Preview 2012 - Rankings
In For Tough Years - No. 101-110
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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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one very important distinction in the CFN preseason rankings:
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.
110. Central Michigan
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Offensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Line, Linebacker
What to watch for on offense: Offensive coordinator Mike Cummings has to put together a monster of a season. QB Ryan Radcliff is in his third year as a starter, and he should be in for a huge year with 12 of his top 13 targets returning and all five starters returning to a line that was tremendous at keeping him upright. The running game will be along for the ride, but the combination of Anthony Garland and Zurlon Tipton should be decent. It’ll be passing game by committee with rising-star Titus Davis and the reliable Cody Wilson leading the way. The passing game should be among the MAC’s best, but the mistakes and interceptions have to slow down.
What to watch for on defense: The defense didn’t produce with no pass rush, few takeaways, and way too many problems. The front seven has to find a pass rusher, but there isn’t anyone to worry about at end and the tackles are way too small. The secondary can tackle, but it was forced to make way too many stops last year and might have to again. The safety tandem of Jahleel Addae and Avery Cunningham should be among the best in the MAC, but the defensive backs have to come up with more picks and big plays.
109. North Texas Preview
Relative Strengths: Offensive Line, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Back, Defensive Line
What to watch for on offense: More from the passing game. It has been easy to rely on running back Lance Dunbar to do a little of everything, but this season more will be asked for from junior Derek Thompson, a big, talented passer who hasn’t had a ton of good luck with injuries throughout his career. Last season he was able to get through the year and had a few huge games, bombing away for 332 yards and three scores in the win over ULM and 331 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Troy. With three of the top four and five of the top seven pass catchers returning, and with his experience, Thompson will get a chance to wing the ball around the yard a bit.
What to watch for on defense: Beefing up the secondary. The pass defense finished 104th in the nation while giving up 27 touchdowns and coming up with just nine picks, so while the entire defensive backfield needs to be replaced, it’s not a huge loss. It could be a case of addition by subtraction with four talented prospects ready to take over. The addition of Oklahoma transfer Marcus Trice should instantly beef up the safety situation while D.Q. Johnson is an instant factor at one corner. Mike Marshall is a decent-looking free safety prospect and Hilbert Jackson is a big corner who should thrive on the other side of Johnson.
108. Army Preview
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Running Back
What to watch for on offense: The health of the main runners. There are plenty of veterans and lots of good rushing options, but the O needs it stars. The team can survive if quarterback Trent Steelman goes down, but a dream of going to a bowl game again would probably be gone. He was out this offseason with a slight knee injury, and he was battered and bruised throughout last year mostly having a problem with an ankle problem. Tough running back Jared Hassin lost his effectiveness as a fullback and struggled after taking a big pounding. He’ll work in a variety of ways, but if he’s healthy the offense takes on another look. With a healthy Steelman and Hassin the Knights have the potential to be special.
What to watch for on defense: Does position matter? The coaching staff is getting quirky with where to put the best talents and the top options on the field, and it’s going to have to get even more creative if the goal is to get everyone to hold up. This is a tine front seven – or six depending on the alignment, with no likely starter hitting 250 pounds on the scale. Feisty doesn’t begin to go into what this group is, and with enough experience and a lot of quickness, the goal will be to get everyone swarming around the ball no matter where they play.
107. ULM Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Receiver
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.
106. New Mexico Preview
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Defensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The receiving corps. The ground game is going to be a work in progress even though one of the early positives could be a line that gets four starters back. The running backs are merely average – at best – with little depth and no star power. The quarterbacking needs to be far, far better, and it could be with a little more time to work and with a solid receiving corps with the ultra-athletic Ty Kirk returning to one spot, an underutilized deep threat in Lamaar Thomas coming back to another, and with Ty Kirk one of the league’s best tight ends. There’s plenty of speed and athleticism to work with, and now the passing game has to be a threat.
What to watch for on defense: The switch to the 3-4. The old staff played around with the alignment in several ways throughout last season, but this year the coaches will try to use a pure 3-4 and get a pass rush out of the outside linebackers. Considering the defense didn’t seem to do anything right last year there’s room for improvement across the board, and the hope is that the starting 11 can hold up better with more decent linebacker prospects to fill the holes. There’s enough size for the three-man front, but it would be stretching it to have a decent rotation for a front four.
105. Miami University
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Running Back, Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: Can the nation’s worst rushing offense find something that works? Part of the problem, at least statistically, was the play of the line that allowed a whopping 47 sacks; only Pitt gave up more. Four starters are back on a line that took its lumps, but now it’s an experienced but young group that has to come up with a bigger push for the ground game and has to start figuring out how to keep the quarterback upright. Zac Dysert has pro size and potential, and he throws an accurate ball, but he needs time to work. If all goes according to plan, he’ll end the season as the school’s all-time leading passer helped by a strong receiving corps led by All-MAC go-to guy Nick Harwell. The passing game will still be the main mode of transportation unless veteran Justin Semmes and the running attack can start doing more.
What to watch for on defense: The defense wasn’t all that bad thanks to an aggressive front that finished second in the MAC in tackles for loss. The strength is a line that welcomes back three starters including former Iowa transfer Jason Semmess, the team’s top pass rusher. With the line able to get the job down in the backfield, the linebackers can sit back and make plays. Evan Harris is a decent veteran to work around, while Evan Harris can play either linebacker or strong safety as one of the team’s leading defenders. Thanks to the pass rush, the secondary gets a lot of help. Top tackler Anthony Kokal from the secondary, but both starting corners are back from a group that allowed under 200 yards per game. Dayonne Nunley earned first-team All-MAC honors and should once again be one of the league’s top cover-corners.
