What you need to know ...
The offense started to come on by the end of last year and
has the potential to finally start scoring on a regular basis if
new QB Justin Willis plays up to the prep hype. There will be a
variety of formations with the ability to go to four and five
wide sets to run the spread and then quickly adjust to a regular
pro-set using a "U End" as a fullback/tight end. Bobby Chase
leads a good-looking receiving corps, but the strength is in the
backfield where DeMyron Martin leads a deep, speedy group of
runners. The line will be fine by the middle of the year once
some depth starts to develop.
Rushing: DeMyron Martin
185 carries, 854 yds, 7 TD
Receiving: Bobby Chase
39 catches, 625 yds, 4 TD
Star of the offense: Sophomore RB DeMyron Martin
Player that has to step up and become a star: Redshirt
freshman QB Justin Willis
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Columbus Givens
Best pro prospect: Senior TE Ryan Kennedy
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Martin, 2) WR Bobby
Chase, 3) Kennedy
Strength of the offense: Tight end, running back
Weakness of the offense:
Experienced quarterback, offensive line depth
The quarterback situation finally settled itself after
three years of turmoil only to start from scratch again.
However, the future is bright with Justin Willis the type of
do-it-all playmaker who should grow into the job and be a top
performer for the next four years. Chris Phillips is the only
quarterback on the roster with any experience, but he's still
trying to get over a shoulder problem and will likely spend time
as a hybrid U-End. Eric Johnson and JUCO transfer Corey Slater
are promising backups who'll need plenty of time before they're
The key to the unit: Wait out the mistakes of Justin
Willis while hoping for backups Corey Slater and Eric Johnson to
quickly close the gap.
Quarterback Rating: 5.5
- Justin Willis, RFr.
The time is now for Willis to live up to the hype. The star recruit of
a few years ago tore it up as a scout teamer last season and now
is ready to take his act live. He's not all that big, but he's
very fast and has a next-level caliber arm. He'll make plenty of
mistakes out of the gate, but he'll also get out of plenty of
problems thanks to his mobility.
- Eric Johnson, RFr.
The 6-1, 210-pound redshirt freshman looked promising in
practices last year before hurting his hand. He's a mobile
passer who knows the system and should grow into a decent number
two quarterback with a little more work.
- Corey Slater, Soph.
The JUCO transfer only threw for 963 yards and four touchdowns
at Dixie State College last year. He's a big bomber with a live
arm and good accuracy. He's not going to be the runner the other
It's a great situation with
several options to work with and several possible formations.
DeMyron Martin was one of Conference USA's breakout stars, while
Cedrick Dorsey and Johnnie Fitzgerald are good enough to carry
the offense for a game or two if needed. Jessie Henderson has
too much speed to be simply used as a kick returner, while Fred
Turner adds another dimension with his all-around skills. The
best of the bunch could eventually be redshirt freshman James
Mapps once he gets his feet wet.
The key to the unit: Keep DeMyron Martin fresh. He'll
have games when he's a 25-carry workhorse, but there are too
many options for him to wear down.
Running Back Rating: 6.5
- DeMyron Martin, Soph. - 185 carries, 854 yds, 4.6 ypc,
7 TD, 8 catches, 53 yds, 6.6 ypc, 2 TD
It took a game to get Martin the ball, and then he took off
rolling for four 100-yard games highlighted by a 171-yard
performance against Rice. He's a 215-pound back with good speed
and breakaway ability. While he's not a home run hitter, he can
pull out big runs both inside and outside when he gets in a
groove. He's a patient runner who hits the hole hard, and now he
should be even better at doing all the little things right.
There's no reason he can't be used more as a receiver.
- Cedrick Dorsey, Jr.
- 59 carries, 212 yds, 3.6 ypc
The second-leading rusher in 2004 saw his workload get cut
significantly by the emergence of DeMyron Martin. Now he'll be
used as a third down back with a good combination of size and
speed. His biggest issue has been staying healthy over the last
two years. While he has to talent to be a featured back, the
offense can't rely on him for a full season.
- Johnnie Fitzgerald, Sr. - 7 carries, 32 yds, 4.6 ypc, 1
The former cornerback was moved over to the offensive side to
add a bigger back to rotation. He's a fast 6-2 and 212 pounds
with the speed and quickness to make defenders miss.
- Jessie Henderson, Soph. - 1 carry, 5 yds
One of the nation's rising superstars as a kick returner,
Henderson averaged 27.6 yards per try last season. Now he'll use
his 4.25 speed to try and do more for the offense. At only 5-9
and 175 pounds, he's purely an outside runner.
- Fred Turner, Jr. - 13 carries, 57 yds, 4.4 ypc, 1
catch, 13 yds
A speed back who was used sparingly last season, Turner will try
to find his way in the mix as a third down back and a receiver.
He's good enough to potentially crank out yards in chunks if he
gets the ball in space.
The Mustangs are loaded with experience with
four starters returning to be able to run three and four wide
sets with several options to play with. There's good depth and
nice speed all over the place led by Bobby Chase on the inside
and emerging playmaker Reynaldo Pellerin on the outside. The
tight end situation is as good as any in Conference USA with
Ryan Kennedy and Vincent Chase each with next-level potential if
they start getting more passes thrown their way.
The key to the unit: A consistent deep threat needs
to emerge who can stretch the field and allow Bobby Chase to
make more big plays when he gets the ball on the move. The tight
ends and U Ends need the ball more.
