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2011 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 41 to 50
Iowa RB Marcus Coker
Iowa RB Marcus Coker
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 4, 2011


Preview 2011 CFN Preseason Rankings No. 41 to 50 ... Mid-Level Bowl Teams


Preview 2011 - Preseason Rankings

Mid-Level Bowl Teams - No. 41 to 50


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.

50. Maryland Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

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

What to look for on offense: The health of the O-line. What seems to be a perennial problem in the trenches shows no signs of going away. An already mediocre blocking unit has been besieged by injuries over the last few seasons, forcing the Terps to dig deeper into the depth chart than it can afford. Maryland needs a full complement of linemen to keep QB Danny O’Brien well-protected this fall, which means Justin Gilbert’s knee, Pete DeSouza’s fractured legs, and Justin Lewis’ knee will be monitored very closely this summer.

What to look for on defense: The young safeties. How confident is the new staff regarding junior Eric Franklin and sophomore Matt Robinson? So much so that it had no problems moving all-league S Kenny Tate to Star, a safety-linebacker hybrid. Franklin and Robinson both look the part, possessing the size and athletic ability to flourish early in their careers. While there’s justifiable concern because of the lack of experience, don’t be surprised if both performing like playmakers by the midway point of the season.

49. South Florida Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

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

What to watch for on offense: Great Scott. Okay, so RB Darrell Scott didn’t work out so well for Colorado, suffering from injuries and a questionable work ethic over two seasons. Tampa, though, represents a new lease on life for a back considered a can’t-miss recruit just three years ago. At 6-1 and 230 pounds, he still possesses the quickness and vision to begin reaching expectations in his new digs. Even if he shares the load with Demetris Murray, if he can get his act together and remain focused, the junior has a golden opportunity to reinvent himself and put a much-needed charge into the Bull ground game.

What to watch for on defense: Gidd-y up. The only reason some folks have been a little disappointed by DE Ryne Giddins’ first two years is that he arrived with more attention than any recruit in school history. In 2009, an ankle injury limited him to three games, and last fall, he took a backseat to the veterans. Healthy and entrenched atop the depth chart, he’s set to take flight and become South Florida’s next star pass rusher. An explosive playmaker off the edge, he’s packed on the muscle in an effort to better handle the demands of being an every-down player.

48. Cincinnati Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Defensive Line, Quarterback
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Secondar

What to watch for on offense: Thompkins toy. Cincinnati has a shiny new toy to play with on offense this season. In response to the graduation of all-star WR Armon Binns, the Bearcats went out and signed heralded JUCO recruit Kenbrell Thompkins out of El Camino (Calif.) Community College. An original commit to Tennessee, he’s a mega-talent, with the skills to be an instant hit in the Big East. He already impressed the coaches and quarterbacks in the spring with his size, explosiveness, and desire to trump veteran DJ Woods as the team’s primary pass-catching threat.

What to watch for on defense: Where’s Walter? Before spring, the coaching staff moved talented junior Walter Stewart from linebacker to defensive end, a more natural position for him. It makes except for the fact that the Bearcats are tissue thin at his old strongside spot, which explains why he’s listed on the post-spring two-deep as a possible starter at both positions. His eventual destination will depend on a handful of rookie linebackers, who are hoping to prove in the summer that they don’t need the help of the third-year starter.

47. Northwestern Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Running Back, Secondary

What to watch for on offense: The receiving corps. The offensive line is loaded with veterans, the running backs are in the spotlight to see if they can do more, and all eyes will be on Persa’s leg, but the unsung stars should be at receiver. No. 2 target Sidney Stewart is gone, but everyone else is back including leading receiver Demetrius Fields and do-it-all tight end Drake Dunsmore. Whether it’s Persa or backup Trevor Siemian, Evan Watkins, or Kain Colter under center, spreading the ball around to the various targets shouldn’t be a problem as Northwestern should have one of the more efficient passing games in the conference.

What to watch for on defense: The pass rush. Vince Browne has the potential to be a top 100 NFL draft pick with a huge senior season, but he needs help around him. Kevin Watt was supposed to be a dangerous No. 2 man on the other side, but he failed to come up with a sack, while the interior pressure wasn’t as strong as it should’ve been. If the Cats aren’t getting into the backfield from all four spots, then the linebackers will have to do even more to be disruptive – that’s not a plus for this team. Generating a pass rush was an issue when Fitzgerald took over, and then NU was terrific in 2008 – finishing second in the Big Ten in sacks and third in tackles for loss – and was decent in 2009. Last year the D regressed, finishing 104th in the nation in sacks. That can’t happen again.

46. Oregon State Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

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

What to watch for on offense: The attempt to replace Quizz. Over the last decade, Oregon State has been sneaky-good at birthing 1,000-yard rushers, like Rodgers, Steven Jackson, Yvenson Bernard, and Ken Simonton. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that a worthy successor to that lineage is currently on the roster. The Beavers’ have numerous options, from senior Ryan McCants to rookie Terron Ward, but none appear capable of keeping defenses from focusing on QB Ryan Katz and the passing attack. The possibility of a committee approach is code for mediocrity in the backfield.

What to watch for on defense: The hunt for edge rushers. While Oregon State ranked 24th nationally in sacks a year ago, much of that pressure came from the interior linemen and linebackers. End Gabe Miller collected five sacks, but he’s since graduated. In desperate of more support for the pass defense, the Beavers are counting on a trio of marginal juniors to ignite the pass rush. Taylor Henry started four games, yet had just one sack. Rusty Fernando spent last season in junior college. And Andrew Seumalo is a former walk-on. If these guys can’t get to the backfield more regularly, an already sketchy secondary is going to pay the biggest price.

