CFN Preview 2013 - ULM Warhawks
ULM QB Kolton Browning
ULM QB Kolton Browning
Posted Jun 19, 2013 2013 Preview - ULM Warhawks

ULM Warhawks

Preview 2013

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Todd Berry
4th year: 17-20
12th year overall: 46-80
Ten Best ULM Players
1. QB Kolton Browning, Sr.
2. C Josh Allen, Sr.
3. S Isaiah Newsome, Sr.
4. LB Cameron Blakes, Sr.
5. LB Ray Stovall, Jr.
6. WR Je'Ron Hamm, Sr.
7. WR Tavarese Maye, Sr.
8. S Cordero Smith, Jr.
9. DT Kentarius Caldwell, Sr.
10. DT Gerrand Johnson, Soph.
2013 Schedule
8/31 at Oklahoma
9/7 Grambling State
9/14 at Wake Forest
9/21 at Baylor
9/28 Tulane
10/3 WKU
10/12 at Texas State
10/26 Georgia State
10/31 at Troy
11/9 Arkansas State
11/23 at South Alabama
11/30 at Louisiana
That was great. Now do it again.

ULM came up with its first winning season since rejoining the world of the FBS in 1994, so there's no complaining or nitpicking over a shocking 8-5 season with a jaw-dropping win over Arkansas, but if this is all for real and there's going to be some staying power, the program has to pull up out of its nosedive in a hurry.

The Warhawks were one of the biggest stories in college football early on with the overtime win over the Hogs, the thrilling overtime loss to Auburn and the wild loss to Baylor. The offense didn't slow down with the blowout over Tulane on the way to a five-game winning streak that included a key overtime win over Western Kentucky, and then the air came out of the balloon.

It wasn't just losing quarterback Kolton Browning to a leg injury against Louisiana-Lafayette, it was the defense that struggled in the biggest games of the season – considering where the year was headed – in losses to the Ragin' Cajuns and Arkansas State. But just as the feel-good story of the Sun Belt was able to continue, it all came unraveled in a stunning 45-14 clunker to Ohio in the first bowl game in the program's history.

Doing that once was fun, but the Independence Bowl disaster against the Bobcats might have been the humbling moment that showed just how far the program still has to go to show staying power. Head coach Todd Berry hasn't known much success over the course of his career, but last season the offense clicked at a phenomenal level – coming up with 440 points after failing to get 300 in the previous two years – and it has the potential to be even better with eight starters returning including Browning and four starters returning to the line.

The defense that struggled and sputtered against the better offenses – allowing 40 points or more five times – gets back nine starters with a great rotation for the front three and some key players returning from injury in linebacker Cameron Blakes and Kentarius Caldwell.

For the first time there are real, live expectations to do some very, very big things, and yeah, if the perennial also-ran doesn't win the Sun Belt title, it'll be a major disappointment.

What to watch for on offense: Can Jyruss Edwards and the running backs get going? The ULM attack lives off the midrange pass, and it should shine again with Kolton Browning winging it around to a tremendous receiving corps, but the less the quarterback is running, the better. Edwards is a tough, quick back who's built to handle the workload, and Monterrell Washington and DeVontae McNeal are clones with good speed and experience. However, the running backs didn't crank out enough big plays, Edwards got banged up, and Browning ended up leading the team in rushing. If defenses have to start worrying about the running backs, all of a sudden the offense will go from explosive to dangerously steady.

What to watch for on defense: The pass rush has to come on a more consistent basis. The ULM defense came up with six sacks and a whopping 17 tackles for loss in the regular season finale against FIU, and it cranked up nine sacks over a two-week span against Florida Atlantic and WKU – the Warhawks won all three games. ULM cranked up 15 sacks over those three games and just seven over the other ten games, and it showed as the secondary was lit up like a Christmas tree time and again. The 3-3-5 alignment doesn't really get much from the front three when it comes to getting to the quarterback, but even if the pressure will be generated from all sides, the end result has to be a pass rush. This goes hand-in-hand with …

The team will be far better if … The secondary shows up. ULM gets all five of its starting defensive backs back, but they have to be far, far better. The team was able to get by WKU after allowing 308 yards and four scores, and it beat North Texas after allowing 323 yards and two touchdowns, but Ohio, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette and Baylor all fired away at well for well over 300 yards on the way to wins. The run defense was the problem in the loss to Auburn – allowing a season-high 225 yards – but ULM won the other six games when the defense didn't allow 300 passing yards.

The schedule: Can ULM pull off a huge shocker by beating Oklahoma in Norman? No, but it wouldn't be stunning if it came up with a victory over Wake Forest or Baylor on the road or Tulane at home. Most of the biggest Sun Belt games are at home, going against WKU and Arkansas State, but the showdown against the Red Wolves on November 9th is the last home date with a week off before going on the road to finish up at South Alabama and Louisiana. The season could come down to the rivalry showdown against the Ragin' Cajuns, but there can't be any big slips at home and beating Troy and Texas State in the middle of the season on the road could be a must.

Best offensive player: Senior QB Kolton Browning. He was good from the start of his freshman season, but last season he was more comfortable, more effective and far more dangerous. The season might have ended with an ugly thud with three of his ten picks on the year coming in the loss to Ohio, but he was a dominant force when healthy the rest of the season highlighted by his thrilling 412-yard day in the opener against Arkansas and with back-to-back four touchdown days in wins over WKU and South Alabama. If everything goes according to plan, he might be the Sun Belt Player of the Year.

Best defensive player: Senior S Isaiah Newsome. If healthy again, senior linebacker Cameron Blakes should be the star of the defensive show after making 18 tackles in his first three games with a sack before getting knocked out for the year. Newsome is the lone returning all-star to the defense after coming up with 57 tackles with four picks doing a consistent job as a good hitter. If he can make a few more plays against the pass, all of a sudden he could make a veteran secondary far stronger.

Key player to a successful season: Junior DE Darius Lively. The defense needs a pass rusher, and he could be it. Built more like a linebacker than a 3-3-5 defensive end, he's extremely quick and has to show it as part of the rotation up front. He didn't do too much last season as a backup, but he came up with six quarterback hurries in his limited time and showed glimpses of what he could become.

The season will be a success if … the Warhawks win the Sun Belt title. They're not going to beat Oklahoma, and they probably won't get by Wake Forest, but they get WKU and Arkansas State at home and should have things set up perfectly for the huge regular season-ender against Louisiana-Lafayette. With 20 returning starters and good depth, there's no excuse to shoot for anything less than a championship.

Key game: Oct. 3 vs. WKU. The Sun Belt opener will be the tone-setter. Bobby Petrino's Hilltopper team is fantastic and should be one of the favorites to win the conference title, and ULM has to take advantage of the Thursday night showdown at home to show that it's going to be the league's power team. A loss would make the Warhawks chase for the rest of the season with no room for any error.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Fumbles: Opponents 20 (lost 10) – ULM 13 (lost 4)
- 4th Down Conversions: ULM 24-of-35 (69%) – Opponents 18-of-28 (64%)
- 1st Quarter Scoring: ULM 94 – Opponents 66

- 2013 ULM Preview | 2013 ULM Offense
- 2013 ULM Defense | 2013 ULM Depth Chart