What you need to know ... This was hardly a rock of a
defense last year, and now the 4-2-5 needs an infusion of talent
among the front six. Ricky Williams is a nice tackle to build
around, but star end Brandon Guillory is gone and there's not a
pass rusher to immediately step in and take over. The secondary
will be a major plus with four All-Sun Belt candidates and two
superstars in corner Chaz Williams and safety Kevin Payne. Teams
will try to run, run, and run some more to avoid this group.
Kevin Payne, 87
Ricky Williams, 1.5
Interceptions: Chaz Williams, 5
Star of the defense: Senior FS Kevin Payne
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior DE
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Jeremy Moll
Best pro prospect: Payne
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Payne, 2) CB Chaz
Williams, 3) DT Ricky Williams
Strength of the defense: Secondary
Weakness of the defense:
Run defense, proven pass rush
Uh oh. ULM has to replace all four starters including
do-it-all star Brandon Guillory. There's no one to immediately make up
for his 9.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss, but the bigger concern will
be stopping the run. Last year's group had a hard enough time allowing
191 yards per game, but this year's front four should have even more
issues. Forget about any depth, starters needs to be established.
The key to the unit: Fight through the growing pains. This is a
year for developing the young line in hopes that it grows into something
decent over the next two seasons.
Defensive Line Rating: 4
- DE Christiaan Cambridge, Sr. - 17 tackles, 1 TFL
A nice reserve over the last few years, Cambridge is a good-sized
262-pound senior on the end. He's not going to make many big plays in
the backfield, and he hasn't been much of a pass rusher, but he should
be good against the run.
- NG Ricky Williams, Jr. - 24 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3.5 TFL
A solid pass rusher on the inside, the 275-pound junior should be the
team's most active lineman. It would be enough if he was strong against
the run and could occupy blockers so the rest of the line could operate.
With his experienced, he has to grow into the anchor.
- DT DeMarcus Carmouche, Soph. - 5 tackles
After seeing a little bit of time as a freshman, the 6-5, 290-pound
Carmouche has the potential to be special. He's a great athlete as well
as the biggest biggest player on the line. If he can progress a bit, he
could grow into an All-Sun Belt performer; he has that sort of upside.
- DE Travis Eickman, Soph. - 5 tackles
While only 6-3 and 205 pounds, he's a speed rusher who needs to grow
into a solid run stopper. He's a strong competitor who has to fill the
void left by Brandon Guillory.
- DT David Cooper, Jr.
The JUCO transfer is one of the team's strongest defensive linemen. He's
an athletic 265 pounds and should push for time right away behind
- DE Jameson Jordan, RFr.
The 6-4, 230-pound Jordan brings more size to the end than Travis
Eickman, but he isn't the same athlete. Even so, he has the potetial to
become a top pass rusher early on.
There's experience returning, but not a lot of talent
or size. Josh Alexander, Jeremy Moll and Harry Bradley have been around
long enough to be effective, but the two in the 4-2-5 won't sing unless
JUCO transfer Matt Freeman and true freshman Josh Thomas become impact
players out of the gate. Being strong against the run would be nice, but
forcing more turnovers would be even better.
The key to the unit: More overall productivity. This
group ahs to overcome the lack of size with more big plays.
Linebacker Rating: 4
- Josh Alexander, Sr. - 24 tackles, 1 TFL
Ideally a middle linebacker, the 220-pound senior needs to use his
experience to be a rock against the run. He has seen enough time to be
able to handle himself well, but he has to prove he can make big plays
as a pass rusher as well as in coverage.
- Jeremy Moll, Soph. - 39 tackles, 2.5 TFL
A sure, physical tackler for his size, the 203-pound Moll has to be a
disruptive force if he's going to make a difference. While he's a
willing hitter, he's simply too small against bigger linemen. With his
quickness, he needs to be in the backfield on a regular basis.
- Harry Bradley, Sr. - 43 tackles, 2.5 TFL
Mostly a special teamer throughout his career, Bradley stepped up and
become a decent but inconsistent defender. At only 224 pounds, he had
problems against the run and didn't make many big plays. He could start
if needed and allow the D to play a 4-3, but he'll begin the season
behind Jeremy Moll.
