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2012 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 91 to 100

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 20, 2012


2012 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 91 to 100 - Sure To Struggle


Preview 2012 - Rankings

Sure To Struggle - No. 91-110

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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 
 - CFN Preseason Rankings 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007  

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Download the FREE 2012 CFN Preseason iMagazine.
Go to the app store and download the free Fox Sports Next app for the iPad and click on CFN 2012 Preview.

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.

100. San Jose State Preview
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Quarterback
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Secondary

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. The passing game turned out to be among the best in the WAC as it put up huge numbers as the schedule eased up. No one has grabbed the starting job by the horns this offseason, but last year’s starter, Matt Faulkner, didn’t shine last spring either. It will take a while to find the No. 1, and even then the job will still be up in the air. 6-3, 220-pound junior David Fales is a former JUCO transfer who originally signed with Nevada and has yet to see any FBS action, completing 62% of his throws for 4,635 yards and 37 scores for Monterey Peninsula College. 6-4, 217-pound junior Dasmen Stewart is an interesting option with the most experience and most mobility, but he has to be a stronger passer after completing 40% of his throws for 158 yards with a pick. Even though he saw limited action he finished second on the team with 111 yards and a touchdown. His 3-of-14 passing day against Nevada was enough to make the change, but he has speed, the athleticism to run the spread option, and a good enough passing arm to be used from time to time in a variety of ways. 6-4, 230-pound sophomore Blake Jurich is a pure passer who can move just enough to not be a sitting duck. With his size and accuracy he’s being given every shot to take over. The arm is there to push the ball all over the field, but he has to be a stronger decision maker and has to be steady.

What to watch for on defense: Why isn’t there more of a pass rush? Travis Johnson is one of the best defensive ends in the nation cranking out 9.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss, but he was a lone playmaker behind the line with no one else generating more than one sack or five tackles for loss. After finishing 100th in the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss, and the stats against the run struggling because of it, the defense has to be far stronger and far more disruptive. Tackle Travis Raciti should be a solid interior pass rusher in time while David Tuitupou is a good-sized end who has to take advantage of everyone paying attention to Johnson on the other side.

99. Tulane Preview 
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Defensive Back

What to watch for on offense: The return to health of Ryan Grant, the starter at “X” receiver. The 6-1, 194-pound junior was eyeing a spot on the All-Conference Team in 2011, but was limited to just a few plays because of a sports hernia. He’s back again, giving the passing game hope and an impressive athlete with which to target. Grant has 50-catch and 750-yard potential, which is exactly what the attack needs in order to get things cranking this season.

What to watch for on defense: A faster pace. The Green Wave wants to do everything a little quicker this fall, from the way it gets back to the huddle to the way it closes on the man with the ball. Tulane knows that it’s never going to be the biggest or the deepest D in the south, so it plans to control the things that are achievable. Look for a more frenetic pace out of this group for all 60 minutes. And those poorly-conditioned members of the defense will have a difficult time getting on the field once games begin.

98. East Carolina Preview
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The emergence of the backs. Sure, it’s called the Air Raid for a reason, but that doesn’t mean the Pirates don’t want to establish some semblance of a running game. With a new quarterback about to be broken in, the Pirates plan to leverage the diverse skill set of its four primary backs, starter Reggie Bullock, North Carolina transfer Hunter Furr and reserves Michael Dobson and Torrance Hunt. Bullock looked headed for 1,000 yards before getting hurt. Furr got to this point of his career behind freakish combination of speed and strength.

What to watch for on defense: It’s Milner time? DE Matt Milner was missed last year, even though he played in every game. Nagging injuries prevented him from being the pass rusher he was in 2010, when he appeared headed for all-conference honors. It’s a new, though, and the junior feels as if he’s ready to recapture his rookie form. The program sure hopes so. It needs more pressure from the first line of defense, which was non-existent last fall. If Milner can require multiple blockers, it’ll serve two crucial purposes; it’ll keep the linebackers from having to blitz so often, and make life a whole lot easier for a vulnerable secondary.

