2013 Sun Belt Preview - Team Breakdown
WKU RB Antonio Andrews
WKU RB Antonio Andrews
Posted Jul 30, 2013

Preview 2013 - CFN Sun Belt Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish

Preview 2013

Sun Belt Team By Team

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Note: Predictions based on team talent and schedules.

- 2013 Arkansas State Preview
- 2013 Georgia State Preview
- 2013 Louisiana Preview 
- 2013 South Alabama Preview 
- 2013 Texas State Preview 
- 2013 Troy Preview
- 2013 ULM Preview 
- 2013 WKU Preview 

- 2013 Sun Belt Preview
- 2013 Big Ten Unit Rankings
- 2013 CFN Schedules & Picks
- 2013 CFN All-Sun Belt Team & Top 30 Players
- 2013 Sun Belt Team Looks & Predicted Finish   
1. Western Kentucky
2013 CFN Prediction: 9-3
2013 Sun Belt Prediction: 7-0

Offense: New offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm is going to make sure the passing game gets moving, but first the Hilltoppers have to come up with a consistent quarterback to replace veteran Kawaun Jakes. Antonio Andrews is one of the nation’s best all-around running backs, but he has some good backups to help take the heat off and keep him fresh. The line is thin in terms of depth, but the starting five will be solid, while the receiving corps has speed and upside with more of a commitment to pushing the ball deep.

Defense: Veteran defensive coordinator Nick Holt inherits a terrific group that should form one of the Sun Belt’s best defenses. Andrew Jackson is a huge hitting linebacker with All-America talent and ability, and he’s flanked by strong playmakers. The secondary is full of great tacklers and a ball-hawking machine in safety Jonathan Dowling, but the group has to be tighter when the ball is in the air. The line needs the most work after losing all four starters, but there are several strong prospects waiting to shine with end Gavin Rocker a good pass rushing star in the making and a few JUCO tackles waiting to fill in the gaps.

2. Arkansas State
2013 CFN Prediction: 8-4
2013 Sun Belt Prediction: 6-1

Offense: It might not be the wild and crazy up-tempo offense of Gus Malzahn’s last season, but Bryan Harsin knows how to crank up an offense after doing wonders as Boise State’s offensive coordinator. Former Bronco quarterback Bush Hamdan will combine with Eliah Drinkwitz as co-coordinators, and they have a ton of talent to work with helped mostly by a great line that returns four starters. David Oku proved he could shine as the main man at running back, and J.D. McKissic is a tremendous No. 1 target to work the passing game around, but a new quarterback has to emerge in place of all-star quarterback Ryan Aplin. The holes to patch aren’t that big – even at quarterback – and there are nice options to play around with. Consider it a shocker if the O doesn’t crank out over 450 yards and close to 35 points per game again.

Defense: ASU led the Sun Belt in scoring defense and was second in total defense, but it wasn’t great at getting into the backfield and it struggled against the better passing teams. New defensive coordinator John Thompson is a fantastic get for the program, and he should do a nice job with an athletic, veteran crew. Ryan Carrethers is one of the best tackles in the Sun Belt and a strong anchor to work around, while Qushaun Lee is the perfect middle linebacker for the 4-2-5 alignment. The pass rush needs to be better to help out a secondary that hit a bad patch over the second half of last season, but there’s athleticism on the outside and speedsters in the secondary with some shuffling being done to get the best playmakers on the field at the same time. The D will be fine, but there will be times when things don’t work in shootouts. Even so, statistically, this will once again be one of the league’s leading defenses.

3. Louisiana
2013 CFN Prediction: 8-4
2013 Sun Belt Prediction: 5-2

Offense: Explosive, balanced and consistent, the ULL offense did everything right on the way to leading the Sun Belt in scoring while averaging 455 yards per game. The loss of two all-star tackles will mean some reshuffling up front, and losing leading receivers Javone Lawson and Harry Peoples will sting a bit, but it should be business as usual with quarterback Terrance Broadway growing into one of the league’s brightest stars, and with enough talent at the skill spots to keep up the production. Bruising back Alonzo Harris will work well behind the revamped line, and Jamal Robinson and Darryl Surgent should be ready to shine for the receiving corps.

Defense: The defense had its meltdowns last season and was never a brick wall, but as long as it can hold serve once in a while and let the offense do its job, all should be fine. The biggest concern early on will be the pass rush after losing Emeka Onyenekwu and Cordian Hagans from the outside, but Christian Ringo should be one of the Sun Belt’s leading sackers moving from tackle to end. The back seven is athletic and active – linebacker Justin Anderson should be an all-star – but the secondary has to get far tighter after being lit up on a regular basis and with little consistency.

4. ULM
2013 CFN Prediction: 6-6
2013 Sun Belt Prediction: 4-3

Offense: Offensive coordinator Steve Farmer’s attack blew up. It wasn’t bad in 2011, but the passing game was woefully inefficient. Last year, because of quarterback Kolton Browning, ULM’s attack bombed away for 291 passing yards per game and scored 23 points or more in every game until the bowl clunker. The receiving corps loses Brent Leonard’s 104 catches, but it gets back everyone else to make the passing game shine. Running back Jyruss Edwards is back and healthy after missing the second half of last season, and while he doesn’t have an elite line to work behind, four starters are back up front to give the offense more cohesion.

