Fiu, Cirminiello, Mitchell on TV - Campus Insiders | Buy College Football Tickets

2012 C-USA Preview - West Team Breakdowns
Rice RB Sam McGuffie
Rice RB Sam McGuffie
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 13, 2012


Preview 2012 - CFN Conference USA West Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish


Preview 2012

C-USA West Team By Team

 
East
- 2012 East Carolina Preview | 2012 Marshall Preview
- 2012 Memphis Preview | 2012 Southern Miss Preview 
- 2012 UAB Preview | 2012 UCF Preview

West

- 2012 Houston Preview | 2012 Rice Preview
- 2012 SMU Preview | 2012 Tulane Preview 
- 2012 Tulsa Preview | 2012 UTEP Preview

- 2012 C-USA Preview
- 2012 C-USA Unit Rankings
- 2012 C-USA Schedules & Picks 
- 2012 CFN All-C-USA Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 C-USA East Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish  
- 2012 C-USA West Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish  
 
1. Houston
2012 CFN Prediction: 9-3
2012 C-USA Prediction: 7-1

Offense:
The faces have changed, including on the staff. The system remains virtually the same. Houston will be without record-breaking triggerman Case Keenum and most of his favorite weapons, but the Cougars still plan to air it with the same bravado as they did when Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin were the head coaches. While it’s going to be a transition year, there are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Keenum’s probable successor under center is David Piland, who redshirted in 2011, but threw 24 touchdown passes when pressed into action as a rookie two years ago. He’s no stranger to the offensive blueprint. His backfield mate will be first-team all-star Charles Sims, who’s ready to shed some anonymity. As a sophomore, he averaged 7.5 yards a carry, caught 51 passes and scored 13 times. The receiving corps is being stripped to the studs, which is why newcomers, like mega-recruit Deontay Greenberry, will be given every chance to scale the depth chart in the summer. Ronnie Williams is the veteran if 20 career receptions qualify a guy to be a veteran. The best news of all on offense is that four starting linemen are back, led by all-league T Jacolby Ashworth and underrated G Kevin Forsch. If the blockers can exceed their potential, the learning curve for the offense as a whole won’t be nearly as steep.

Defense:
Unfortunately for the program, the wholesale changes taking place in Houston will not be relegated to the offense. The D is taking some hits as well, losing both of its all-conference linebackers, Sammy Brown and Marcus McGraw. With that in mind, now is as good a time as any to transition back to a 4-3 alignment under first-year coordinator Jamie Bryant. The linebackers actually won’t be as hamstrung as most would assume. Starters Derrick Mathews and Phillip Steward would have earned a lot more recognition in 2011 had they not shared the same locker room with Brown and McGraw. Plus, the defensive backfield could be a very pleasant surprise this fall to people who are unaware its exploits. Three starters are back from the crew that was responsible for a No. 12 national ranking in pass efficiency defense. CB D.J. Hayden was the Conference USA Defensive Newcomer of the Year in his first season out of Navarro (Tex.) College. The key for the Cougs will be to build up the new four-man front as quickly as possible. If they fail in this pursuit, the run defense will continue to get trucked on the ground by the opposition. Tackle Dominic Miller and ends Eric Braswell, Kelvin King and Zeke Riser will bring much-needed starting experience to the front wall.

T2. SMU
2012 CFN Prediction: 7-5
2012 C-USA Prediction: 6-2

Offense: Having gone sideways in the last two years, head coach June Jones needs to find a way to ignite his inconsistent Run & Shoot attack on the Hilltop. His first move was to hire former Houston assistant Jason Phillips to be his new co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach. His next will be to decide on a quarterback, particularly important in this system. As spring closed, redshirt freshman Conner Preston held a lead on the competition. However, all bets are off until Garrett Gilbert gets his chance to audition in the summer in front of the staff. The Texas transfer, with the cathedral ceiling, is almost at full strength following last September’s shoulder surgery. Speaking of recoveries, RB Zach Line is on the mend after undergoing foot surgery. The bruising 230-pounder played in pain throughout 2011, yet still rumbled for a Conference USA-high 1,224 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns. While depth will be a worry at wide receiver, the Mustangs are comfortable with their starting four. Speedy Darius Johnson is an all-star, and Der’rikk Thompson showed an awful lot of promise in his first season. All the skill position talent in the world, though, won’t make a difference if SMU is unable to navigate a perilous situation in the trenches. All five of last season’s starters have graduated, forcing the staff to completely reshuffle the deck with a blend of reserves and newcomers.

