2013 Independent Preview - Team Breakdown
Idaho WR Najee Lovett
Preview 2013 - CFN Independent Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish
Ind. Team By Team
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Note: Predictions based on team talent and
1. Notre Dame
2013 CFN Prediction: 10-2
Offense: The offense under coordinator Chuck Martin wasn't all that explosive, but it was effective, clutch and worked just well enough to get by. There's speed at running back, but losing Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood will be a problem unless a few new recruits can shine right away. The superstar freshmen are in the receiving corps and at tight end, but they're going to need time to work their way in with a decent group of veterans led by No. 1 target T.J. Jones. The line will be a positive with Zack Martin and Christian Lombard back at tackle, and they're going to need to be effective to keep Tommy Rees upright. There are decent quarterback options with Everett Golson suspended, but it's Rees who'll have to take his game to another level.
Defense: All of a sudden, the Irish defense did everything it was supposed to do and more, and now it could be even better despite the loss of Manti Te'o. The front three should be fantastic with Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt two All-America caliber linemen, while the linebacking corps won't have any problems picking up the slack without No. 5 around with three returning starters and good options ready to fill in. The biggest difference could be the secondary that began last season devastated by injuries and other issues and now returns loaded with experience. No, this might be the nation's No. 2 scoring D again, and it might start to struggle a wee bit more against the run, but it should be dominant at times.
2013 CFN Prediction: 6-6
Offense: The offense wasn't consistent, but it started to find something that worked towards the end of the regular season blowing up in three of the final four games, but it helped that Idaho and New Mexico State were part of the mix. This year, offensive coordinator Robert Anae's attack has a lot of nice pieces, but they all have to come together. Taysom Hill is a dangerous quarterback with great running skills, but he has to be healthy after suffering a knee injury. The line has the potential to be solid with a nice base to work with, and Jamaal Williams is a nice back who should lead a decent ground attack. The strength by far is the receiving corps thanks to the return of All-America candidate Cody Hoffman, who's coming off a 100-catch season and in range to become the school's all-time leading receiver.
Defense: The defense went from excellent in 2011 to phenomenal in 2012 allowing just two 300-yard passing days and giving up a mere five touchdown runs. Of those five, two came in the blowout win over Weber State and two more came against Notre Dame. The pass rush was phenomenal with linebacker Kyle Van Noy leading the way, and now he's back for what should be an All-America season on the weakside. The secondary should be a strength again with three returning starters including big-hitting safety Daniel Sorensen and corner Jordan Johnson, but help is needed from a revamped front line that has to replace Ezekiel Ansah and nose tackle Romney Fuga. The D won't finish third in the nation in total and scoring defense again, but it'll be very, very good.
2013 CFN Prediction: 6-6
Offense: You know exactly what the offense is going to do, but now it's going to do it more physically. The coaching staff demanded a tougher, rougher offense last year, and it showed with a strong ground game – as always – that might not have ripped off No. 1-in-the-nation yards, but was effective. With Keenan Reynolds now established as the star at quarterback, there's a dangerous option under center for defenses to worry about and a good fullback in Noah Copeland to give the ball to inside. The receivers are in place to do what Navy receivers do, and the starting five up front will be solid, so now the execution and consistency have to be there. The offense fizzled a bit too often in key spots, but it should be steadier now that Reynolds knows what he's doing.
Defense: Overall, the defense wasn't completely miserable numbers-wise, allowing 409 yards and 25.7 points per game, but it wasn't effective and it got ripped to shreds by any offense that tried to throw the forward pass. As always, the D was helped by the offense that held on to the ball for long stretches, but there must be more big plays with no pass rush and not enough takeaways. The secondary should be a plus if there's any help from the defensive front, and while there's decent size on the line – for Navy – the big plays have to come. Someone has to start hitting the quarterback with almost all the sack production from last year gone, and the defensive backs have to start picking off passes after coming up with just three of the eight interceptions.
2013 CFN Prediction: 4-8
Offense: You know what's coming. After leading the nation with 346.5 rushing yards per game in 2011, the ground game was even better last season averaging 370 yards per outing thanks to quarterback Trent Steelman and a veteran line. Steelman is gone, but A.J. Schurr and Angel Santiago are speedy options who'll keep the production going under center, while Raymond Maples and a veteran group of backs should be fantastic once again. Unfortunately, the passing attack was more than just the least productive in college football; it was also one of the most inefficient, but Chevaughn Lawrence is a good receiver who can do more if targeted. The line will come around with a little bit of time, but it's small, quick and relatively inexperienced.
Defense: Co-coordinators Payam Saadat and Chris Smeland had a lot of work to do going into last season, and it didn't work out well with the run defense having way too many problems against anyone who tried to get physical, and the secondary torched time and again. The lack of a steady pass rush was a huge issue, and it will be again, but the defensive backs should be the strength with several interchangeable parts and lots and lots of depth. The linebackers are the size of defensive backs and the linemen are the size of linebackers, but the smaller, quicker defenders have to get into the backfield far more.
5. New Mexico State
2013 CFN Prediction: 2-10
Offense: The offense fully made the change last season to more of a deep passing attack, and it worked relatively well with Andrew Manley throwing for 2,764 yards and receiver Austin Franklin turning into a statistical star. New offensive coordinator and former Bowling Green head man Gregg Brandon will change things up to more of a spread, Pistol-like attack. Because of the switch, Manley transferred, but Franklin is still around to lead a decent-looking receiving corps. The line that was a disaster last season gets everyone back, but there has to be more production for the ground game. The running backs are thin, needing options to emerge behind Germi Morrison, but the real key is the quarterback situation hoping for Travaughn Colwell to step into the role and shine.
Defense: The defense finished 117th in the nation in points allowed and gave up 476 yards per game with no pass rush, no pass defense, and nothing happening against the run. Even so, defensive coordinator David Elson was kept around. With all the experience returning, there's hope for a quick turnaround – or at least a little bit of an improvement – with most of the key parts returning in the secondary and outside linebackers Bryan Bonilla and Trashaun Nixon two decent veterans. The non-existent pass rush has to emerge in whatever alignment is used – the Aggies will play around with the 3-4 – and there have to be more takeaways after coming up with just four picks.
2013 CFN Prediction: 1-11
Offense: Paul Petrino was able to bring aboard offensive coordinator Kris Cinkovich, who played a huge part in making the Arkansas passing game go. He has a nice group of targets to work with in Nagee Lovett, Jahrie Level and Roman Runner, who should be steady, but now need to be more explosive. The coaching staff went JUCO for the top running back options, needing Jerrel Brown and Kris Olugbode to pound away behind a line that's full of veterans and is good in pass protection, but has to do something for a ground game that scored three rushing touchdowns. The quarterback situation is up in the air with a few good prospects pushing veteran Taylor Davis.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Ronnie Lee has lots and LOTS of work to do. The positives are on the defensive front with Maxx Forde leading a decent group of promising ends, and the tackle options are in place to do a bit more against the run. The back seven is a huge issue with a slew of JUCO transfers needing to become instant starters at linebacker, while the secondary has to replace three starters and also has to hope for a slew of newcomers to make a big splash. After struggling with the pass rush and getting ripped apart by any decent passing attack, it's going to be a struggle with so much turnover.