UL Monroe Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

Posted Aug 8, 2006

UL Monroe Warhawks Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Chaz and Payne – The ULM secondary has improved little by little for the past five years.  Each year since 2001, the Warhawks have given up fewer yards per game through the air than the year before, and this year that pattern should definitely hold true, especially with CB Chaz Williams and FS Kevin Payne returning to the secondary.  The Warhawk duo is perhaps the best pair of defensive backs in the Sun Belt this season and they’ll be the leaders for a defense that must continue to improve.  Williams is the best cover corner in the Sun Belt and proved it last season by registering five interceptions.  At 6’ and 185 lbs, he’s tall enough to not lose jump ball situations downfield and he’s also got good closing speed.  He should see the opponents’ number one perimeter receiver all season long and he could take away one half of the field with his presence.  Payne is one of the most versatile talents anywhere in the nation.  He was an All-SBC running back as a freshman in 2003, then piled up 87 tackles last year to be named 2nd team All-SBC as a defensive back.  That’s Domenik Hixon (from Akron) stellar – a guy who was all-conference as a defensive back and then was an all-league receiver later in his career.  But, Payne isn’t done – he also projects as the team’s number one punter.  How about that for old school?  How cool would that be to see him carry the ball, play defensive back and then punt during a game?  When’s the last time, we saw anyone do that?  But, it’s when these two are floating around in the secondary when the Warhawks will thrive.  The secondary will need some big-time help from a defensive line that returns no starters from last year.  If they can’t get any heat on SBC QBs, Chaz and Payne will have to work overtime.  On defense, that is.

2nd and Seven – If he runs like Steven Jyles, looks like Steven Jyles, but doesn’t throw like Steven Jyles…it’s Kinsmon Lancaster – One player sometimes can make all the difference in the world.  It was that way for the Warhawks last year with Steven Jyles at QB.  This guy was entrenched as the starter since midway through his freshman year, and he was the focal point of the offense for the past three and a half years.  He threw it well, he ran a bunch and was the guy who kept ULM in games throughout his career.  But, the former SBC offensive player of the year is off to Edmonton and Kinsmon Lancaster takes over after throwing all of 24 passes last season.  He does have some of the same wiggle that Jyles had and he does have a similar ability to flourish on the ground, but can he throw as well as Jyles did?  Now, he wasn’t Matt Leinart or Vince Young throwing, but he was 55% with a positive TD to interception ratio.  Lancaster struggled in the spring game, completing less than 50% of his throws.  The pressure for Lancaster is to just be himself, do what he does best, find open receivers and DON’T turn the ball over.  Easy, right?

3rd and Three – Experienced youth – The ULM offensive line got some help from the fleet footed Jyles last year, but don’t tell them that.  They should proudly brag about the fact that they only gave up 9 sacks all season.  9.  That’s a stellar number, in light of the fact that the Warhawks started two true freshmen last year – Aaron Schutz and Larry Shappley – and three sophomores.  But, you can do the math – that means that the entire starting lineup returns this year and that gives the ULM offensive coaches the confidence that Lancaster will get time to throw and Calvin Dawson will have more room to run.  A team could ‘get by’ without at least one stud skill player, but they’ll get absolutely killed with no offensive line.  That quintet won’t be the downfall of this offense this season, that’s for sure.  Having a new offensive coordinator may change the focus of the offense this season, but this group should be able to adapt and lead this offense properly in 2006.

4th and One – Penthouse to the Outhouse? – Charlie Weatherbie’s Warhawks were so close last season.  The final game.  Rival ULL at home.  Things to do – win, pick up SBC championship trophy outright and head to bowl game for first time ever.  60 minutes from making history.  And, well, the Ragin’ Cajuns ruined it all for the Warhawks (okay so they did pick up a share of the title, but a bowl game would’ve tasted much better in December than not playing).  So close to sitting in the Penthouse with the Donald and Melania.  54 to 21 later, and it was home for holidays.  That’s a brutally bitter pill to swallow, made worse by losing their QB, the SBC offensive player of the year, mind you, and its entire defensive line.  With so little firepower on offense, the thought is that the Warhawks arduous climb up ladder will culminate in a free fall to the basement of the SBC.  However, after a coach and his staff have established a program, it becomes the foundation for success in the future.  Is the foundation strong enough to sustain such losses?  We’ll see come September 30 when FAU comes to town to start the SBC season.

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