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C-USA Pre-Spring Preview - Why To Be Fired Up
Houston RB Charles Sims
Houston RB Charles Sims
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Feb 10, 2012


2012 Conference USA Pre-Spring Preview - Why Every Conference USA Team Should Be Fired Up

2012 Pre-Spring Preview   

Why To Be Excited - C-USA


East UAB | UCF | East Carolina | Marshall | Memphis | Southern Miss
West  Houston | Rice | SMU | Tulane | Tulsa | UTEP

2012 Conference USA Pre-Spring Preview
- C-USA East Pre-Spring Rankings
- C-USA West Pre-Spring Rankings
- Why Every C-USA Team Should Be Excited
- Why Every Team Should Be Grouchy
- What Every Team Needs To Work On 
2012 Recruiting Rankings C-USA East | C-USA West

East

East Carolina

The Pirates are holding out hope that a collection of quality skill position players can help offset the uncertainty at quarterback. Receivers Justin Hardy and Danny Webster played very well as freshmen in 2011, showing signs that they can become go-to targets. At running back, Reggie Bullock never quite got an opportunity to showcase all of his abilities. The transfer from Arizona Western Community College, though, did rush for 428 yards in half a season, and is positioned for a breakout season.

Marshall

Hope in Huntington comes from a young offense that’s brimming with potential at the skill positions. QB Rakeem Cato is back for a second year after debuting with 15 touchdown passes and flashes of potential in 2011. Last season’s top two rushers, Tron Martinez and Travon Van, learned the ropes as underclassmen. And big-play WR Aaron Dobson has one final fall to improve a draft grade that’s already trending north.

Memphis

Although not a lot of good emerged from the brief Larry Porter era, QB Taylor Reed was one exception. The starter as a true freshman is the kind of player that the new regime believes it can build around for the next three years. A nine-game starter before getting dinged up, he showed off potential as both a passer and a scrambler. Another rookie, former Alabama WR Keiwone Malone, is the kind of athlete that the Tigers are hoping to see more from in 2012.

Southern Miss

A loaded stable of running backs is capable of carrying the program through some difficult periods this season. Last year’s top four ground-gainers are back, affording the Golden Eagles both depth and versatility in the way it attacks opposing defenses. Jamal Woodyard ran for a team-high 732 yards as a redshirt freshman. Tracy Lampley is an explosive all-around playmaker. And Kendrick Hardy, who missed the final nine games to an injury, could be the most talented of the quartet.

UAB 

The holdovers from 2011 were part of a team that won three of its final six games, providing a rare feel-good jolt to carry into the offseason. There’s also a renewed, albeit tempered, feeling of optimism now that Neil Callaway has been replaced by Garrick McGee on the sidelines. The new staff has no overnight solutions for what ails the Blazers, but incessant questions regarding the future of the old regime had become a drain on every sector of the program.

UCF

Knights coach George O’Leary used the free agent route in 2011 to bolster his roster, which will start to produce dividends this season. The program is about to get an injection of talent with the availability of QB Tyler Gabbert (Missouri), RB Storm Johnson (Miami) and OT Phil Smith (Georgia Tech). The additions of Gabbert and Johnson to a backfield that already houses up-and-coming QB Blake Bortles and last year’s top two rushers are going to be a pleasant dilemma for the staff.

West 


Houston

While change is certainly in the air in Houston, the program can take solace in an offensive line that returns four starters, including All-Conference USA LT Jacolby Ashworth. The unit will help with the transition to QB David Piland, who redshirted a year ago, but has extensive starting experience from 2010. The backfield will have another familiar face in RB Charles Sims, the multidimensional weapon who’s about to blossom into a household name.

Rice

If the Owls are going to battle from the ranks of the mediocre, it’ll do so on offense. Potential exists at the skill positions, with the returns of QB Taylor McHargue, RB Sam McGuffie and TE Luke Willson. McHargue has dual-threat potential in the pocket, but lost his starting job in 2011. The only thing holding back McGuffie and Willson are the nagging injuries that limited their potential a year ago.

SMU

June Jones is still in Dallas. So are RB Zach Line, and now, former Texas starter Garrett Gilbert. After getting to the altar with Arizona State, Jones never got a chance to replace Dennis Erickson in Tempe. It was an enormous sigh of relief for the Mustangs, which couldn’t afford to lose the coach. Line is one of the top running backs that few outside of Texas know about, and Gilbert has the raw talent to emerge into a star. If Gilbert can recapture his 2010 form, SMU has a chance to be terrific on offense.
 
Tulane

Last season’s leading passer, runner and top three receivers are still in the Big Easy. Tulane’s new staff can take some solace in the presence of a solid corps of weapons at the skill positions. Ryan Griffin is a seasoned veteran who’s set to begin his fourth season as the starting quarterback. All-star Orleans Darkwa will contend for the league rushing title. And up-and-coming receivers Wilson Van Hooser, Xavier Rush and Justyn Shackleford laid a nice foundation for the future in 2011.

Tulsa

The quarterback may be gone, but the Golden Hurricane is still flush with diverse playmakers on offense. Returning to Tulsa are 800-yard rushers Trey Watts and Ja’Terian Douglas, and a pair of very productive pass-catchers, WR Bryan Burnham and H-back Willie Carter. If the staff can develop a capable successor to G.J. Kinne under center, the offense won’t suffer the dip in output that many are predicting.

UTEP

The special teams unit will provide a basis of support for the rest of the team. While it’s not ideal for a group other than the offense or the defense to be a program’s strength, the Miners are well-fortified with strong-legged PK Dakota Warren and all-star P Ian Campbell. UTEP also boasts one of the league’s best return games, a collection of speedy wedge-busters designed to support the offensive attack.

East UAB | UCF | East Carolina | Marshall | Memphis | Southern Miss
West  Houston | Rice | SMU | Tulane | Tulsa | UTEP

2012 Conference USA Pre-Spring Preview
- C-USA East Pre-Spring Rankings
- C-USA West Pre-Spring Rankings
- Why Every C-USA Team Should Be Excited
- Why Every Team Should Be Grouchy
- What Every Team Needs To Work On 
2012 Recruiting Rankings C-USA East | C-USA West