104. Eastern Michigan
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Offensive Line
What to watch for on offense: The rushing attack that finished 14th in the nation averaging 218 yards per game gets all the key parts back. The tandem of Dominique White and the explosive Javonti Greene would be strong enough to carry the offense, but a healthy Dominique Sherrer adds even more pop and upside. While the running backs should rotate to come up with a big season, the star of the show for both the ground game and through the air will once again be quarterback Alex Gillett, who led the team with 736 rushing yards and came up with a nice, effective passing season. With five of his top six receivers back, the offense should balance out a little bit after finishing dead last in the MAC in passing. The line that started to come into its own last season returns four starters and a terrific leader in center Andrew Sorgatz to go along with enough depth to form a nice rotation.
What to watch for on defense: The MAC’s No. 3 defense has to make some big replacements up front, but there are just enough good returning veterans to prevent a major drop-off. Former UCLA transfer Marlon Pollard should establish himself as one of the league’s top corners, while Marcell Rose isn’t a bad playmaker on the other side. The safeties situation is a little bit of a question mark needing sophomores Pudge Cotton and Kevin Johnson to come up with steady seasons. The big problem is a defensive line that has to replace three starters and hoping for former JUCO superstar Devin Henderson to shine at tackle after being ineligible last season. Weakside linebacker and leading tackler Justin Cudworth is the leader of the defensive front, but he’s not alone with a talented and promising group around him.
103. Middle Tennessee Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Linebacker
What to watch for on offense: The passing game. Logan Kilgore came up with a decent year throwing for 2,231 yards and 18 touchdowns, but he had problems with picks and struggled to get the offense to get moving over the second half of the season. He loses two good receivers in Malcolm Beyah and Sancho McDonald, but Kyle Griswould and Tavarres Jefferson are strong starters to work with and there’s nice depth to count on. Now the goal needs to be to hit on more plays down the field after averaging just six yards per pass and 10.2 yards per completion. The potential will be there to stretch the field a bit more.
What to watch for on defense: Can anyone stop the run? All four starters are back up front with tackles Kendall Dangerfield and Jimmy Staten joining ends Omar McLendon, Shubert Bastien and Jijuan Fennell to give the team a veteran group to work around. Now they have to hold up after allowing a whopping 2,754 yards and 37 - 37 - touchdowns with Georgia Tech coming up with five and North Texas closing things out with seven rushing scores. Overall this was a relatively young group last season that needs to be much stronger and much more consistent. New co-defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix won’t let this bunch take plays off like it did last year.
102. Troy Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Line, Defensive Back
What to watch for on offense: The improvement in the receiving corps. The Trojans are loaded at receiver and it should show with the offense about to explode through the air. Robinson is a good passer who did what he could completing 62% of his passes for 3,411 yards even though his receivers weren’t up to snuff after Chip Reeves and Jamel Johnson were given the heave-ho last spring. Now those two are back with Reeves certain to be one of the Sun Belt’s most dangerous targets after averaging 17.2 yards per catch two years ago. Ten of the team’s top 11 pass catchers from last season are back led by Eric Thomas, a big, talented target who came up with 67 catches for 875 yards and nine scores. There will be hints of the ground game now and then, but the passing game will be too good not to crank up.
What to watch for on defense: A move to a 3-4. It’s not like the 4-3 was working over the last few years, and it’s not like the coaching staff is scrapping the old system entirely, but now there will be a hybrid Bandit on the outside who’ll serve like more of an outside linebacker than a true end. Senior Jacoby Thomas will be used mostly as a pure pass rusher in the spot with 6-1, 215-pound speedster Tyler Roberts and 6-0, 237-pound Juwan Jones getting their chances to be turned loose as part of the rotation. Will the move help out a run defense that got ripped apart way too easily? No, but it might mean a return to the days when Troy was camped out in the backfield on a regular basis.
101. Utah State Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Defensive Line
What to watch for on offense: More of the same. New offensive coordinator Matt Wells isn’t going to change what worked on the ground after the team finished sixth in the nation in rushing, but he’ll try to utilize a stronger more powerful attack without speedsters Robert Turbin and Michael Smith to count on, but the idea will still be to keep up the pace and the temp while trying to hit the home run whenever possible. Whether it’s Chuckie Keeton or Adam Kennedy at quarterback, the ground game is going to work with Kerwynn Williams a dangerous speed back and good toughness inside. It’s a backfield loaded with possibilities, and now it’s up to Wells to make it all work.
What to watch for on defense: Aggressiveness from all spots. After finishing 100th in the nation in defense, 101st in scoring D, 109th in sacks and 117th in tackles for loss, head coach Gary Andersen decided that the best person to take over the defensive coordinator duties was Gary Andersen. The results were terrific with an upgrade across the board, and while Andersen was able to show he could handle the work, he started delegating responsibility more and more as the season went on. Now he has a new defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda, whose job it is to keep the production going for a D that was disruptive and active in all areas. There wasn’t any one killer of a playmaking pass rusher, but most of the top guys are gone. While six starters return, the defense is going to have to manufacture big plays.