2014 Pre-Preseason Rankings - C-USA West

Posted Jan 16, 2014

The ridiculously too early lookahead at the 2014 season. - Conference USA, Part 2

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- C-USA - Pre-Preseason Rankings Part One (East?)

PLEASE NOTE: Conference USA hasn't released the official divisions for 2014. These are a best guess for now, but the league will announce the real divisions in a few weeks.

2013 Record: 7-5, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 69

What Needs Working On: Interceptions. The turnover margin on the whole was a problem, finishing -7, but picks proved costly in key games early on with 12 of the 21 thrown on the year coming in the four early losses.

What's Up Going Into The Offseason?: After a terrific 7-5 season, the Roadrunners should be even stronger with ten starters returning on defense led by FS Triston Wade and SS Nic Johnston. LB Steven Kurfehs was the second-leading tackler, and he's the only starter gone on what's going to be a senior-laden defense. There could be as many as eight senior starters with nine of the ten leading tacklers back. Heart-and-soul leader QB Eric Soza is done, and now it'll be up to the bigger Tucker Carter to get a look to show what he can do. David Glasco II is back to lead the rushing attack, but depth has to be developed. All five starters are back up front, and the nine leading pass catchers are back for the new starting quarterback. PK Sean Ianno is back after hitting 11-of-19 field goals, and P Kristian Stern returns after averaging 40.4 yards per try.

2. Rice
2013 Record: 10-4, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 39

What Needs Working On: Passing efficiency. It wasn't all that bad, but for a passing attack that averaged 178 yards per game, hitting on a few bigger plays now and then would be nice when everyone is working on stopping the run.

What's Up Going Into The Offseason?: The Owls get back just enough talent to be competitive. 1,000-yard rusher Charles Ross is finished, as is QB Taylor McHargue, but Luke Turner and Jawon Davis are back to handle the ground game. Driphus Jackson is a smallish, quick quarterback who'll step in for McHargue, and he gets three returning starters to work behind including guards Nico Carlson and Drew Carroll. Donte Moore is gone, but all the other top targets are back including leading man Jordan Taylor.

James Radcliffe is back at linebacker, and tackles Ross Winship and Christian Covington will anchor things in the middle of the defensive front, but ends Cody Bauer and Tanner Leland are gone. Enough talent returns in the secondary to be fine, but safety Paul Porras and corner Phillip Gaines have to be replaced. Veteran kicker Chris Boswell is done, but punter James Farrimond is back after averaging over 42 yards per kick.

3. North Texas
2013 Record: , 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 33

What Needs Working On: Punting. It was a good, strong season overall, but Blake Macek and the punting game have to be better after the team netted just 36 yards per punt.

What's Up Going Into The Offseason?: 2012 was the year the coaching staff and program were building towards, and now it's going to take a little bit of rebuilding on both sides of the ball with seven starters gone on the defense including the entire front four. Size could be a little bit of a problem early on, but experience will be the bigger concern with leader Zach Orr gone at middle linebacker and Will Wright gone from the outside. 244-pound Derek Akunne will have to be the main man for the front seven, while three starters back in the secondary have to be the strength despite losing FS Marcus Trice.

QB Derek Thompson is done along with RB Brandin Byrd, but A.J. Jimmerson and Reggie Pegram should be fine handling the rushing workload. The line will be one of the team's biggest positives with four starters back only losing LaChris Anyiam at right tackle. Key targets Brelon Chancellor and Darnell Smith are gone, and now sophomore Carlos Harris has to be more of a No. 1 target. The young kickers should be even better with PK Zach Paul and P Blake Macek returning.

4. Louisiana Tech
2013 Record: 4-8, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 114

What Needs Working On: Passing efficiency. What happened to the 2012 team? The 2013 passing game averaged just 206 yards per game and did nothing down the field finishing 114th in the nation in passing efficiency.

What's Up Going Into The Offseason?: The offense that went from unstoppable to pedestrian has to do some rebuilding again, but RB Kenneth Dixon is a good one to work around and start with. Only two starters are back on the line, though, to run behind. QB Ryan Higgins threw six touchdown passes and just 13 interceptions as he got his feet wet, but the top four pass catchers and five of the top six receivers are gone – sophomore-to-be Trent Taylor has to grow into a No. 1. Leading tackler Daniel Cobb is gone from the linebacking corps, but the next five leading tacklers return with four starters in the secondary. Depending on the alignment, the back eight could all return intact. All four starters are gone on the front four including IK Enemkpali on the end, but pass rusher Vontarrius Dora is back. PK Kyle Fischer is back after hitting 18-of-23 field goals, and P Logan McPherson returns after averaging a horrible 38 yards per punt.

5. Southern Miss
2013 Record: 1-11, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 122

What Needs Working On: Turnover margin. -1.6, Southern Miss was dead last in college football in turnover margin, losing 38 and coming up with only 19 takeaways.

What's Up Going Into The Offseason?: Fifth-leading receiver Dominique Sullivan is gone – that's about it for Todd Monken's offense. All five starters return up front, but they have to be far better in pass protection. The top two receivers – Markese Triplett and Tyre'oune Holmes – are back, and Nick Mullens is growing into the quarterback job. Leading rusher Kendrick Hardy is gone, but he wasn't Adrian Peterson – Jalen Richard and Tyre Bracken can do a few different things. The top five tacklers return including key defensive backs Debarriaus Miller, Kelsey Douglas and Emmanuel Johnson are back at safety. Now they need to do less work, meaning the front six has to be stronger with everyone back led by WLB Terrick Wright. PK Corey Acosta returns after hitting 11-of-20 field goals, and while P Tyler Sarrazin is back, he needs to do more after averaging 39 yards per pop.

2013 Record: 2-10, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 119

What Needs Working On: Secondary. The Miners not only allowed 248 yards per game through the air, but they were 120th in the nation in pass efficiency defense, contributing to a miserable year on third downs – the D couldn't get off the field.

What's Up Going Into The Offseason?: The Miners needs work on both sides of the ball, but get former Texas A&M QB Jameill Showers back after a decent run. Jordan Leslie and the top four pass catchers are back, and Aaron Jones and Nathan Jeffery return in the backfield. Tackles Brander Craighead and Mike Amdall are finished but three seniors will start in the interior. The young defensive backs have to be better, and after taking their lumps but leading the team in tackles, safeties Devin Cockrell and Dashone Smith are back to lead a secondary with all five starters returning. The problem is on the line with three of the four starters gone, but DT Gino Bresolin returns. LB Anthony Puente was third on the team in tackles, and he'll have to do more with Horace Miller gone from the weakside. P Mike Ruggles had a decent freshman year averaging 40.2 yards per shot, while PK Jay Mattox has to be more consistent after hitting 7-of-15 field goals.

- C-USA - Pre-Preseason Rankings Part One (East?)