97. UTEP Preview
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Defensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Running Back, Offensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The emergence of Nathan Jeffery. The program believes it has a budding star in the backfield, the kind of player who can be a catalyst for the ground game. Jeffery was one of the standouts of the spring, routinely zipping through the defense for a big gain. He has good size at 5-11 and 195 pounds, and is also explosive enough to force opposing defenses to pay attention to the Miners running attack. With enough touches, Jeffery is a 1,000-yard back sans all of the notoriety and preseason expectations.

What to watch for on defense: The line to be surprisingly assertive. UTEP was just 87th nationally in tackles for loss a year ago, but is poised to fly past that ranking in 2012. The D-line harbors enough speed, quickness and experience to catch a lot of opponents off guard in the fall. On the outside are pseudo-outside linebackers Horace Miller and Greg Watkins. On the inside, three-tech tackle Germard Reed moves as if he’s a defensive end. Together, the trio will put pressure on offensive lines all year, supporting a back seven that will welcome the help.

96. UL Lafayette Preview
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Quarterback
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Linebacker

What to watch for on offense: The receiving corps. ULL finished 29th in the nation in passing and first in the Sun Belt in efficiency, and there’s no reason to expect any sort of a drop off with Blaine Gautier a terrific veteran quarterback working behind a veteran line. The key will be a loaded receiving corps that might lose a playmaking tight end in Ladarius Green, but gets back 1,092 yards, eight scores and 17.3 yards per catch from senior Javone Lawson and 58 catches and 697 yards and a score from senior Harry Peoples. Darryl Surgent will play an even bigger role after hitting home run after home run averaging 18.5 yards per grab with six scores. By far this should be the best receiving corps in the Sun Belt and should keep the offense rolling.

What to watch for on defense: Can the pass defense be a little better? The defensive front was able to generate a decent pass rush throughout the year and was able to generate pressure behind the line, but the results weren’t there in the secondary allowing 261 yards per game and getting torched for 23 touchdowns including eight in the final three games. This year, the line has to replace all three starters but could be even stronger with 300-pounders Cordian Hagans and Justin Hamilton able to plug things up and Emeka Onyenekwu a good-looking pass rushing end. It might take a little bit, but there’s good depth and plenty of upside.

95. Arkansas State Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Defensive Back

What to watch for on offense: The emergence of the running backs. The no-huddle Gus Malzahn spread likes to get the passing game going, but it also does a great job of getting the running backs involved. Aplin will likely be the main option after leading the team with 588 yards and ten scores, but unlike the last few years, the backs will get more and more work with Frankie Jackson a smallish speed back with the ability to tear off big runs in chunks, and junior Sirgregory Thornton will provide pop as both a runner and a receiver. With Michael Dyer out of the equation, Jackson and Thornton will be the ground game for the next few years without looking over their shoulders.

What to watch for on defense: Revamping the defensive line. The ASU front four was fantastic throughout last season but top pass rusher Brandon Joiner and his 13 sacks and tackle Dorvus Woods is done from the inside. Ryan Carrethers is a big nose tackle to start with, but the D will rely on several key JUCO transfers to beef up with Ishmail Hayes supposed to take over one of the end jobs and 283-pound Dexter Blackmon working on the inside. The depth is coming from the junior colleges as well, and there’s a chance ASU could keep on rolling without skipping a beat.

94. Colorado State Preview
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Special Teams
Relative Weaknesses: Linebacker, Offensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The running game might really be back. The goal under former head coach Steve Fairchild and the dream was to get back to days when Colorado State would blast away with a dominant running game, and the team started to get there with 213-pound back Chris Nwoke running for 1,130 yards and nine scores. The O line needs to be far, far better in pass protection and has to be far more consistent, but it should be solid in the interior with the return of Weston Richburg at center and Jordan Gragert at guard. There will be more rushing from the quarterbacks if Garrett Grayson ends up getting the job – that’s not a given – and there’s depth at running back with former Texas A&M Aggie Mister Jones joining 225-pound Dorian Brown to work behind Nwoke.

