2013 C-USA Preview - West Team Breakdown
North Texas WR Brelan Chancellor
North Texas WR Brelan Chancellor
Posted Aug 2, 2013

Preview 2013 - CFN Conference USA West Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish

Preview 2013

C-USA West Team By Team

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- 2013 Rice Preview
- 2013 Tulane Preview
- 2013 Tulsa Preview
- 2013 UTEP Preview
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- 2013 C-USA Preview
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- 2013 CFN All-C-USA Team & Top 30 Players
- 2013 C-USA East Team Looks & Predicted Finish  
- 2013 C-USA West Team Looks & Predicted Finish  
1. Rice
2013 CFN Prediction: 9-3
2013 C-USA Prediction: 7-1

Offense: In 2008, Rice authored a historically good season on the shoulders of the offense. The 2013 squad possesses the potential to approach the program's level of production from five years ago. All of the pieces are in place for the Owls to be dynamite with the ball this fall. Just about everyone is back from a group that scored at least 33 points in six of last year's final seven games. The quarterbacks, starter Taylor McHargue and successor Driphus Jackson, are athletic dual-threats. Last season's top eight rushers and leading receiver Jordan Taylor return to support the passers. And all five starters up front are set to reprise their 2012 roles in the trenches. Rice is going to run the ball about as well as anyone in Conference USA. If the passing game can produce a few more big plays than it did a season ago, look out.

Defense: The Rice D loses virtually no one to graduation. It remains to be seen whether that's good or bad news for the program. The Owls are experienced, but that experience comes off a unit that ranked No. 81 nationally a year ago. The optimist, though, would quickly point out that Rice played its best defense toward the end of the season; the Owls allowed an average of 43.6 points over their first five games, yet only half that number over the final eight. The program will continue to struggle against quality offenses, particularly through the air. But coordinator Chris Thurmond's kids are going to attack the ball, especially up front with DE Cody Bauer and shifty tackles Hosam Shahin and Christian Covington. The secondary can't help but be improved. With all-star CB Phillip Gaines setting the tone in coverage, seven DBs who started games in 2012 remain on campus.

T2. Louisiana Tech
2013 CFN Prediction: 7-5
2013 C-USA Prediction: 6-2

Offense: Offensive architect Sonny Dykes? Coaching Cal. Prolific QB Colby Cameron? Out of eligibility. Top two receivers and four starting linemen? Gone. Louisiana Tech may have led the nation in scoring and total offense in 2012, but 2013 will bring an unusual number of challenges to a new coaching staff. Helping in the transition will be coordinator Tony Petersen, who knows his way around Conference USA, and who wants to maintain the Bulldogs' attacking demeanor. The likely successor to Cameron will be Scotty Young, a former four-star recruit of Texas Tech looking to rescue his career in Ruston. His most reliable targets will be D.J. Banks and Hunter Lee, though LSU transfer Paul Turner is hoping to be eligible for the 2013 season. The one constant on offense will be RB Kenneth Dixon, the precocious sophomore who rushed for 27 touchdowns and almost 1,200 yards as a rookie. RB Tevin King, the starter when last season began, is still recovering from an ACL tear that cut him down following a spectacular start to his career.

Defense: Louisiana Tech was prolific on offense a year ago. In many ways, it had to be. The D was a weekly sieve, allowing 526 yards and 38 points a game. New coordinator Kim Dameron will need to be inventive—and patient—in his debut in Ruston. The talent hasn't changed dramatically. In fact, the back seven will actually need to be retooled between now and what's left of the offseason. What will be changing is the level of competition, as the Bulldogs begin play in Conference USA. If this program has any hope of making strides on the defensive side of the ball, it'll have to be initiated by the D-line. DE IK Enemkpali parlayed six sacks into the All-WAC Team in 2012, and tackles Justin Ellis and Shakeil Lucas are proven seniors. It'll be incumbent upon the front to generate as much of a push as possible, because Tech is getting an overhaul on the second and third levels. The late addition of Daniel Cobb, a Texas Tech transfer, is expected to beef up the linebackers.

