2013 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 81 to 90
Marshall QB Rakeem Cato
Marshall QB Rakeem Cato
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 12, 2013


2013 CFN Preseason Rankings - No. 81 to 90 - Not Awful, But ...


Preview 2013 - Rankings

Not Awful, But ... - No. 81 to 90

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2013 CFN Preseason Rankings
1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50 | 51 to 60
61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 125 
 - CFN Preseason Rankings 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007  
- Preview 2013 - All The Team & Conference Previews

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There's one very important distinction in the CFN preseason rankings: these are based on how good the teams are going into the season and NOT how they're going to finish. Some teams have easier schedules than others, some get tougher road games and some will need a little bit of time to jell, meaning they might be better than their final record indicates. Going into the year, these are how good the teams appear to be from No. 1 through 125.

- Suggestions or something we missed? Let us know
- Follow us ... @ColFootballNews  

There's one very important distinction in the CFN preseason rankings: these are based on how good the teams are going into the season and NOT how they're going to finish. Some teams have easier schedules than others, some get tougher road games and some will need a little bit of time to jell, meaning they might be better than their final record indicates. Going into the year, these are how good the teams appear to be from No. 1 through 125.

90. Louisiana Tech
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Defensive Line
Relative Concerns: Offensive Line, Secondary

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.

89. East Carolina
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Secondary

Offense: The Air Raid switched quarterbacks in 2012, yet remained high-powered, very good news going forward for coordinator Lincoln Riley’s offense. The Pirates were just 56th nationally in total offense, but averaged 42 points over the final seven games. Much of the credit for the late flurry belongs to junior QB Shane Carden, who came off the bench in September to rescue the quarterback position. He returns, as does leading receiver Justin Hardy and all but one starter from the offensive line. The fate of 1,000-yard rusher Vintavious Cooper, though, will remain a judgment call for the coaching staff. The senior was suspended in March, and the specifics about his return are uncertain. In order to be a complete production in Greenville, East Carolina needs Cooper around to keep defenses honest on the ground. With No. 21 on the field, the Pirates boast one of the most balanced and explosive attacks in Conference USA.

Defense: Eight starters return to an East Carolina defense that hasn't truly had teeth since Skip Holtz was the head coach. The Pirates got slapped around routinely in 2012, including down the stretch to finish 87th nationally in total D and 88th in scoring defense. First-year coordinator Rick Smith will continue to employ a 3-4 approach, mixing in multiple looks. He inherits a veteran team littered with upperclassmen throughout the two-deep. The Pirates will be above average in the front seven, with ends Lee Pegues and Terrell Stanley, and linebackers Jeremy Grove and Derrell Johnson bolstering a surprisingly good run defense. Where the unit needs to grow the most is in the defensive backfield. ECU allowed 28 touchdown passes in 2012, picked off only 10 balls and is devoid of a true lockdown pass defender. Unless the pass rush is among the nastiest in Conference USA, the secondary will again be ripe for the picking.

88. Navy
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Quarterback
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Defensive Line

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.

87. Air Force
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Running Back
Relative Concerns: Defensive Line, Linebacker

Offense: As always, Air Force will average over 300 rushing yards per game, will finish near the bottom nationally in passing, and will be tough at times when the running game is humming. The receiving corps should be decent – in relative Air Force terms – and the line should be fine in time with a slew of undersized interchangeable parts who know how to make this style of offense work. There’s enough speed in the backfield to turn the corner, but the key will be the emergence of quarterback Kale Pearson, who has to prove he can be a consistent decision maker while hitting the deep pass on a regular basis.

Defense: The defense that was such a disaster at times throughout last season has to find something it can do well. The Falcons haven’t been able to get to the quarterback in years, but there’s experience and quickness on the woefully undersize front three to hope for a little more pop. At the very least, there are enough options to form a decent rotation. The linebacking corps is more of an issue with a wholesale change needing to replace all four starters, but the secondary should make up for the problems and pick up the slack with three returning starters led by tough-hitting safety Christian Spears and senior corners Steffon Batts and Chris Miller. However, if there’s no pass rush again, the veteran defensive backs will struggle.

86. Kent State
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Receiver
Relative Concerns: Linebacker, Secondary

Offense: It took a few years, but the old regime got the running game going with Dri Archer and Trayion Durham combining for over 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Brian Rock’s attack isn’t going to change the formula, but he will move Archer out to wide receiver where he’ll take less wear-and-tear and also be used even more as a jack-of-all-trades playmaker. The line has to come up with some big replacements for a few all-stars, but there’s a good base in the middle to build around in center Phil Huff and guard Anthony Pruitt. The return of Tyshon Goode from an injury and the addition of Archer could make a night-and-day difference for the receiving corps, but someone has to get them the ball. David Fisher and Colin Reardon are dual-threat options, but the offense needs a passer who can occasionally stretch the field.