Receiver Rating: 6
- Bobby Chase, Sr. - 39 catches, 625 yds, 16 ypc, 4 TD
One of the team's best receivers over the last two years, the
6-4, 205-pound senior has been a strong inside receiver who can
occasionally bust off the big play as well as be a consistent
number one go-to target. He turned into a clutch receiver making
a game-winning touchdown grab as time ran out against UAB and a
big scoring catch to help beat UTEP in the regular-season
- Blake Warren, Sr. - 15 catches, 146 yds, 9.9 ypc
More of a punt returner than a receiver so far, the 5-7 Warren
will see more passes his way at the Y position. He was lost in
the shuffle at times over the second half of last year and will
have to battle with Jay'Mond Cleveland for playing time.
- Reynaldo Pellerin, Sr. - 30 catches, 346 yds, 11.5 ypc,
A phenomenal athlete who turned into a steady playmaker at the
outside X position, the 6-3, 190-pound Pellerin has to make more
big plays. He has the leaping ability to go over most defensive
backs and the raw speed to blow past the slower ones, but his
biggest catch last season was only 34 yards.
- Columbus Givens, Soph. - 5 catches, 67 yds, 13.4 ypc
Givens stepped in as a true freshman and saw enough action to
get a long look as the starting T receiver. He's still learning
on the fly after spending his high school career as a
quarterback, but at 6-1 and 185 pounds, he has the size along
with the quickness to grow into the role.
- Tight end Ryan Kennedy, Sr. - 14 catches, 167 yds, 11.9
ypc, 1 TD
One of the league's best all-around tight ends, he had a decent
season as a receiver making most of his big plays as a blocker.
He's a strong 6-5 and 265 pounds with the ability to be used as
a third tackle in running situations The coaching staff will
make a concerted effort to get the ball in his hands more.
- Jay'Mond Cleveland, Sr. - 2 catches, 22 yds, 11 ypc
With good speed and great hands, Cleveland needs to be more in
the mix. He was a key receiver in 2004 but only played in six
games last season. He has too much speed not to be a better deep
threat at the Y position.
- Zack Sledge, Jr. - 25 catches, 215 yds, 8.6 ypc
He worked his way into the starting lineup early in the season
and finished a the team's fourth leading receiver. He's not
going to replace Bobby Chase at the Z position, but he'll see
plenty of time at various spots and should once again be a
consistent possession receiver.
- U-End Andrew McKinney, Soph.
Mostly a special teamer so far, McKinney will be used in a few
different formations as a fullback as well as a tight end. He's
6-4 and 250 pounds with too much athleticism to just be used as
- U-End Chris Phillips, Jr.
Will he stay at tight end or is his shoulder in good enough
shape to see a little time at quarterback? He looked like the
team's future after starting the final five games of the 2003
season showing a great blend of passing and running skills, and
then he got hurt and hasn't been able to get on the field for
two seasons thanks to the rotator cuff problem. Now he'll be
used as a U-End to get him involved more in the offense.
- Tight end Vincent Chase, Soph.
A pure blocking tight end last year after bulking up big-time,
the 6-5, 255-pound sophomore was one of the team's top recruits
a few years ago with the ability and the hands to grow into a
top producer in all phases. He'll have his breakout season in
2007 after Ryan Kennedy moves on.
There's a good mix of veterans with promising young prospects,
but there's no experienced depth whatsoever. Being better in pass
protection will be the early goal after allowing thirty sacks. Tackle Darrin
Johnson and center Ben Poynter are good pieces to build around, but the
production of the line will depend on the emergence of Kenard Burley at
right tackle and Tommy Poynter at left guard. The coaching staff has
stated it wants to get a good rotation going, but that will mean plenty
of growing pains.
The key to the unit: Quality reserves have to quickly
emerge and the pass protection has to be more consistent.
Offensive Line Rating: 5.5
- OT Darrin Johnson, Sr.
Johnson overcame an ankle problem that hindered him all of 2004 to be
one of the team's best blockers with nine starts at left tackle. He's an
athletic 6-6 and 295 pounds with good toughness and the experience to be
one of the leaders up front.
- OG Tommy Poynter, Soph.
Thrown into the starting lineup after not seeing any action last season,
the 6-4, 285-pound sophomore will get the fist look at the left side.
He's athletic, and now he has to prove he can be consistent.
- C Ben Poynter, Jr.
The team's best lineman last season, Poynter emerged as a star at center
after seeing time earlier in his career at tackle. The former walk-on is
a smart, physical quarterback up front.
- OG Caleb Peveto, Jr.
Peveto made the jump from being a decent reserve to a top starter
getting the nod for all 11 games at left guard. He'll move over to the
right side this season. He's a strong 6-4 and 285 pounds and is expected
to be one of the anchors now that he has a year of starting experience.
- OT Kenard Burley, Jr.
The 305-pound junior was a key reserve in eight games getting better as
the season went on. He's a tall, physical blocker whose emergence as a
pass blocker will be one of the keys to the offense.
- C Joe Holmes, Jr.
The 300-pound JUCO transfer didn't allow a sack in two years at
Navarro Junior College. He's one of the team's strongest players and
will push hard for time at center behind Ben Poynter.
- G Lucky DeLay, Jr.
Has he found a home on the offensive side? The former
defensive lineman is an undersized 270 pounds, but he's physical and
quick enough to be part of the rotation on the left side.