T2. Tulsa
2013 CFN Prediction: 8-4
2013 C-USA Prediction: 6-2

Offense: Coaches change. Personnel changes. Tulsa, though, remains one of the most potent and balanced offenses in the FBS. Life after star QB G.J. Kinne wasn't so bad after all last season, as the Golden Hurricane cranked out an average of 457 yards and 34 points per game. Back from that attack are QB Cody Green, the dynamite running duo of Trey Watts and Ja'Terian Douglas and leading receiver Keyarris Garrett. Gone, though, is three-fifths of a starting O-line that was quietly terrific a year ago. The program must retool the unit, which for years has been the unheralded hero of the offense's success. Tulsa is also seeking far more consistency out of Green, the one-time Nebraska transfer, who did a lot of good things in his debut with the program, but also struggled with his accuracy and decision-making as a thrower.

Defense: Well-traveled coordinator Brent Guy is coming off one of his best seasons as a defensive assistant. His Golden Hurricane D was the stingiest unit in Conference USA in 2012, ranking no lower than second in the league in run defense, pass efficiency defense, scoring D and sacks. Employing largely blue-collar athletes that were overlooked by bigger schools coming out of high school, Tulsa was aggressive to the ball and opportunistic. This program is adept at coaching up raw talent, which is a good thing since only three starters return. The Hurricane is getting a facelift after losing its entire D-line and three-fourths of the secondary to graduation. LB Shawn Jackson and FS Demarco Nelson will be physical leaders of the new-look defense, while DE Brentom Todd, DT Derrick Luetjen, LB Trent Martin and Bandit Michael Mudoh are asked to operate with a next-man-in mindset.

2013 CFN Prediction: 6-6
2013 C-USA Prediction: 5-3

Offense: Head coach Sean Kugler tabbed Patrick Higgins to be his first offensive coordinator with the Miners. The pair actually coached together in El Paso from 1998-2000. Higgins' top objective in Year 1 will be to develop a new quarterback. Blaire Sullivan led Carson Meger at the end of spring, but things don't truly get interesting until Texas A&M transfer Jameill Showers arrives in the summer. The potential is there for the newcomer to have an immediate and profound impact on an offense that ranked 100th nationally in scoring a year ago. UTEP likes its athletes at the skill positions, rarely a concern in these parts. RB Nathan Jeffery has enormous potential if he can stay healthy, Jordan Leslie heads a well-sized group of receivers and the tight ends are unusually deep and experienced for a school that doesn't typically overwork its tight ends. The unit will be a work in progress for Higgins, whose holdovers have a lot of bad habits that need to be broken.

Defense: Scott Stoker has his hands full. What defensive coordinator at UTEP hasn't in recent history? The Miners have long struggled to make key stops, a trend likely to continue in 2013. Stoker plans to fit his scheme to his personnel, while attempting to weave in some 3-4 looks along with a standard 4-3 alignment. The staff's biggest concern, as if there's only one, will be pass defense. Not only are the defensive ends, Adam Ayala and James Davidson, somewhat toothless at getting after the quarterback, but two new cornerbacks will be broken in as well. Most of the heat will come from LB Horace Miller, who has 11 career sacks since transferring from Louisville. UTEP likes its mix of talent on the interior of the line and at safety, where Richard Spencer is making his way back from a knee injury. Before getting hurt, he was headed toward 100 tackles, a bunch of big plays and a spot on the All-Conference USA team.

T5. North Texas
2013 CFN Prediction: 3-9
2013 C-USA Prediction: 2-6

Offense: North Texas needs tighter play from its quarterbacks, or else there'll be a change at the position for the first time in three years. Derek Thompson is the incumbent, but he was a microcosm for an offense that sputtered badly to put up points, and lacked efficiency. Enter Brock Berglund, the ballyhooed former Kansas recruit whose ceiling extends higher than anyone else in Denton. A tender hamstring limited him in the spring, but he'll be back to compete at full speed in the summer. The Mean Green should be able to run the ball successfully this year behind a deep backfield that houses Brandin Byrd and Antoinne Jimmerson and a vastly underrated O-line. The front wall returns four starters from a unit that yielded a nation's-low six sacks in 2012. The staff is ecstatic about the healthy return of jack-of-all trades WR Brelan Chancellor, the versatile playmaker who missed the second half of last year to injury.