Defense: Overall, this is an undersized athletic D that needs to rely on a rotation to keep everyone alive and kicking. Brian George goes from coaching the line to handling the entire defense, and he has to get a little bit creative. The secondary in the 4-2-5 has to replace four starters, while the linebacking corps has to find a new leader with the 143 tackles of Luke Batton gone. The line should be decent around Roosevelt Nix, but there’s little bulk. The pass defense has to somehow get much, much tighter after struggling throughout last season, but the pass rush should be solid and the takeaways need to continue to come after creating 38.

85. Western Kentucky
Relative Strengths: Running Back, Linebacker
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Defensive Line

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.

84. ULM
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Concerns: Linebacker, Secondary

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.

83. Marshall
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Receiver
Relative Concerns: Linebacker, Secondary

Offense: If Marshall misses its mark as a team in 2013, blame will not fall at the feet of the offense. Bill Legg’s system found its groove last fall, finishing sixth nationally in total offense, seventh in scoring and first in passing. With Rakeem Cato at the controls, the Herd thundered to more than 500 yards and 40 points a game, displaying balance and potency. Cato is the clear-cut triggerman, a deft distributor in the wide-open attack, but Marshall also features a trio of playmaking backs, Kevin Grooms, Steward Butler and Remi Watson. The opposition will struggle to defend all of the weapons that will be spread out around the field. If Cato has a wish list for his junior year, it would surely include better protection and a few more reliable targets now that Aaron Dobson and Antavious Wilson are on NFL rosters. WR Tommy Shuler and TE Gator Hoskins are dynamite, but it’d help if sophomore Davonte Allen and Penn State transfer Devon Smith can absorb some heat from the go-to guys.

Defense: All eyes will be on well-traveled coordinator Chuck Heater, who was hired by longtime friend Doc Holliday to fix the defense. The West Virginia native inherits a D that gave up more points per game in 2012 than all but one school, Colorado. The encouraging thing about the Herd is that it’s not without talent, despite the porous results. Holliday has recruited well, plucking a number of players from junior colleges and name-brand FBS programs. Heater plans to mix up his looks, using man coverage to stop the run on early downs and zone-blitzes if he can force the other guys into third-and-long. Marshall pretty much needs help everywhere, but it was especially feeble against the pass last fall. Reversing trends must be a collaborative effort that involves more pressure up front from ends Jeremiah Taylor and Alex Bazzie, and a few more tipped passes out of corners Derrick Thomas and Darryl Roberts. The Herd can win shootouts. It just prefers not to have to every weekend.

82. Bowling Green
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Offensive Line
Relative Concerns: Receiver, Defensive Line

Offense: There’s no excuse for the league’s 11th-best offense to not be far, far better with ten starters returning and plenty of options to fill in the gaps for the one open spot at right tackle. Quarterback Matt Schilz is going into his fourth year as the starter, and while he knows what he’s doing, he needs to be more efficient and has to cut down on the interceptions. The line should be among the best in the MAC, but the developed depth is a bit thin since all the returning starters started every game last season. The receiving corps has potential and upside, but now Chris Gallon and Shaun Joplin have to start doing more. The biggest key is the running game without Anthon Samuel, who had All-MAC potential but left school to be with his family in Florida.

Defense: The bad news is that MAC Defensive Player of the Year Chris Jones is gone at defensive tackle, and heart-and-soul linebacker Dwayne Woods is done after a fantastic career. The good news is that everyone else on the MAC’s No. 1 defense returns with great depth, lots of options and enough youth to expect growth for 2014 as well. Gabe Martin and Paul Swan lead a great group of athletic linebackers that can get all over the field while BooBoo Gates and all the defensive backs return including more than enough options to play around with nickel and dime packages. There’s no replacing Jones, but Bryan Thomas and Charlie Walker should be able to generate pressure from the ends. However, size is a major factor up front – there will be problems with the more physical lines.

81. Toledo
Relative Strengths: Quarterback, Special Teams
Relative Concerns: Secondary, Defensive Line

Offense: The offense didn’t exactly take a year off, but it didn’t quite crank out the big numbers expected. That has to change this season with nine returning starters including all the big guns and the skill spots and four good blockers up front. Terrance Owens is a veteran passer who has to rebound from a lousy finish, and he should with Bernard Reedy and a loaded receiving corps to work with. David Fluellen is a big, fast, NFL-caliber back working behind an athletic line full of veterans. Zac Kerin is one of the nation’s top centers, while Greg Mancz is an all-star at guard.

Defense: Just about everyone of note is back on a loaded offense that should put up huge numbers. It might need to considering the defense is going to be a work in progress after finishing 109th in the nation in yards allows and was lit up by everyone and anyone who wanted to throw. There are several options at all spots, and it’s going to take a while to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, especially in the secondary where playmakers have to be found around corner Cheatham Norrils. Linebacker will also be an issue with Dan Molls, Robert Bell and their 266 tackles are gone. A steady pass rush has to emerge, hoping for more from Jayrone Elliott and the return of a healthy Christian Smith on the outside.

2013 CFN Preseason Rankings
1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50 | 51 to 60
61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 125 
 - CFN Preseason Rankings 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007  
- Preview 2013 - All The Team & Conference Previews