the former head coach at Bowling Green from 2003 to 2008, his teams were loaded with high-octane attacks with good passing games and tremendous production from the quarterbacks. He’s one of the better spread coaches in the game and he knows how to get everyone in the right spot and in places to spread out the field, but he first needs to find the right quarterback to lead the way. The pressure will be on Brett Smith to be a star right away and to make the program his, but he also has to mesh with Brandon.

What to watch for on defense: The improvement of the defensive front. The Cowboys struggled last year to get into the backfield finishing with just 20 sacks and a mere 58 tackles for loss, compared to the 31 sacks allowed and the 104 tackles for loss given up. It’s not like the pass rush with lights-out two years ago when UW came up with a winning season, but it was better. Now the defensive front, for the first time in years, has to be stronger and has to be far, far better against the run with all four starters returning up front, led by ends Gabe Knapton and Josh Biezuns. The experience is there for a big season, and the line has to shine.

120. Eastern Michigan Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Secondary
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Line, Linebacker

What to watch for on offense: More from the wide receivers. The Eagle running game was decent because quarterback Alex Gillett ran for his life and took off when needed, but the passing attack was mediocre averaging just 160 yards per game and finishing 96th in the nation in efficiency. Gillett knows what he’s doing now, he has a decent arm to push the ball down the field, and the receivers should shine. Safety valve tight end Ben Thayer is gone, but junior Kinsman Thomas is a big field stretcher who averaged 18.2 yards per catch. Donald Scott averaged 16.6 yards per play, and tight end Garrett Hoskins, Thayer’s replacement, averaged 27.1 yards per play on his eight catches. It’s not exactly going to be bombs away, but the attempt will be there to start to get vertical.

What to watch for on defense: The new guys. Experience is nice, and Eastern Michigan has that all up and down the defense, but talent is better. The coaching staff worked to upgrade the all-around ability of the defense in the latest class, and it should pay off. Marlon Pollard is big and quick, and he’s ready to make a big impact after sitting out last year, while JUCO transfers Sean Kurtz, Blake Poole, and Justin Cudworth will be among the team’s leading tacklers right away. Freshman Sean Cotton and JUCO transfer Tyrone Taylor will certainly see time in the secondary to add depth to an already decent group. All the jobs are there for the taking and there will be plenty of playing around with the lineup to find the right mix.

2011 CFN Preseason Rankings  
Preview 2011 | 1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50
51 to 60 | 61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 120