2012 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 71 to 80

Posted Aug 20, 2012

2012 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 71 to 80 - Also-Rans

Preview 2012 - Rankings

Also-Rans - No. 71 to 80

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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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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.

80. UCF Preview
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Back
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Linebacker

What to watch for on offense: The battle at quarterback. The Knights appear fully committed to strong-armed sophomore Blake Bortles … until Missouri transfer Tyler Gabbert arrives this summer. While Bortles showed flashes late last year and in the spring, Gabbert was the 12th-rated quarterback from the Class of 2010. The newcomer lacks ideal size, but compensates with accurate throws, good timing and quick feet. The pair is going to square off, with a chance to become the face of the program for the next three years. Round 1 begins in August.

What to watch for on defense: Speed and pursuit of the linebackers. UCF loses productive middle linebacker Josh Linam, but will be just as fast to the ball as it was in 2011. On the outside, the Knights are going to feature dichotomous seniors Jonathan Davis and Ray Shipman who both go after the man with the ball like guided missiles. Linam's replacement, young Terrance Plummer, has great lateral quickness and a much better feel for the position than he had after arriving from Orange Park (Fla.) High School last year. This group of athletes is an underrated reason why UCF will continue to be difficult to run on.

79. Hawaii Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Running Back, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: A running game? It's not like Hawaii has totally ignored the ground attack over the years – it had a 1,000-yard runner in Alex Green in 2010 – the bread has always been buttered with the passing attack. Instead of the normal Hawaii spread passing game, Chow is implementing a high-octane pro-style attack that will still wing the ball all around the yard but will be balanced out a bit more. The offensive line has a good mix of underclassmen to build around while the stable of running backs is strong enough to keep feeding the ball to the hot hand. There's power with Joey Iosefa and Sterling Jackson, there's speed with Will Gregory and there's a ton of talent and upside with new recruit Steven Lakalaka.

What to watch for on defense: The secondary. The Warriors will stick with a 4-3 scheme under defensive coordinator Thom Kaumeyer and it'll continue to be aggressive up front, but the key to the season could be a secondary full of speed, athleticism and options. John Hardy-Tauliau spent last year making play after play at safety, but now he's moving over to a more natural corner spot to go on the other side of veteran Mike Edwards. Bubba Poueu-Luna and Mike Sellers are promising sophomore safeties who should grow into their jobs, but all the real star of the show could be Michigan transfer Demar Dorsey, a superstar recruit who could be the best defensive back in the Mountain West from the second he steps on the field – if he's eligible. Last year Hawaii had the same starting combination in the defensive backfield in every game but one, but the consistency wasn't there. This year the speed and talent have to translate into more production.

78. Toledo
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Line, Defensive Back

What to watch for on offense: Only four starters return, but don't expect the MAC's No. 1 offense to take much of a step back. The one place the O is loaded is at quarterback, with the supremely accurate Terrance Owens and the efficient Austin Dantin able to make the case for being the two best in the conference. However, star target Eric Page and his 125 catches is gone meaning second-leading receiver Bernard Reedy has to take on a bigger role coming off a huge performance in the Military Bowl. David Fluellen takes over the running game with top backs Adonis Thomas and Morgan Williams both gone, and if he can get a little room to move he should be in for a great season. Only two starters are back up front, but they're good ones with Zac Kerin coming off of a second-team All-MAC season and sophomore Greg Mancz a rising star at right guard. Can the line allow nine sacks like it did last year? If it can, the Rocket offense will be dominant once again.

What to watch for on defense: Defensive coordinator Tom Matukewicz has to something with a secondary that gave up too many yards in chunks and a defense that has to come up with seven new starters. Strong safety Jermaine Robinson earned All-MAC honors and should be a statistical superstar, but the corners are going to be a problem with little experience and no proven depth. Getting one of the MAC's best ends, T.J. Fatinikun, will help a rebuilt line that has some good prospects but needs time and experience. The strength will be at linebacker with the return of Robert Bell and Dan Molls, who finished second and third on the team in tackles, respectively. Those two might be good veterans, but Michigan transfer Vladimir Emilien could become the best of the bunch.

