2012 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 111 to 124
UTSA QB Eric Soza
UTSA QB Eric Soza
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 20, 2012


Preview 2012 CFN Preseason Rankings No. 111 to 124 ... The Bottom 14.


Preview 2012 - Rankings

Bottom 14 - No. 111-124

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2012 CFN Preseason Rankings  
Preview 2012 | 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 124 
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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 indicates. Going into the year, these are how good the teams appear to be from No. 1 through 124.

124. Massachusetts
Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Offensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The offense that failed to explode should get more out of the passing game with offensive coordinator Mike Kruczek knowing how to get things moving. He needs former Bowling Green quarterback Kellen Pagel to master the no huddle spread attack, but he has to fight to hold on to the job. The running game that struggled so much last season loses top option Jonathan Hernandez but it has Michigan transfer Michael Cox should soften the blow with the potential to come up with a huge season behind a line that gets four starters back. The problem is the style, with the big front five needing to show they can handle the pace of the new attack. The receiving corps is starting from near-scratch with all the top targets gone including NFL tight end/fullback Emil Igwenagu. On the plus side, the new offense is receiver friendly.

What to watch for on defense: Nine starters return to a decent defense that should be excellent at getting into the backfield despite the switch to a traditional 4-3. Veteran defensive coordinator Phil Elmassian knows how to bring the heat, and he might have the front seven to do it. The pass rushers will come from the linebacking corps with Tim Brandt a safety-sized speedster who can get to the quarterback on a regular basis, but Perry McIntyre is the star of the show coming up with 116 tackles and a team-leading 6.5 sacks. The line should be stronger against the run with excellent size and a surprising number of decent options considering the change in style. Three starters are back to a decent secondary free safety Darren Thellen a possible all-star if he can come up with more plays when the ball is in the air.

123. Texas State Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Defensive Back
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: How fast can the line come together? The spread attack the way TSU runs it is all about timing and being able to create just enough space so the runners can fly. The quarterback situation will eventually be fine with a rotation of Shaun Rutherford and Tyler Arndt, and the backfield is loaded with good backs and options. Now it will be up to the line come up with a surprising season after losing leader D.J. Hall and with new starters needing to come up big right away. The right side should be fine with Charlie Will Tuttle at guard after spending last season at center, and with Thaddeus Watkins returning at tackle, but left tackle is a concern with Adley Eshraghipour moving over from the defensive side. Matt Freeman is a young but promising center.

What to watch for on defense: The 4-2-5 has to fine someone up front who can get into the backfield on a consistent basis. The Bobcats came up with seven sacks against Lamar and seven against Nicholls State, but managed 17 in the other ten games. The D will be ultra-aggressive and it has a few good returning pass rushers in linebacker Joplo Bartu and corner Darryl Morris, but Michael Ebbitt and his 11.5 sacks are gone and it might take a slew of players to pick up the slack. Ideally, the line does its job and gets behind the line, but the back seven has the experience to come up with big plays if needed.

122. UTSA Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Running Back, Defensive Back

What to watch for on offense: The running back by committee approach. The Roadrunners are loaded with veteran rushing options, including at quarterback, but it’s not like any one back took the bull by the horns and was the main man for the ground game. Quarterback Eric Soza could turn out to be the team’s most dangerous runner, but the hope is for Evans Okotcha, who led the team with 326 yards and four scores, to take on a bigger role. Even if he’s great, UTSA will get production from several spots.

What to watch for on defense: The linebackers. UTSA only uses two, but they’re good ones who should be excellent to playmakers to build around. Senior Brandon Reeves led the team with 69 tackles with six sacks, while Steven Kurfels came up with 61 tackles with a sack at the team’s Hawk position along with tying for a team-leading two picks despite missing almost four games. They’re both very smart and very active, and they’re going to have to be behind what should be a leaky, but veteran line.

121. Memphis Preview
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses:Offensive Line, Defensive Back

What to watch for on offense: Jacob’s clatter. The Tigers have lost four quarterbacks to transfers in just over a year, but do have one key import to help ease some of the pain. In a quest for more playing time, Jacob Karam has taken his strong arm from Texas Tech to Memphis, where he’s already won the starting job. The coaching staff has been impressed with more than just his physical ability, noting that he has a great feel for the position and the pocket. Karam will have the luxury of learning from new head coach Justin Fuente, who did a terrific job with the TCU quarterbacks in Fort Worth.

What to watch for on defense: The development of the D-line. The staff raved about the play of the defensive line throughout the spring, which is interesting since no other unit was hit harder by graduation and other departures. Unfortunately, no one will know until the season begins whether the effort in March will translate into results September. DE Zach Gholson and NT Terry Redden got the most attaboys, while fingers remained crossed that veteran DT Johnnie Farms will make it back from suspension.