Ryan Roussel, Sr.
Purely a special teamer throughout his career, the 225-pound senior has
been around the program long enough to finally make a contribution on
defense. He'll play behind Josh Alexander, but he'll have to hold off
JUCO transfer Matt Freeman.
If this isn't the Sun Belt's best secondary,
it's a close number two with four possible all-conference stars. Safety
Kevin Payne and corner Chaz Williams are two of the league's best
players and will be in NFL camps soon, while corner Quintez Secka and
rover Josh Thompson are growing into excellent all-around defenders.
There's little to no developed depth, but there will still be an early
rotation to get everyone involved.
The key to the unit: Be more supportive against the
run. Stopping decent Sun Belt passing teams won't be a problem, but
hanging around with the power offenses might be tough.
Secondary Rating: 6
- CB Quintez Secka, Sr. - 36 tackles, 1 interception, 5
broken up passes
Last year's star JUCO transfer showed off the potential to be a
lock-down corner. He has nice size and enough experience over the last
few seasons both at ULM and Coffeyville CC in Kansas to be a potential
all-star. Now he needs to make more plays with the ball is in the air.
- FS Kevin Payne, Sr. - 87 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 interceptions, 1
broken up pass
The former running back has grown into a whale of a defensive back. He
got over a broken arm to use his speed and 6-1, 212-pound size to become
the team's leading tackler. Now that he knows what he's doing, he should
take the next step up and become a more dangerous all-around playmaker
and should attract the eyes of the scouts.
- Rover Josh Thompson, Soph. - 40 tackles, 2 TFL, 2
interceptions, 3 broken up passes
Thompson had an excellent true freshman season showing off his
ball-skills while not being afraid to mix it up against the run. He's a
good hitting 210 pounds with cornerback moves; he'll be an All-Sun Belt
- S Austin Willis, Sr. - 16 tackles
The JUCO transfer played a little bit of a role last year on special
teams and as a reserve. He'll not step in as the third safety and has to
show off range and toughness against the run. Quickness won't be a
problem, but he's only 195 pounds and won't hold up if being asked to be
a top run stopper.
- CB Chaz Williams, Jr. - 46 tackles, 5 interceptions, 5 broken
Williams is a next-level corner prospect, and he plays like it. There's
not a better tackling corner in the conference, and few more physical
when going after the ball. He's a playmaker when the ball is in
his hands returning his five picks for 138 yards, but he likely won't
see the ball come his way too often with teams sure to stay away from
- CB Eddie Webb, Jr. - 14 tackles, 1 broken up pass
Webb saw a little time last year, but the former high school running
back hasn't been able to fully translate his speed and size to
cornerback. It didn't help that he was beaten out for a job by Quintez
Secka, but he's proven to be good enough to start if needed.
S James Wright, Jr.
The walk-on hasn't been able to see must time anywhere but on special
teams, but he has the size at 6-2 and 206 pounds to step in and be a
bigger option behind Austin Willis.
Safety Kevin Payne handle the punting job this spring, but
that might not last too long with all he has to do on defense. Ragan
Walters is a serviceable field goal kicker who needs to show off more
range. The kickoff return game was the league's best averaging 21.8
yards per try. Payne averaged 28.8 yards per return, but Chaz Williams
will get his share of tries. The nation's worst punt return game needs
J.J. McCoy to average more than 2.9 yards per try.
The key to the unit: More range on field goals,
better coverage, and consistent punting from Kevin Payne. Essentially,
this ULM special teams need a lot of work.
Special Teams Rating: 4.5
- PK Ragan Walters, Jr. - 6-10 FGs, 19-20 extra points
The veteran isn't bad from inside 40 yards, but his range and accuracy
drops off in a hurry as he moves out. The coaching staff isn't afraid to
led him try a few long kicks, he has the leg for it, but he has to start
- P Kevin Payne, Sr.
Is he really going to be the team's punter? The star safety will hold
down the fort until Chris Symmes appears ready to take over, but neither
will be Joel Stelly, who averaged 44.6 yards per kick and put 13 inside