What to watch for on defense: The move to the 3-4. Defensive coordinators Al Simmons and Marty English were going to change things around no matter what, but now it’s a must with the loss of linemen Nordly Capi and Colton Paulhus. It’s not like linebacker is a major strength, but there are more decent options to play around with and more promising veterans to rely on. Shaquil Barrett and Broderick Sargent know what they’re doing on the outside and James Skelton was the team’s second-leading tackler last season. However, big stats for the linebackers might not be a plus if they come because the front three isn’t doing anything to stop anyone. After finishing 114th in the nation in tackles for loss, everyone up front must be far more productive.

93. Navy Preview
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Quarterback
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: The play of the line. When head coach Ken Niumatalolo is looking for a tougher team overall, the one area that has to get nastier is an O line that did its job last season but only returns two starters. There was some major shuffling going on this offseason to come up with the right starting combination, and while experience is a concern there’s more than enough size to start pushing people around more and plenty of promise. From out of nowhere, former tackle Bradyn Heap is being thrown to the wolves at center, bringing size and good quickness, while fellow sophomore Jake Zuzek will be under the microscope at right guard.

What to watch for on defense: The inside linebackers. Matt Warrick and Brye French should be tackling machines who make up for the concerns with a thin front three. The linebackers are the stars of the Navy defense, and now with French taking his athleticism and quickness from the outside in, he should be the perfect running mate for the tough and hard-hitting Warrick. The run defense finished 92nd in the nation allowing 187 yards per game – over 20 yards per outing more than in 2011. Warrick and French should be able to change that.

92. Marshall Preview
Relative Strengths: Receiver, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Linebacker

What to watch for on offense: Run Cato. Sophomore Rakeem Cato is a passing quarterback. However, he’s also an athletic quarterback, which the Thundering Herd would like to see a little more of in 2012. He looked timid at times outside the pocket, sheepish when not protected by his five enormous blockers. Cato has spent the offseason adding much-needed muscle while becoming more comfortable with his role in the attack. The hope is that No. 12 will do a little more freelancing this fall, because when he takes off, it gives Marshall an added element with which opposing defenses must contend.

What to watch for on defense: A mad dash for jobs in the secondary. While the Herd had a soft pecking order in the defensive backfield coming out of spring, it’s liable to get blown up once practices begin next month. CB Monterius Lovett and up-and-coming S D.J. Hunter appear safe, but everyone is curious what kind of an impact the newcomers will have in the summer. CB A.J. Leggett is a gem of a recruit, an athlete who could have continued his career in the ACC or SEC. At safety, a pair of experienced former BC Eagles, Dominick LeGrande and Okechukwu Okoroha, are about to descend upon Huntington, with an eye on immediate playing time.

91. Bowling Green
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Offensive Line
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Line, Secondary

What to watch for on offense: This is the year when it should all come together. Offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero has a veteran attack to work with led by Matt Schilz, who’s going into his third year as the starting quarterback. While the quarterback play should be among the best in the MAC, the key to the improvement will be up front, where for the first time in several years the line should be a major strength with five starters returning and several options to play around with. The receiving corps is as talented as the program has had in a long time, but it’s lacking experience and needs time to gel, while the afterthought of a running game has a burgeoning star in Anthon Samuel to work around. If he can stay healthy he’ll be a legitimate 1,000-yard threat and there might be a bit more balance than usual.

What to watch for on defense: The Bowling Green defense had to undergo a major rebuilding job a few years ago, and it all started to pay off last season with a solid year from the secondary and an improved season from the run defense. But that production shouldn’t stop there with eight starters back and enough depth to play around with the rotation and the lineup in several spots. The secondary in the 4-2-5 should be terrific with five returning starters and plenty of versatility, but the group has to make more big plays and come up with more picks. The line should get into the backfield thanks to interior pass rushing terror Chris Jones, but it has to be far stronger against the run. Dwayne Woods is one of the most productive linebackers in the MAC and should be in the hunt for Defensive Player of the Year honors.