120. Akron
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Linebacker

What to watch for on offense: After finishing 118th in the nation in scoring and 115th in offense with no passing game and even less of a running game, everything needed to be changed around. There will be a battle for the starting quarterback job, but Ole Miss transfer Clayton Moore has the line on the spot despite struggling mightily in his first season. Jawan Chisolm is a solid back to work the attack around, but he needs help from an iffy line that gets three starters back but is lacking in depth in options. The receiving corps is woefully lacking in sure-thing playmakers, but it gets back three starters and almost all the main men from last season led by Keith Sconiers. The tight end situation should be a plus if Rhyne Landrach and Anthony Ritossa can start getting the ball their way more often.

What to watch for on defense: New defensive coordinator Chuck Amato has seen and done it all, but he’s going to have to work hard to get this group to start stopping the run on a regular basis. The loss of top linebacker Brian Wagner - who bolted for Arizona before quitting football altogether – takes away the one guy who was able to clean everything up. Troy Gilmer isn’t Wagner, but he should put up big numbers in the middle, while the young new starters on the outside can move just well enough to be disruptive. The line has start wreaking havoc into opposing backfields with Amato turning his veteran ends Nico Caponi and Albert Presley loose. The safety combination of Johnny Robinson and Devonte Morgan will help against the run, but the corner situation will be an issue early on if the pass rush isn’t stronger right away.

119. New Mexico State Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: Can the O line keep the quarterbacks upright? The Aggies gave up 35 sacks last season with Manley getting knocked out for the year early on. The receivers should be there to help make the passing game go, and Manley is a bomber who can come up with big stats if he’s on, but he needs time to stay in one piece. Left tackle Davonte Wallace is a good one to work around, but it will take some work to find the right guys for three other key spots including right tackle. The running game might be okay, but if the line can’t pass protect, the offense won’t go.

What to watch for on defense: The line will try to do something, anything against the run. The Aggies had a hard time last season against anyone who wanted to try pounding away, allowing 33 touchdowns and doing nothing against the quirkier attacks allowing 374 yards and seven scores against Nevada and 392 yards against Utah State. Generating more pressure on the quarterback would be nice, but the biggest key will be to gum up the works on the inside needing veteran Walter Taumoepeau to shine on the nose and for JUCO transfer Kalvin Cruz to come up with a big year at tackle. In all four wins the defense allowed fewer than 200 yards on the ground.

118. South Alabama Preview
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The spread. New offensive coordinator Robert Matthews will switch things up from the pro-style attack that put up big numbers a few years ago and go with more of a spread. The skill players should be able to handle the work, and the running backs will be even better, but the real beneficiary will be a green line that needs all the help it can get. It’s not going to have to blast away; it’ll just have to do a lot of walling off. It can do that.

What to watch for on defense: The Jack. USA is going to technically run a 3-4, but that will change moment by moment. Pat Moore, Anthony Taylor and Logan Bennett are good options to work in a rotation in a hybrid role. There’s size on the line, and the three prospects for the Jack should handle a variety of roles especially as pass rushers. The secondary should be able to handle itself, but the line has to get into the backfield more and it will start with more coming from the outside.

117. Idaho Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Back, Offensive Line

What to watch for on offense: Will there be more pop and production? The 2010 Vandals might have had problems, but they were able to come up with six wins helped by a passing game that ripped up close to 300 yards per game. Even though those Vandals all but ignored the running game, the offense was able to crank up points early. Last year’s offense couldn’t seem to do anything right finishing 111th in the nation and averaging close to 300 yards per game total. Worst of all, the passing attack was among the most inefficient in the nation, finishing 116th in passing efficiency, and the points weren’t there. With Bass a good-looking back and the receiving corps strong, the yards should start to come.

What to watch for on defense: Is it possible the Vandals will finally have a run defense? It wasn’t bad last season, but that was only because it was so easy to bomb away on the pass defense. Now the potential is there for the run D to actually be a major plus with a good-looking tackle pair in Quayshawne Buckley and Dontae Scott as good as any Akey has had, while Scheidt and Robert Siavii form one of the WAC’s better outside linebacking tandems. There might not be any hope against the LSU running game, but the front seven should be able to hold up well against just about everyone else.

116. Florida Atlantic Preview
Relative Strengths: Linebacker, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The spread. It’s not going to be a wing-it-around-the-yard Texas Tech-like attack, and it’s not going to be a Nebraska run and run again offense, but the Owls are going to try to go to the spread and do whatever it can to make the something work. The receiving corps is full of dangerous young options, and there are plenty of quarterbacks for every type of style, but the line has to be night-and-day better and the running backs need holes to fly through.

What to watch for on defense: Attack, attack, attack. Every coaching staff preaches the idea of being aggressive and looks to be more disruptive, but new head coach Carl Pelini actually knows how to do it. The pass rush wasn’t there last season and the takeaways didn’t come on a regular basis to make up for the stagnant offense, so now the idea will be to switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 – while also employing a 4-2-5 on a regular basis – with the outside defenders to be turned loose into the backfield. There’s speed and athleticism on the FAU D, and Pelini and his staff will try to do everything possible to get everyone to swarm.

