2012 ULM Preview
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - ULM Warhawks
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Why not ULM?
Head coach: Todd Berry
3rd year: 9-15
11th year overall: 38-75
Off. 21, Def. 17, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best ULM Players
1. QB Kolton Browning, Jr.
2. RB Jyruss Edwards, Jr.
3. OG Jonathan Gill, Sr.
4. WR Brent Leonard, Sr.
5. DE Kentarius Caldwell, Jr.
6. CB Vincent Eddie, Jr.
7. OT Joseph Treadwell, Soph.
8. WR Tavarese Maye, Jr.
9. LB Cameron Blakes, Sr.
10. S Austin Moss, Jr.
Sep. 1 OPEN DATE
Sep. 8 at Arkansas
Sep. 15 at Auburn
Sep. 21 Baylor
Sep. 29 at Tulane
Oct. 6 at Middle Tenn.
Oct. 13 Florida Atlantic
Oct. 20 at WKU
Oct. 27 South Alabama
Nov. 3 Louisiana
Nov. 8 at Arkansas St
Nov. 17 North Texas
Nov. 24 at FIU
If Arkansas State could go from lousy to dominant in a hiccup, and if North Texas could crank out a turnaround season right away under Dan McCarney, and if Louisiana-Lafayette could become a Sun Belt power, then why not ULM?
The first problem is that the program doesn't exactly know how to win. Since making the move up to the D-I/FBS level in 1994, ULM has yet to come up with a winning season. Head coach Todd Berry was a disaster at Army and hasn't done anything yet for the Warhawks, bringing his career record up to 14-51 after last year's 4-8 campaign. But there's hope for a wee bit more of an improvement this season to get up to six wins or even more if everything breaks the right way.
Injuries were a major issue last season and the consistency was never there. Now the team appears to be healthy and there's a slew of young talent that appears to be ready to shine right out of the box. Will it be enough to finally help ULM make a positive step forward?
Closing out last year with two wins in the final three – and with good performance in close losses to WKU, Louisiana-Lafayette and FIU – the team showed improvement despite a slew of issues. The Warhawks also battles in a five-point loss to Arkansas State, meaning three of the Sun Belt losses could have easily have gone the other way.
The offense wasn't miserable, finishing fourth in the Sun Belt with a decent running game that helped crank out 21 points or more in six of the final seven games. The special teams were an issue with the second-worst punting game in college football, but the defense led the Sun Belt in total D and was eighth in the nation against the run helped by a good pass rush and a good group of ball-hawkers.
More than anything else right now for the program that hasn't had much fun, there's hope. There's hope for ULM to be the big turnaround team of the Sun Belt season and the potential is there to be more than just a sleeper.
So, again, why not ULM?
What To Watch For On …
Offense: The offense wasn't that bad, but it rarely came through in the clutch and couldn't seem to get enough consistent pop. Eight starters return with Kolton Browning a veteran dual-threat quarterback who knows what he's doing with the ability to keep things moving. The line gets back three starters, but left tackle Joseph Treadwell was moved out of a job by Jeremy Burton as just a small part of the overall shakeup. Right guard Jonathan Gill is an earth-mover to work the ground game around, and now it's up to veteran Jyruss Edwards to take his game to another level. Fine, not great, he'll be part of a rotation with Centarius Donald – the best back on the lot last year before tearing his ACL - and Michael Bailey. The top four receivers are back with Brent Leonard stepping up and becoming the No. 1 target after others got banged up. There will be plenty of options for Browning to work with.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Troy Reffett did a terrific job with a run D that finished eighth in the nation, but struggled at times finding enough key stops in the secondary. Gone is heart-and-soul safety Darius Prelow, but there are high hopes for free safety Isaiah Newsome to become the new star in the secondary and with Vincent Eddie and Otis Peterson two promising corners. The line loses pass rushing stars Troy Evans and Ken Dorsey putting the pressure on former tackle Kentarius Caldwell to show he can handle the workload at one end in the 3-4. Arkansas transfer Austin Moss should grow into a special defender at the team's Hawk position, while Cameron Blakes is a decent veteran inside to hold up against the run.