Defense: Before even getting to the perennial need to plug certain holes on the depth chart, SMU must find a way to shift the turnover pendulum this season. The Mustangs were dead last nationally in turnover margin in 2011. In June Jones’ first couple of seasons in Dallas, his D was an attacking one that created chances for the offense. Last year, however, they had just 16 takeaways, lacking the tenacity or the ability to change the tenor of a game. Lining up from its usual 3-4, the team feels confident about its front seven. Yes, two terrific ends have graduated, but Torlan Pittman is an active plugger at the nose, and enormous DE Margus Hunt, the Estonia native, will be a hidden gem no longer. The foundation of the defense is clearly built around the linebackers. All but one full-time starter is back in the mix, headed by Second Team All-Conference USA seniors Taylor Reed and Ja’Gared Davis. Reed is the prototypical inside defender, manning running lanes to make a team-high 101 tackles. Davis is at his best flying off the edge, as his 30 career tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks will attest. Now that CB Richard Crawford and FS Chris Banjo are gone, the secondary that produced just three picks in 2011 is an even bigger worry now. Kenneth Acker returns at one cornerback spot, but second-year James Richardson could spend much of the fall on an island.

T2. Tulsa
2012 CFN Prediction: 7-5
2012 C-USA Prediction: 6-2

Offense: The Golden Hurricane is hopeful that the system trumps any one individual player. Tulsa hung up 440 yards and 33 points a game in 2011, but that was when senior G.J. Kinne was calling out signals. He’s gone, leaving high-profile Nebraska transfer Cody Green to try and keep the train on the tracks. He’s rich in physical ability, but still light in experience. Fortunately, the junior will have plenty of help running coordinator Greg Peterson’s balanced, fast-paced and unpredictable attack. Behind him will be one of the nation’s most underrated one-two punches, running backs Trey Watts and Ja’Terian Douglas, who both went for more than 800 yards a year ago. In the passing game, seniors Bryan Burnham and Willie Carter will contend for All-Conference USA honors. Besides the uncertainty at quarterback, Tulsa’s biggest concern will be at left tackle, where senior Jared Grigg expects to be a regular for the first time in his career.

Defense: Coordinator Brent Guy debuted to mixed reviews in Tulsa, smoothly transitioning from a 3-3-5 alignment to a more traditional 4-3, but also getting dissected by quality opponents. His Year 2 objective will be to raise the bar on a unit returning seven starters. The Hurricane boasts all-conference contenders at each level, from DE Cory Dorris and LB Shawn Jackson in the front seven to the dynamite safety duo of Dexter McCoil and Marco Nelson. Tulsa prefers to operate at a hyper pace, dictating the tempo of the game by flying to the ball, taking chances and applying pressure behind the line. The hectic approach will cost the defense from time to time, but it has a habit of compensating with the kind of big plays that quiet opposing crowds, and altering a game’s momentum.

4. Tulane
2012 CFN Prediction: 3-9
2012 C-USA Prediction: 3-5

Offense: Tulane plays in Conference USA, where a high-powered offense is needed to thrive. The Green Wave has had the individual parts in recent years, but the whole has been incomplete, rarely closing out drives with touchdowns. The new staff is installing a pro-style attack that will aspire to achieve balance behind a power running game and greater use of the tight ends. The backfield, while experienced, won’t be a finished product unless senior QB Ryan Griffin can deliver the best season of his career. He’ll have decent support from all-star RB Orleans Darkwa and an underrated corps of receivers. However, he’ll also have some scary moments, dropping back behind a patchwork line featuring three wide-eyed first-time starters.
Defense: Tulane has had a long history of getting trampled on defense, a track record that won’t be easy to reverse. The job of instituting changes now belongs to co-defensive coordinators Jon Sumrall and Lionel Washington. The coaches inherit a D that allowed more than 400 yards a game, and ranked 115th nationally in scoring. Suffice it to say that there’s plenty of work to be done here. The Green Wave is good in spots, such as linebacker, but simply lacks the depth, size and overall talent to compete with some of Conference USA’s more potent offensive attacks. While the coaches plan to employ a 4-3 alignment, they won’t rule out occasional 3-4 looks as well. They want Tulane to be unpredictable and very fast, upping the tempo in an attempt to outhustle the other guys.