77. SMU Preview
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Defensive Back

What to watch for on offense: Ton & Shoot. The Mustangs aren't just balanced on offense. They're powerful and downright assertive on the ground, testament to June Jones' ability to adapt to the talent surrounding him. In Zach Line and Rishaad Wimbley, SMU has at its disposal nearly 500 pounds of muscle with which to soften defenses between the tackles. The pair is going to form an ideal counter to the quick-hitting passing style, keeping defenses off balance, and unable to target one specific segment of the offensive attack.

What to watch for on defense: The Hunt for notoriety. Prepare to get an earful regarding Mustangs DE Margus Hunt, who's on the verge of becoming a household name at least in Conference USA circles. The Estonian product, who arrived in Dallas on a track & field scholarship, has done well since taking up football a few years ago. Now that the 6-8, 275-pound gifted athlete has mastered blocking kicks on special teams, he's bucking to become a more productive pass rusher as well. If his bowl game performance versus Pitt, five tackles and three sacks, is a harbinger of things to come, Hunt could have NFL scouts flocking to SMU in the fall.

76. Southern Miss Preview
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Back
Relative Weaknesses: Quarterback, Linebacker

What to watch for on offense: The ballyhooed arrival of rookie QB Anthony Alford. The true freshman from Petal (Miss.) High School could have chosen to continue his athletic career at Alabama, LSU, Clemson or any number of major problems. He chose to remain in state, in part, because he recognized the opportunity to play immediately. None of the three holdovers to replace Austin Davis, favorite Chris Campbell, Ricky Lloyd or Arsenio Favor, can even approach Alford's upside as a dual-threat. He'll have a lot to learn in August … and a lot to gain if he's able to quickly flatten the learning curve over the summer.

What to watch for on defense: The tackles to take on starring roles. Hey, no one will dispute that Bandit Jamie Collins is the front man of this unit, but it'll be worth monitoring the upward mobility of DT Khyri Thornton and NT Rakeem Nunez-Roches. Both linemen played well during the offseason, especially Nunez-Roches who has the size and strength of a much-needed run-stuffer. As the linebackers regroup on the fly, the middle of the line must be more effective at preventing running plays from extending to the second level. So far, it appears that Thornton and Nunez-Roches will be up to the task.

75. Tulsa Preview
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Receiver
Relative Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: RB Trey Watts to be a very busy man on Saturdays. Sure, he'll continue to share carries with speedster Ja'Terian Douglas, but he remains the starter, the player the coaches employ to get the tough yards between the tackles. The junior also has terrific hands out of the backfield, meaning he'll be used liberally on swing passes, and is even listed as a backup to Willie Carter at H-back. Watts is not the flashiest Hurricane on the roster, but he's plenty valuable to an offense that plans to milk all it can from him this fall.

What to watch for on defense: The battle at middle linebacker. The Tulsa D appears to be on solid footing, provided it can overcome the losses of DE Tyrunn Walker and MIKE linebacker Curnelius Arnick. Coming out of spring, the staff was unable to decide on Arnick's successor, listing junior Donnell Hawkins and redshirt freshman Trent Martin as deadlocked. Hawkins has the edge in experience and athleticism. Martin is bigger, with arguably the higher long-term ceiling. The wild card in the mix is former standout DeAundre Brown, who has spent the last two years dodging injuries and academic issues.

74. Kansas Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Defensive Line, Defensive Back

What to watch for on offense: Run blocking. Out of all the nightmarish stats to come out of last year, the worst was the scoring disparity early on. KU was outgunned 120-65 in the first quarter and 272-158 in the first half. By the time the teams got into the locker room the Jayhawks had to completely abandon the running game. The offense would come out firing and there was nothing to show for it. Keeping the chains moving and owning things on the ground is a must, and it could happen with a big tough line paving the way for a nice stable of backs.