45. Connecticut Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

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

What to watch for on offense: Sorting out the mess at quarterback. While it’s not uncommon to have two passers going neck-and-neck in the summer, a four-man heat is a major concern. The Huskies have struggled to find a replacement for Dan Orlovsky, who hasn’t been eligible since 2004. The new staff will continue auditions in August, splitting reps between sophomore Michael Box, junior Johnny McEntee, redshirt freshman Scott McCummings, and rookie Michael Nebrich. Box has the edge in experience, but the presumed frontrunner was unable to pull away from the competition in the spring.

What to watch for on defense: Holding the line. Connecticut isn’t home to the nation’s best defensive line. It might, however, boast the most underrated one. The Huskies welcome back eight letterwinners and all four starters to a unit that’s going to be deep and gifted. Leading the way is next-level DT Kendall Reyes, who’ll get plenty of support from Twyon Martin on the inside and Trevardo Williams and Jesse Joseph on the flanks. The defense is going to generate backfield pressure on a perpetual, which combined with veteran corners Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz will make it very difficult beating this team through the air.

44. Illinois Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

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

What to watch for on offense: The running back situation. Rashard Mendenhall was a special back who turned into a first round draft pick, and last year Mikel Leshoure took his game to another level with 1,697 yards and 17 scores, and he might be the centerpiece of the Detroit Lion running attack in the near future. Does Illinois have another back with the same talent level waiting in the wings? Jason Ford was supposed to be that guy at some point over the last few years, but it hasn’t happened yet and he’s already banged up coming out of spring ball with a dinged knee. Troy Pollard is a speedster with promise, but he was also hurt this offseason. It might be more running back by committee, but if nothing else, the Illini has to find options to take the pressure and the workload away from QB Nathan Scheelhaase, who finished second on the team with 868 rushing yards.

What to watch for on defense: The linebackers. Martez Wilson was an elite recruit who could’ve gone anywhere, suffered a serious neck injury, and came back to star with a team-leading 112 tackles on the way to being drafted by New Orleans. Nate Bussey came up with a surprising 93-tackle season and was all over the place with 8.5 tackles for loss and three recovered fumbles. He’s gone, too. The Illini have athletes, and they have a good veteran in Ian Thomas to work around, but they don’t have a player of Wilson’s caliber and the overall linebacker play wasn’t up to snuff this offseason. Outside linebackers Ashante Williams and Jonathan Brown can fly, but they have to show they can hold up against the power running teams and they have to be consistent.

43. Washington Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

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

What to watch for on offense: More use of the tight ends. The Huskies didn’t land one of the nation’s most coveted prep tight ends, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, to use him like a glorified lineman. After his first spring since leaving Gig Harbor (Wash.) High School, he already looks capable of taking advantage of all of the attention the outside receivers are going to get. Long and athletic, he has the necessary skill set to help Washington get more production from the position than in recent years. Behind the rookie is redshirt freshman Michael Hartvigson, another young Husky pass-catcher with a bright future.

What to watch for on defense: More linemen on the field (and fewer linebackers). For good reason, Nick Holt plans to mix in some 5-2 looks in the fall, getting an extra rush end on the field at the expense of a linebacker. It all makes sense. The Huskies are deep up front, but will be painfully thin on the second level. Plus, the staff is looking for opportunities to get former UCLA recruit Josh Shirley on the field as much as possible. At 6-3 and 225 pounds, he’s essentially an outside linebacker, with the get-off to be an effective situational pass rusher versus lumbering tackles.

42. Arizona Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

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

What to watch for on offense: The rebuilt offensive line. When Colin Baxter was injured late last year, Kyle Quinn took over in the Alamo Bowl at center. It represents the only start of any member of this year’s offensive line. The Wildcats are in a precarious position in the trenches, losing all five starters, including all-stars Baxter and Adam Grant. Quinn is one piece of the puzzle, as are redshirt freshmen tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele. Both of the rookies have high ceilings, but will need to deliver right away in order to prevent Nick Foles from running for his life.

What to watch for on defense: Wade on a crusade. CB Trevin Wade entered the 2010 season as arguably the top Wildcat defenders. He ended it as one of the unit’s biggest disappointments. Dinged at times and benched for a period of time for allowing too many big plays, he needs to do an about-face for the good of the defense and his pro prospects. He has the talent and the experience to put 2009 in the past, but has a reduced margin of error, especially with sophomores Jonathan McKnight and Shaquille Richardson improving all the time.

41. Iowa Preview
Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

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

What to watch for on offense: The No. 2 running back. How things have changed over the last 12 months. Last year at this time, Iowa was loaded with top-shelf tailback options with a slew of talents like Adam Robinson and Jewel Hampton leading a deep corps. Now, it’s Marcus Coker and, um, uh, a lot of prayers for Coker’s health. A few years ago, the running back situation was considered a disaster until Shonn Greene became the best back in America. Coker could have a similar Doak Walker-like season working behind a nasty offensive line, but if he goes down the coaching staff will be mining the current recruiting class for live bodies.

What to watch for on defense: Strong safety. The Iowa defensive front has to find a steady pass rusher and the linebacking corps could use more size, but things will be fine with a little bit of time. The secondary is a different animal with more overall talent than the other units on the defense, but it’ll have to figure out the right combination. Shaun Prater is a star corner and won’t move, but Micah Hyde is a tremendous tackler on the other side and could move to safety. If that happens, then Tanner Miller could end up at strong safety to try to replace tone-setter Tyler Sash, or Hyde could step into the position with 6-1, 185-pound size and good athleticism. No matter who takes over, Sash’s 79 tackles and two interceptions will be sorely missed.

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