2012 Sun Belt Pre-Spring Preview
ULL QB Blaine Gautier
ULL QB Blaine Gautier
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Feb 19, 2012


2012 Sun Belt Pre-Spring Preview - Why Every Sun Belt Team Should Be Happy

2012 Pre-Spring Preview   

Why To Be Excited - Sun Belt


Arkansas State | Florida Atlantic | FIU | Middle Tennessee
North Texas | South Alabama  | Troy | UL Lafayette | ULM | WKU

2012 Sun Belt Pre-Spring Preview
- Sun Belt Pre-Spring Rankings
- Why Every Team Should Be Excited
- Why Every Team Should Be Grouchy
- What Every Team Needs To Work On
- Recruiting 2012 Sun Belt Rankings & Breakdown

Arkansas State

How did Arkansas State get Gus Malzahn? And if former Auburn star RB Michael Dyer is ready to roll after transferring, then the Sun Belt’s best team should be able to pick up where it left off. QB Ryan Aplin should be the league’s top player with his do-it-all ability, and he has dangerous weapons returning in Josh Jarboe and Taylor Stockemer. The offensive line should be strong on the right side, and TE Kedric Murry has all-star potential, but this year it’s all about Malzahn. ASU already led the Sun Belt in yards and scoring, and now it has one of the best offensive-minded coaches in college football.

Florida Atlantic

New coach Carl Pelini should give the Owls a shot in the arm. This is Howard Schnellenberger’s football program, but it needed some new ideas and a new energy. Pelini will bring that – at least to the defensive side – and he has a ton of talent to start with welcoming back ten starters to a group that wasn’t all that bad last year. The offense needs a ton of work, but starting quarterback Graham Wilbert is back and all the top receivers – there were four underclassmen playing key parts – return.

FIU

The Golden Panther defense that led the Sun Belt in points allowed, should be even stronger with all 11 starters returning. The tremendous pass rush should be unstoppable at times with leading sacker Greg Hickman leading a defensive front that gets back seven of the eight players on the two-deep. In fact, just two players are gone from the defensive two-deep. Four starters return to the offensive line all the top receivers other than T.Y. Hilton are back.

Middle Tennessee

The run defense might have been miserable last season, but the entire front four returns and gets back almost all the key backups. Tackle SaCoby Carter is the only player gone. The offense welcomes back three starters to an offensive line that finished the year second in the nation in fewest sacks allowed. WR Sancho McDonald is gone, but all the other skill players return including QB Jeff Murphy and all the top runners – including William Pratcher - and the top two receivers – Tavarres Jefferson and Malcolm Beyah.

North Texas

The Mean Green made great strides in Dan McCarney’s first season, and the corner might be turned. The offense has to get more from the passing game, and the special teams have to be far better, and the pass defense needs to tighten up, but seven starters are back to an improving offense and six starters return to a defensive front that was among the best in the league at getting into the backfield. The punting game finished ninth in the nation and first in the Sun Belt thanks to Will Atterberry, who’s back after averaging 43.5 yards per kick.

South Alabama

The Jaguars are playing with the bigger boys. It’s the first year in the FBS coming off a decent 6-4 season, and now it’s time to take the program to another level. It’ll start with a defense that was young up front in the 3-4 last year, but welcomes back three juniors-to-be to form a potentially strong brick wall against the run. The pass defense that finished tenth in the FCS gets three key parts back, including big-tackling SS Charles Harris. CB Anton Grapenreed is the only defensive starter gone.

Troy

Corey Robinson. The junior-to-be quarterback has been a major playmaker over his first two years, helping to make the high-octane passing game go. He should mature into an even sharper decision maker after all the experience under his belt, and he has the receivers to do even more with everyone back. Every receiver and tight end on the two-deep returns, as does leading rusher Shawn Southward. Along with all the skill players returning, three starters are back on the line and seven starters return on defense.

UL-Lafayette

Can the Ragin’ Cajuns build off the thrilling bowl win over San Diego State? Now, QB Blaine Gautier will be expected to come up with the same sort of magic on a regular basis. Javone Lawson should be among the league’s best receivers, and Alonzo Harris is a high-rising running back who should be more involved. In all, eight starters return on offense. The kicking game was a strength, and Brett Baer, who handled all the duties, returns after averaging over 40 yards per punt and hitting 18-of 20 field goals.

UL Monroe

The Warhawks had the Sun Belt’s best run defense – finishing 8th in the nation – and it should be solid even with some key parts of the puzzle gone from the front six. The offense wasn’t bad, and now it’ll be more experienced in the backfield with QB Kolton Browning returning along with leading rusher Jyruss Edwards. The line might need some retooling after a rough year, but the left side of tackle Joseph Treadwell and Ben Risenhoover – true freshmen last year – should be more consistent.

Western Kentucky

Last year’s big turnaround should continue. Coach Willie Taggart might be on to bigger and better things soon, but he’s still around long with eight starters on defense and nine on offense. The offensive line should be a strength with four starters returning, while the defensive that was so great at getting into the backfield is loaded up front with terrific depth to help out three returning starters. The punting game that became such a positive should be terrific again with the return of Hendrix Brakefield, who averaged 41.6 yards per kick.

Arkansas State | Florida Atlantic | FIU | Middle Tennessee
North Texas | South Alabama  | Troy | UL Lafayette | ULM | WKU

2012 Sun Belt Pre-Spring Preview
- Sun Belt Pre-Spring Rankings
- Why Every Team Should Be Excited
- Why Every Team Should Be Grouchy
- What Every Team Needs To Work On
- Recruiting 2012 Sun Belt Rankings & Breakdown