Defense: Experience isn’t going to be an issue for Troy Reffett’s defense, but will the production follow after allowing 418 yards and 29 points per game? The ULM 3-3-5 system was statistically solid against the run, but that’s mostly because everyone spent so much time bombing away. The secondary has to be far stronger, and while everyone can hit – including the corners – there have to be more big stops and there can’t be so many deep passes allowed. The front three has an excellent rotation that should be one of the team’s bigger strengths, while the linebacking corps has size and should hold up well against the run.

5. Troy
2013 CFN Prediction: 5-7
2013 Sun Belt Prediction: 3-4

Offense: The offense should see more of the same. Offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield has a terrific quarterback situation with veteran bomber Corey Robinson and dual-threat Deon Anthony combining forces to make one of the nation’s most dangerous passing games go. The receiving corps should be excellent with a little bit of time, with Eric Thomas expected to grow into a dangerous No. 1 playmaker. The rushing attack will be a bit of a question mark with three untested speedsters trying to replace Shawn Southward while working behind a line that has to replace four starters and needs a ton of retooling.

Defense: With one of the worst defenses in the nation over the last few years, and without enough production against most offenses with a pulse, something had to change. Defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt is back after working with Gene Chizik at Auburn, and he has lots and lots of work to do. The pass rush was non-existent, the secondary was miserable and there weren’t enough takeaways. With more of a 4-2-5 alignment now, the hope will be for the secondary go come up with more big plays, but the front four has to start doing its job by getting to the quarterback. There’s a major overhaul across the board, but there’s hope with Miami transfer Keion Payne taking over one corner spot and big tackler Mark Wilson due for a huge season at middle linebacker.

6. Texas State
2013 CFN Prediction: 3-9
2013 Sun Belt Prediction: 2-5

Offense: The spread attack will undergo a little bit of a change. While there could still be a running quarterback under center, there should be more of a passing element with a strong receiving corps and a promising veteran passer in Tyler Arndt giving it a shot. All the top wide receivers are back and there’s a good group of tight ends ready to do more. The line might not be a killer, but it’ll be decent for the ground attack with a good veteran base to build around. As long as the deep group of speedy running backs are producing, the offense will move, but consistency is a huge problem.

Defense: The defense had a rough go under coordinator Craig Naivar, failing to generate any sort of a pass rush until the season finale and having a nightmare of a time getting off the field. The secondary was burned time and again, and the run defense failed to hold up against anyone who could generate a push. Fortunately, seven starters are back in the 4-2-5 alignment along with two phenomenal pickups in former TCU defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey and former Colorado State linebacker Michael Orakpo. A slew of JUCO transfers need to help out at safety, while the pass rush has to be manufactured from several spots.

7. South Alabama
2013 CFN Prediction: 2-10
2013 Sun Belt Prediction: 1-6

Offense: It was a rocky first year for the USA spread attack after changing over from a pro-style system, but offensive coordinator Robert Matthews has lots of interesting pieces to work with to expect more consistency and pop. The passing attack has a world of upside with left-handed veteran Ross Metheny back under center and a loaded receiving corps to play with – just about all the top pass catchers are back. The line has promise after going through a rough year in pass protection, but it still might take a little while longer before everything starts to come together. Top running back Demetre Baker was kicked off the team, but there should be a decent rotation with Jay Jones and Kendall Houston.

Defense: After a great 2011, the hope was for the defense to surprise and be sneaky-good. Instead, the Jaguars had too many problems coming up with key stops and didn’t find much that worked outside of a decent pass rush. Defensive coordinator Kevin Sherrer has enough talent to work with to expect more consistency. The line has edge rushers in hybrid Pat Moore and end Alex Page, and Enrique Williams should be one of the Sun Belt’s top tacklers, but everyone has to be more disruptive and the secondary has to be stronger. Tyrell Pearson is a good ball-hawking corner, but all the JUCO transfers signed on over the last few years have to be steadier. All 11 projected starters are seniors; everyone should know what they're doing.

8. Georgia State
2013 CFN Prediction: 2-10
2013 Sun Belt Prediction: 0-7

Offense: At the very least, the Panther offense has a tremendous offensive coordinator in former Boston College head coach Jeff Jagodzinski to lead the way. All five starters are back on the offensive line that’s decent in pass protection, but it has to be far, far stronger for the ground game. JUCO transfer Gerald Howse has to ramp up a rushing attack that came up with just 1,216 yards on the year, while the quarterback derby has to produce a passer who can get the ball to possible Sun Belt all-star Albert Wilson. Ben McLane is the returning starter under center, but he’ll be pushed by former Ohio Bobcat Ronnie Bell and newcomer Clay Chastain, who’s more of a pure passer.

Defense: There’s experience and size, but new defensive coordinator Jesse Minter has to find something that this group can do well. The run defense was awful, the pass defense worse, and there wasn’t enough of a pass rush and there weren’t enough takeaways to make up for the issues. The change to a 3-4 should help the cause with a good, deep pack of linebackers in place to potentially start doing more to be disruptive behind the line. There’s bulk up front with Theo Agnew and Terrance Woodard two big, active linemen who’ll get around the ball, but they have to hold up better. The leadership and experience in the secondary has to translate into production.