115. UAB Preview
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: Perry and thrust. The 2012 offense is going to be in the exciting hands of junior QB Jonathan Perry, the improbable starter a year ago after Bryan Ellis was injured. Perry is a legitimate dual-threat, with the athleticism to beat defenses two ways. In 2011, for example, he rushed for 406 pre-sack yards, and threw 10 touchdown passes in his final six games. New head coach Garrick McGee, who has had a history of success transforming college quarterbacks, is eager to guide his latest pupil to a whole new level of competency and consistency.

What to watch for on defense: The linebackers to be everywhere. The line is weak. And the last line of defense is sketchy. The fallout? The linebackers, primarily Marvin Burdette, Greg Irvin and Patrick Bastien, should be good for at least 250 tackles this season. The trio forms the backbone of a necrotic D that will once again have trouble slowing down the other team in 2012. UAB likes its linebackers to be quick to the ball, accountable in the open field and tenacious to the whistle. The current edition is going to meet the requirement.

114. Ball State
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Offensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Back, Secondary

What to watch for on offense: It was a night and day improvement under the new coaching staff after struggling for a few years. Pete Lembo’s attack wasn’t explosive, but it got better as the season went on and should be ready to be among the best in the MAC. If the line isn’t the league’s best, it’ll be close with five strong veteran starters who were great in pass protection. Keith Wenning is a big, talented passer who improved by leaps and bounds, but he needs the young receiving corps to improve and hit more home runs. Jahwan Edwards leads a nice rotation of running backs that should do far more.

What to watch for on defense: A disaster, the defense got worse as the season went on allowing 40 points or more in five of the final eight games. The D finished second-to-last in yards allowed and gave up yards in chunks. The prime culprit? No pass rush. It’s not a negative that three starters have to be replaced up front on a line that didn’t do anything, but the lone returner, tackle Nathan Ollie, is a keeper. Travis Freeman is a tackling machine linebacker in the middle, but he needs help on the outside. The secondary that got torched last year has potential, but it desperate needs more pressure on the quarterback from the front seven.

113. Rice Preview
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The tight ends to be very busy once again this fall. In Vance McDonald and Luke Willson, the Owls boast one of the most underrated pass-catching tandems at tight end in America. Both players, who’ll share time at “Y” receiver, possess the requisite size and soft hands to be considered legitimate NFL prospects. Considering Rice’s issues on the outside of the receiving corps, QB Taylor McHargue will a lot of his time in the pocket looking for No. 88 and No. 82 streaking across the field on intermediate routes.

What to watch for on defense: More maturity out of the secondary. Yeah, the Owls traditionally house one of the country’s feeblest pass defenses, but there’s bona fide hope that the 2012 edition might take an important step in the right direction. No, Rice isn’t quite going to be UCF or Southern Miss, but improvement should be on the horizon. The defensive backfield features a blooming headline act in CB Bryce Callahan, and a two-deep chock full of returning starters and veterans. CB Phillip Gaines, for instance, returns after missing most of 2011 to injury, and KAT Paul Porras is a former receiver getting very comfortable as a hard-hitting safety.

112. UNLV Preview
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Line, Defensive Back

What to watch for on offense: The line. A disaster at times last season, it couldn’t keep the quarterback upright and it was inconsistent for the ground game. However, starting three redshirt freshmen didn’t help the continuity. This year the line and the rushing attack could be a major strength with all five starters returning and with promise among the sophomores to go along with crusty veteran right side of Doug Zismann and Yusef Rodgers. With speedy Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle zipping along, the Rebels have something to build on.

What to watch for on defense: The emergence of the linebacking corps. John Lotulelei started to show his promise and potential over the second half of last season, and now there’s a chance he could be among the Mountain West’s best defenders. Tani Maka is a big presence who should shine in the middle, while Princeton Jackson and Tim Hasson are veteran poppers who should be fine in a rotation. The hope is for improved play on the line to help out the linebackers, but if needed, this group should be able to make the defense better on its own.

111. Buffalo
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The offense improved, but that’s because of the emergence of running back Branden Oliver and his 1,395-yard, 13 touchdown season. The offensive line made a big improvement, and it should be even stronger with good size, experience, and versatility paving the way for Oliver. Alex Neutz is a good No. 1 receiver, but the rest of the corps has to fill in around him and the veteran tight ends have to start doing more. The inefficient passing game needs to find a new quarterback, and it could be an ongoing fight to find someone who can consistently connect to take the heat off Oliver.

What to watch for on defense: The Buffalo defense was decent considering the offense was so inconsistent, but it had breakdowns and gave up way too many points allowing 30 or more in seven of the final eight games. The potential is there for a far stronger year in the 3-4 alignment with one of the MAC’s best pair of ends – Steven Means and Colby Way – and with an outstanding set of outside linebackers. Khalil Mack might be the MAC’s best defensive player, Jaleel Verser is growing into a job, and inside linebacker Lee Skinner will make a ton of tackles. The secondary is more experienced and should be good, but it has to stop getting burned deep.