What to watch for on offense: Can the offensive line produce? The pass protection was a disaster, but to be fair, that was partly because QB Kolton Browning spent so much time running around. The push for the ground game was fine, but it was hardly anything special. Now the front five has to replace two starters, but it has a good right guard in Jonathan Gill to work around and Joseph Treadwell is a great looking left tackle. The key will be consistency, but that might take a little while. Like almost all coaching staffs, ULM's will put the best five blockers out on the field and there could be a little bit of shuffling over the first part of the year.
What to watch for on defense: Will there be new playmakers in the secondary? Darius Prelow came up with 77 tackles with four picks as one of the Sun Belt's best defensive backs. Now it will be up to Henry Mitchell and Mitch Lane to battle it out to be the new star safety in the secondary, but former Arkansas Razorback and JUCO transfer Austin Moss will be front and center in the mix. The Warhawks use five defensive backs in the 4-2-5 alignment and has a good corner in Vincent Eddie and safety Isaiah Newsome, but it's going to take a little while to fill out the other spots. Fortunately for ULM, this has quickly become one of the team's deeper areas of talent.
The team will be far better if … the running game works. The issues on the offensive line and injuries in the backfield kept the offense from doing too much at times, but once things started to click the results were far better. ULM went 0-5 when failing to hit 100 yards on the ground and won all four games when tearing off over 200 yards. The ground attack rolled over the second half of the season with 17 touchdowns over the final seven games, and the production should continue after the first month of the season.
The schedule: The bad part is that ULM might have to wait until the end of September to have an honest shot a getting the first win starting out at Arkansas, at Auburn and against Baylor. Even with the game at Tulane winnable, four of the first five games are on the road and there aren't any weeks off after starting the year on September 8th. On the plus side, there's a nice second half run of four home games in six weeks before closing things out at FIU. Forget about winning the Sun Belt title with road games at Middle Tennessee, WKU, Arkansas State and FIU, but missing Troy is a plus.
Best offensive player: Junior QB Kolton Browning. He turned into the main man for the offense right away with a nice season finishing second on the team in rushing while connecting on 62% of his passes for 2,552 yards and 18 scores. Last year he wasn't quite as sharp throwing the ball completing just 58% of his passes for 2,483 yards and 13 scores with eight picks, but he ran more finishing second on the team with 443 yards and five scores. At 6-1 and 198 pounds he's not all that big, but he's a baller with great shiftiness and speed.
Best defensive player: Junior DE Kentarius Caldwell. Able to play either tackle or end, the 6-2, 266-pound Caldwell is a versatile force for the defensive front, but he'll need to do more to get into the backfield on the outside after making 27 tackles with two sacks. Now that he's in a more natural position, thanks to the emergence of Missouri transfer Gerrand Johnson on the inside, he should thrive.
Key player to a successful season: Caldwell and sophomore DE Joey Gautney. Gone is pass rushing star Troy Evans, who led the team with 6.5 sacks, and also gone is Ken Dorsey and his 4.5 sacks. The defensive front has to generate sacks from somewhere, and while the hope is for Caldwell to be the main man, Gautney needs to work his way into the backfield on a regular basis and end Darous Lively needs to find a role early on in the rotation. ULM wasn't unstoppable at getting to the quarterback, but that has to change with this new group on the outside.
The season will be a success if … ULM wins six games. It's still going to be a leap for the program to finally come up with a winning season, but the talent and potential are there to be two games better than last season. It's not going to be easy needing to come up with a few upsets, but beating FAU, South Alabama and North Texas are a must to come up with a decent base of wins. After going 6-6 in 2009, a six-win season would set the tone for a potentially big 2013.
Key game: Oct. 6 at Middle Tennessee. The Warhawks came up with a dominant 42-14 victory last year over the Blue Raiders, but this is a different Middle Tennessee team that will be looking to come up with a good Sun Belt win early on as it tries to turn things around after a disastrous 2-10 season. With a home game against Florida Atlantic to follow, ULM might have a shot to start out 2-0 in Sun Belt play before going to Western Kentucky.
2011 Fun Stats:
- Punt Return Average: Opponents 10.6 yards – ULM 3.8 yards
- Kickoff Return Average: ULM 24.7 yards – Opponents 18.8 yards
- 2nd Quarter Scoring: Opponents 109 – ULM 67
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