2013 Pre-Preseason C-USA West Rankings
UTSA QB Eric Soza
UTSA QB Eric Soza
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 28, 2013


The too early look at how good the Conference USA West teams should be in 2013.



CFN 2013 First Look Rankings

C-USA West
 

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- 2013 CFN Pre-Preseason Conference USA East Rankings

1. Tulsa (11-3)

Can the defending Conference USA champion reload? The Golden Hurricane was phenomenal when it came to getting into the backfield with a defense that led the league in yards allowed, but only three starters are back. Fortunately, linebacker Shawn Jackson is a good leader to start with and Demarco Nelson is a solid free safety who’ll be one of the team’s biggest statistical producers. The offense that led Conference USA in rushing is a different story with nine starters back. Quarterback Cody Green and running backs Trey Watts and Ja’Terian Douglas will make the attack fly, but the two lost starters – tackle Jared Grigg and center Trent Dupy – are on the line. Trey Watts is a special returner who’ll once again be a difference maker.

2. Rice (7-5)

One of the nice surprises of 2012, Rice went on a second half tear with five straight wins to close out the year and a 6-1 record after starting out 1-5. The offense found a running game and the defense, for Rice, wasn’t that bad. Now there are real live expectations with 20 starters returning including leading rusher Charles Ross and quarterback Taylor McHargue. All five starters are back on the line, but tight end Luke Willson is gone as is playmaker Sam McGuffie. The defense gets ten starters back, only losing end Jared Williams. Just about all the key players who made a tackle last season return with safety Paul Porras and end Cody Bauer two good ones to work around. Kicker Chris Boswell will be among the nation’s best.

3. Louisiana Tech (9-3)

The program FINALLY got its wish and it’s off to a bigger, better conference. Skip Holtz takes over for Sonny Dykes, and he has plenty of work to do for the nation’s No. 1 offense in both scoring and yards. Eight starters are gone including quarterback Colby Cameron and receiver Quinton Patton, but record-setting running back Kenneth Dixon is back. With four starters gone over one of the most productive offensive lines in America, the O could have problems early on. The defense finished dead last in college football, but it welcomes back the entire front four and corners Byson Abraham and Le’Vander Liggins. Now the Bulldogs have to find a pass rush as well as a strong safety to replace leading tackler Jamel Johnson.

4. Tulane (2-10)

There’s actually a little bit of a buzz with a halfway decent recruiting class expected to come in and with some nice pieces in place for head coach Curtis Johnson to work with. The offense didn’t quite click throughout last season, but it started to find something over the second half of the year. Unfortunately, quarterback Ryan Griffin is gone, but running back Orleans Darkwa returns along with four starters on the line and leading receiver Ryan Grant. The defense struggled, but safety Darion Monroe and linebacker Zach Davis are major positives returning. The defensive line has depth and options.

5. UTEP (3-9)

It’s a new era with Sean Kugler taking over for Mike Price. Can he finally produce a steady winner? The offense has to find something that consistently works, and that starts with finding a quarterback to replace Nick Lamaison. Running back Nathan Jeffery is a nice place to start, but the line has to be better despite losing center Eloy Atkinson and right tackle James Nelson. The defense that was such a disaster under Price gets everyone back up front with four senior starters returning. Leading tackler Josh Fely has to be replaced on the weakside and Aubrey Alexius is done on the other side, but the biggest problem is in the secondary with strong safety Shane Huhn the only one coming back. The team’s biggest loss, though, might be punter Ian Campbell, who helped the Miners finish 11th in the nation in net punting.

6. North Texas (4-8)

The Mean Green might be closer than it appears to getting back to a winning level. Moving up in weight class to Conference USA might not appear to be a plus, but eight starters return to a nice defense that did a decent job. Linebacker Zach Orr will be among the new league’s top tacklers, and even though top pass rusher K.C. Obi is gone, there are plenty of options ready to step up and do more. All four starters are back to a young secondary with good potential. The offensive line led the nation in fewest sacks allowed, giving up just six all season, and now it welcomes back four starters, only losing center Aaron Fortenberry. Quarterback Derek Thompson is back along with several decent targets, but he loses leading receiver Ivan Delgado. Brandin Byrd and Antoinne Jimmerson form a good running tandem.

7. UTSA (8-4)

The good: Larry Coker’s UTSA team went 8-4. The bad: it didn’t beat anyone with a pulse. Call the first year in the FBS a training time with victories over four FCS teams along with Idaho, Texas State, New Mexico State and South Alabama. Even so, this should be an interesting team with all 11 starters returning on offense including quarterback Eric Soza and speedy veteran running back David Glasco. The defense is also loaded with veterans led by linebacker Steven Kurfehs, corner Erik Brown and safety Triston Wade, but Brandon Reeves is a key loss from the linebacking corps. All the ends are back along with the three safeties in the 4-2 5 scheme.

- 2013 CFN Pre-Preseason Conference USA East Rankings