5. UTEP
2012 CFN Prediction: 3-9
2012 C-USA Prediction: 2-6

Offense:
The Miners really like the potential of their gunslinging QB Nick Lamaison, but will need to protect him better in 2012 in order to enjoy all of his passing skills. Last season’s front wall returns virtually intact, save for RG Nathan McCage, but also finished last in Conference-USA in sacks allowed. It’s imperative that this veteran unit, built around steady C Eloy Atkinson, gives Lamaison the time he requires to check down and locate one of his open targets. The fact that the quarterback had shoulder problems a year ago is just one more reason that the UTEP blockers need to keep him off the turf. His favorite receivers figure to be Mike Edwards and Jordan Leslie, with young Malcolm Trail earning an expanded role with his effort so far in the offseason. However, the star of the spring on this side of the ball was clearly sophomore RB Nathan Jeffery, who won the starting job and never looked back. He made plays throughout the month of March, capping the session with 123 yards in the spring game. If he’s able to keep the momentum going in the fall, it’ll not only take some heat off Lamaison, but the defense as well.

Defense: The Miners defense has never had much bite under head coach Mike Price. It figures to be toothless again this fall. It’s rare that NFL defenders make stops in El Paso, a city more accustomed to housing offensive playmakers during their college careers. With no star power back on campus, UTEP will be resigned to get its best athletes on the field, where they can hopefully create turnovers and other money plays. The staff does have high hopes for the interior of the line, which will include tackles Germard Reed and Marcus Bagley. Reed is the penetrator, while the 320-pound Bagley is more of a traditional space-eater in the middle of the line. The big news at linebacker surrounds the return of Jamie Irving, the program’s second-leading of 2010, who missed all of last year following shoulder surgeries. He and Josh Fely will bring senior leadership to the second level of the defense. The pass defense, which ranked 92nd in the country last fall, is going to sorely miss CB Antwon Blake and S Travaun Nixon. Veteran CB Drew Thomas did step up his play in the spring, lending a sliver of hope that the Miners can slow down some of the better quarterbacks on the schedule.

6. Rice
2012 CFN Prediction: 2-10
2012 C-USA Prediction: 1-7

Offense: Whenever the Owls have had a resurgence in their history, it’s been fueled by the play of the offense. The D is rarely good enough to fuel a rally. A year ago, though, the team ranked 91st nationally in total offense, which just isn’t going to cut it. The big news during the offseason was the relocation of playmaker Sam McGuffie from running back to wide receiver, an attempt to get him in space, where matchup problems are more likely to occur. The success of the unit, however, will hinge on the play of quarterback Taylor McHargue, who has held off young Driphus Jackson for now, but needs to rebound from a disappointing 2011. He can help his cause by looking for Luke Willson and Vance McDonald, Conference USA’s best tight end tandem. The biggest concern in Houston surrounds an O-line that’s painfully short on experience or proven talent.

Defense: Porous defense. It’s a perennial problem around these parts. Recruiting in Texas at a school with a very high academic requirement, Rice simply doesn’t attract enough size or talent to compete effectively in a league brimming with high-powered passing attacks. The result? A lot of gaudy numbers that can get a coaching staff canned. The Owls actually showed hints of improvement in 2011, yet still ranked 111th nationally in total D, while allowing 33 points a game. A turnaround is unlikely, especially since six starters, including most of the D-line, have graduated. The team is going to struggle in the trenches, which will heap added pressure on LB Cameron Nwosu, KAT Paul Porras and FS Corey Frazier to press up in order to slow the hemorrhaging on running plays. Rice’s best approach might be to attack liberally, creating the kinds of momentum-changing takeaways that offset the final box score numbers. The most glaring exception to the defensive mediocrity is sophomore CB Bryce Callahan who appears to have a Big 12 skill set as a cover man.

East
- 2012 East Carolina Preview | 2012 Marshall Preview
- 2012 Memphis Preview | 2012 Southern Miss Preview 
- 2012 UAB Preview | 2012 UCF Preview

West

- 2012 Houston Preview | 2012 Rice Preview
- 2012 SMU Preview | 2012 Tulane Preview 
- 2012 Tulsa Preview | 2012 UTEP Preview

- 2012 C-USA Preview
- 2012 C-USA Unit Rankings
- 2012 C-USA Schedules & Picks 
- 2012 CFN All-C-USA Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 C-USA East Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish  
- 2012 C-USA West Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish