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2011 Preseason Rankings - No. 91 to 100
Colorado State QB Pete Thomas
Colorado State QB Pete Thomas
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 3, 2011


Preview 2011 CFN Preseason Rankings No. 91 to 100 ... Sure To Struggle


    
Preview 2011 - Preseason Rankings

Sure To Struggle - No. 91 to 100


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 
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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.

91. Ohio Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

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

What to watch for on offense: The backfield. The line will be terrific and the receiving corps is loaded, but the offense will sputter unless the running backs shine and a starting quarterback emerges. Donte Harden is a talented back, but injuries have kept his career under wraps. Tyler Tettleton and Kyle Snyder are decent passing options, and Phil Bates is a dangerous running quarterback who could move to receiver, but there’s a major prove-it factor for a backfield that has to be more productive than it was last year.

What to watch for on defense: The play of the defensive front. The back seven can hang with anyone in the league, but the front four has to replace all four starters and has to prove it can be as stout as last year’s line was against the run. Getting into the backfield is a must for a unit that was mediocre when it came to hitting the quarterback, but it’s a good-sized group that has the potential and ability to be good with a little bit of time.

92. Idaho Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

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

What to watch for on offense: The offensive line. The Idaho front five had to deal with the loss of Mike Iupati last year, but his departure wasn’t the only reason the production wasn’t there. Idaho finished 118th in the nation in rushing, partly because of all the yards lost on sacks, giving up a whopping 45. Three starters are back including both tackles, Matt Cleveland and Tyrone Novikoff, and they have to be terrific with a new starting quarterback, uncertainty in the backfield, and with a new redshirt freshman center, Mike Marboe, stepping in to quarterback the line.

What to watch for on defense: Even more of a pass rush. In 2009 the Vandals were 114th in the nation in sacks and 115th in tackles for loss. The defense was miserable mostly because the front seven couldn’t generate any pressure and couldn’t come up with enough big plays. That changed last year with a more concerted effort to sell out and disrupt things from the outside, and it worked with 31 sacks and 88 tackles for loss – a HUGE improvement. Only two starters are back up front, but he the coaching staff is going to stay ultra-aggressive in an attempt to be even more disruptive. The D needs to come up with takeaways, and the only way that will happen is by getting to the quarterback on a regular basis.

93. Central Michigan Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

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

What to watch for on offense: QB Ryan Radcliff improving. The CMU passing game finished 17th in America in yards, but was 77th in efficiency. No one could do an adequate job of replacing Dan LeFevour, but Radcliff did his best. With a live arm and good skills, he’s the passer who can quickly become more of a bomber than LeFevour, even if he doesn’t have the same mobility, and now he has to cut down on his interceptions and build off his strong November. Struggling to get the passing game going, he kicked it into high gear in the final three games throwing for over 300 in each, and now that he’s working behind an improved line, he should be a threat for a 4,000-yard season.

What to watch for on defense: Speed in the secondary. The front seven will have a ton of issues. The pass rush was non-existent last season and the linebacking corps has to replace all three starters. There’s athleticism up front and the stats will be there, but the run defense will hardly be a strength and, despite a concerted effort to start being more disruptive, there won’t be enough plays behind the line. Fortunately, CMU has a track team, almost literally, in the secondary with four blazers. The corners can fly, and the safeties might be even faster. 

94. Troy Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Secondary

What to watch for on offense: More of an emphasis on the ground game. The Trojans will always bomb away, and Corey Robinson is one of the Sun Belt’s best young quarterbacks and one of the nation’s most dangerous statistical stars, but this year the Trojans should work more with the ground game. Losing the top three receivers, including Jerrel Jernigan, is part of the reason for more balance, but having a group of backs who can crank out big plays is a bigger factor. Shawn Southward is the starter and he should average over five yards per carry, but he won’t have to handle all the work with Chris Anderson a dangerous scatback who can catch and D.J. Taylor a nice option to use on the inside.

What to watch for on defense: A secondary. Finally. Even though the Trojans finished fifth in the nation in sacks and 15th in tackles for loss, the pass defense didn’t get the job done allowing a Sun Belt-worst 245 yards per game. That’s hard to do in a league that couldn’t throw the ball. Now the secondary looks terrific with experience on the outside and depth on the inside, with Jimmie Anderson and Davis Whitmore two decent corners with 39 combined starts, and with strong safety Bryden Trawick coming in from the JUCO ranks by way of Michigan State. Fellow JUCO transfer Angelo Hadley is a strong-looking free safety while Cameron Hudson, Barry Valin, and Ladarrius Madden are veterans who know what they’re doing.

95. Kent State Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Special Teams
Relative Weaknesses: Linebacker, Offensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The passing game. New head coach Darrell Hazell wants to spread out the offense and get something moving through the air, but with a balance to the offense. He’s looking for a quick, up-tempo offense that keeps defenses on their toes. The Golden Flashes finished 102nd in the nation in total offense and 99th in scoring offense, but the pieces are there to improve in a hurry. The line couldn’t generate any sort of a push for the ground game, but it was good in pass protection. The receivers are strong, the backs are slippery, and Spencer Keith has two years of experience. If Keith isn’t getting the job done, though, Hazell will change things up in a hurry to try to get the nation’s 102nd most efficient passing game moving.

What to watch for on defense: The back seven. As long as Roosevelt Nix is turned loose into the backfield, the pass rush will aggressive, fast, and athletic, but some key parts of the puzzle are gone from last year’s No. 4 ranked defense. Dorian Wood (96 tackles), Brian Lainhart (88), and Cobrani Mixon (82) were the team’s top three tacklers last year and cleaned up a ton of messes that allowed the front four to do whatever it needed to in the pass rush. Wood and Mixon were machines who did a little or everything for the linebacking corps, while Lainhart was a big-time tackler who owned the secondary for the last few years. There are good players returning, and six starters are back, but the back seven has to be steady.

96. Tulane Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Special Teams

What to watch for on offense: The next phase of QB Ryan Griffin’s maturation process. The best passer in Bob Toledo’s era, he made considerable strides in his sophomore year. Despite playing through pain, which required offseason foot and shoulder surgery, he managed to throw 14 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions. The hope is that he’ll start turning the corner as the second half of his career begins, elevating the play of a questionable collection of receivers.

What to watch for on defense: Holy Moses. The Green Wave plucked a gem out of the Big Ten two years ago, when it enticed Dezman Moses to transfer from Iowa. One of Conference USA’s top pass-rushing ends, he debuted in New Orleans with 11.5 stops for loss, six sacks, and three forced fumbles. Essentially a fleet-footed outside linebacker going up against lumbering tackles, he has too much explosive speed to be kept out of the backfield. He’ll command double-teams, which will open the field up for Austen Jacks on the other side.

97. Middle Tenn. Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Special Teams, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Running Back, Secondary

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. Dwight Dasher struggled. He came back from his suspension and couldn’t stop giving the ball away, and while he was terrific at times against the weak teams, and he was just good enough to get the Blue Raiders into a bowl game, he made too many mistakes. Junior Logan Kilgore started the season when Dasher was out and did a nice job, throwing for 207 yards in a win over Louisiana and pushing Minnesota with 172 yards in the loss. He had problems with foot and toe injuries and didn’t play over the second half of the year. Jeff Murphy threw for 301 yards against Austin Peay and did a good job running the ball. Now Dasher is gone and Kilgore and Murphy are in the hunt for the job. They can both produce, and they might be steadier than Dasher was, even if they’re not as spectacular.

What to watch for on defense: More aggressiveness. It’s not like the Blue Raider defense can do anything more to get into the backfield after coming up with 34 sacks and 96 tackles for loss, but new defensive coordinator Steve Ellis wants his D to force more mistakes and come up with more big plays. Last year the Blue Raiders came up with a mere 11 interceptions and eight fumbles recoveries, and that’s about to change if Ellis has anything to do with it.

98. Colorado State Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

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

What to watch for on offense: The blocking. Considering Fairchild wanted the strength of his team to be the offensive line, it’s been a miserable failure so far. The Rams were 118th in the nation in sacks allowed and did nothing for a ground game that averaged a measly 113 yards per game. Four starters return with a strong talent in tackle Paul Madsen to work around. Center Weston Richburg is a 302-pound sophomore who’ll end up making an all-star team or two by the time he’s done, and there’s good bulk and strength across the board. Also adding to the mix of physical play is Crockett Gilmore, a former defensive end who’s moving to tackle. While he’s a pass catcher, he’s physical and will start blasting away a bit. There’s speed in the backfield and a talented quarterback in Pete Thomas to work around, and now the line has to do its job.

What to watch for on defense: The 3-4. The defense was supposed to be improved last year after returning nine starters, but it didn’t quite work out that way. While the defense will still have a 4-3 look from time to time, the coaching staff is trying to shake things up a bit with a 3-4 to get more speed and more athleticism on the field. Losing linebacker Michael Kawulok to a knee injury isn’t a plus, but it’s still going to be an athletic front seven that should get into the backfield on a regular basis at outside linebacker. There might be problems now and then against the more physical teams, but the change should be a plus against the spread.
 
99. North Texas Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

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

What to watch for on offense: The health of the quarterbacks. Riley Dodge was supposed to be a franchise quarterback who combined with his dad to make the offense shine, but he was never healthy and the production wasn’t there. Derek Thompson looked great when he got his chance, but he suffered a broken leg. Former starter Nathan Tune got a chance, and he got bounced with a broken hip. Now the hope is to finally have some continuity under center, and while the UNT quarterback’s main job will be to hand the ball off to Dunbar, keeping the chains moving with a few key third down throws will be a must.

What to watch for on defense: The improvement of the secondary. The UNT pass defense wasn’t too bad considering there wasn’t any pass rush, and it was helped stats-wise by getting pounded on against the run. Now the secondary should be tremendous with four starters returning led by DaWaylon Cook, who’s back after suffering a torn ACL and should be in the mix for all-star honors. Brad Graham and John Shorter are good hitting veterans, and D’Leon McCord and Royce Hill are good corners who’ll hold down the fort until Cook is 100% and back to normal. Considering teams like Houston and Tulsa are on the schedule early on, the pass defense will be tested.
 
100. ULM Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart 

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Secondary

Best offensive player: Senior WR Luther Ambrose. Browning is the star of the offense, but Ambrose is the best player. The 5-8, 181-pound senior has made 111 career tackles and has been a decent return man, and now he should explode into a Sun Belt superstar. ULM has just enough talent and speed at receiver to take the focus off Ambrose, who should be the ultimate deep threat with sprinter’s speed – he’s a star on the track – and with good hands. He’s a true No. 1 target.

Best defensive player: Junior LB Cameron Blakes. He might not have led the team in tackles, and safety Darius Prelow, end Ken Dorsey, and linebacker Jason Edwards are among the team’s top players, but it’s the speedy Blakes who should be the star. He led the team in sacks, finished second on the team in tackles, and was second in tackles for loss. Working on the outside, he’s a dangerous disruptive force who can fly into the backfield and drop into pass coverage with equal ease.

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