What to watch for on defense: Lots and lots of new faces for the defensive front. Don't' get too comfortable with any sort of Jayhawk depth chart for the defense. Toben Opurum will start at one end, and as far as the other three spots it's … well … it's complicated. The hope is for John Williams to be a stud on the inside while redshirt freshman Ben Goodman is just one of several options about to be tried out on the right side. Throw in a bigger role for both Shane Smith and Pat Lewandowski in the middle, and KU has plenty of question marks for a line that got shredded at will.

73. Temple Preview
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Back
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Offensive Line

What to watch for on offense: Coyer meets world. Junior QB Chris Coyer was a well-kept secret a year ago. And why not? He started just four games down the stretch for a program out of the MAC. However, now that he's a more established entity—and his Owls reside in the Big East—he could become quite a bit little less anonymous in 2012. While still developing as a passer, he was virtually unstoppable as a runner, a quality this offense likes in its quarterbacks. In fact, despite playing an abbreviated slate, the 6-3, 230-pound Coyer still rumbled for 562 yards and three scores on only 69 carries.

What to watch for on defense: Youboty call. In dire need of a capable pass rusher to emerge in the aftermath of Adrian Robinson's graduation, the staff is holding out hope that senior John Youboty can approach his once-sizable potential. The end, who originally turned down major offers to play for Mark Snyder at Marshall, transferred to Temple following a serious vertebra injury. Last year was spent getting comfortable being back on the field. The hope is that this year can be spent chasing down quarterbacks, and sparking the first line of the Owls defense.

72. Indiana Preview
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Offensive Line

What to watch for on offense: This is where the youth movement of last year should pay off. The attack couldn't score, the passing game wasn't efficient, and the line couldn't generate enough of a consistent push, but all of that should change. New offensive coordinator Seth Littrell's first job will be to get the line to be more physical, and it should be with four starters returning and with enough depth to form a decent rotation. The quarterback situation still has to be figured out with Cameron Coffman looking to push for time, but Roberson is good enough to be the face of the franchise for the next three years. The receiving corps has size and enough athleticism to get by, and the running back situation could be a surprise with several options to help out Houston. Expect more explosive plays and a lot more consistency.

What to watch for on defense: The brand new linebacking corps. It's a bit much to blame the problems of the woeful defense on the linebackers, but they weren't exactly a plus for one of the nation's worst run defenses. With one recruiting class the problem has been solved with the speedy and athletic Jacarri Alexander a ready-made option on the weakside and David Cooper stepping off the bus and into the starting gig in the middle. With sophomore Chase Hoobler back on the strongside and with several excellent freshmen coming in, this should go from being a problem area to a positive in a big hurry.

71. Air Force Preview
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Weaknesses: Receiver, Defensive Line

What to watch for on offense: How healthy can the backfield stay? As long as quarterback Connor Dietz, fullback Mike DeWitt and tailback Wes Cobb stay healthy, everything should be fine for the mighty ground attack. However, there isn't another Dietz waiting in the wings in case the starter gets hurt. Mitch Griebel and Dano Graves have good potential, but there's a drop off. DeWitt missed all of 2010 with a knee injury and backup tailback Cody Getz is coming back after getting hurt late last year. Also trying to return healthy is Anthony LaCoste, a promising option returning from a torn ACL. There isn't a passing game to fall back on, so it could be a long, long season if the backs aren't in one piece.

What to watch for on defense: More aggressiveness. Defensive coordinator Charlton Warren has been around as the co-defensive coordinator for the last three seasons, but now he has the job all to himself and he's looking to make some changes. The defensive front wasn't nearly aggressive enough at getting into the backfield, finishing 98th in the nation in sack and 115th in tackles for loss, but that's nothing new for a defense that never, ever seems able to get into the backfield. Now the goal is to turn things up a few notches to try to come up with more big plays. The offense did its part at times throughout last year, but the D didn't do what it needed to. This year, though, the defense will look to start being more disruptive.