Defense: The Mean Green is gauging its defensive progress in incremental steps. Yeah, the D still missed too tackles and gave up too many big plays last year, but it also yielded its fewest points since 2006. Coordinator John Skladany, no stranger to Conference USA, is determined to keep North Texas on the road to defensive recovery. The coach will be working with eight returning starters, none more impactful than LB Zach Orr and CB Zac Whitfield. In fact, the entire back seven appears as if it'll have a shot to be pretty feisty in 2013. It's in the front four that the Mean Green needs to turn the corner. The program is far too soft at the point of contact, triggering headaches for the pass rush and the run defense. North Texas needs to win the line of scrimmage, a goal complicated in the spring by the suspension of DT Richard Abbe and the ACL injury to DE Quenton Brown.

T5. Tulane
2013 CFN Prediction: 5-7
2013 C-USA Prediction: 2-6

Offense: Tulane harbors enough skill position talent to put up points. Running back and wide receiver are rarely a problem for the Green Wave. Orleans Darkwa has 1,000-yard legs, and the Ryan Grant-led receiving corps is terrific, but it's the supporting cast that'll dictate whether or not the attack can improve upon last season's dismal results. The first order of business on the staff will be to decide between two green quarterbacks, JUCO transfer Nick Montana and rookie Devin Powell. And then the coaches will need to milk better play out of an offensive line that was among the nation's worst last fall. If the blockers improve, Tulane will surprise some folks. If not, the Green Wave will once again stall, and attempt too many Cairo Santos field goals.

Defense: The Green Wave has had a long and painful history of being flattened on defense, a trend that shows no sign of letting up in 2013. Tulane lacks the talent, depth and especially the size to combat the offenses of Conference USA. How bad is the situation? The program has ranked 115th nationally in scoring D in consecutive years, producing just two honorable mention All-Conference USA performers in 2012. Noticeable gains are highly improbable. The Green Wave is small and quick at each level, creating takeaway opportunities, yet also leaving the team vulnerable to no-nonsense ground games. Up front, Tulane relies on DE Julius Warmsley, while holding out hope that LSU import Chris Davenport can bolster the nose. With a spate of young and active returning starters, like FS Darion Monroe and CB Lorenzo Doss, the secondary can't help but be improved.

2013 CFN Prediction: 0-12
2013 C-USA Prediction: 0-8

Offense: All but a single starter, LT Patrick Hoog, is back for the Roadrunners, who are hoping to parlay all of those familiar faces into better production in 2012. UTSA was fine a year ago, but that was when facing a schedule that included games with the likes of Texas A&M-Commerce, Georgia State, Northwestern Oklahoma and McNeese State. Maintaining an edge in Conference USA will be considerably tougher in 2013. The catalyst will again be QB Eric Soza, a gutsy playmaker who limits his mistakes. He's surrounded by all kinds of weapons, yet none in particular that'll force opposing defenses to scheme to specifically stop. Three returners ran for at least five scores, led by RB Evans Okotcha, and a whopping 13 Roadrunners caught at least 10 passes in 2012. If this attack can improve upon just one area, it'll be in the red zone, where UTSA had its struggles last fall.

Defense: Overmatched. It's the only way to describe the UTSA defense a year ago. Non-stop motors and great work ethics will get a D only so far, especially as it prepares to join a much tougher league than was home in 2012. The Roadrunners are a collection of try-hard types struggling with the reality of being in existence for only three years. The team was especially scrappy against the run last fall, getting plenty of help from LB Steven Kurfehs and FS Triston Wade, an All-WAC selection. Pass defense and depth, though, will continue to be major concerns that have no easy answers. The team's undersized cornerbacks are at an FCS level, a situation worsened by an intermittent and inconsistent pass rush. Former Oklahoma Sooner Bennett Okotcha has joined the mix at corner—and his older brother Evans in San Antonio—hoping to add some speed and attitude to the defensive backfield.