What you need to know ... The offense wasn't consistent and
struggled mightily to get the running game going. Expect more
balance and more pop all the way around after averaging a mere
308 yards and 19 points per game. The goal will be to use
several different formations in a wide-open attack relying on
the decision making abilities of the quarterback. That's a
positive considering Clint Marks is back for his third year
under center. Eugene Gross leads a decent group of small, quick
backs who should do better behind an improved line.
Passing: Clint Marks
197-228, 2,083 yds, 8 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Eugene Gross
182 carries, 724 yds, 13 TD
Receiving: Eugene Gross
33 catches, 277 yds, 1 TD
Star of the offense: Senior QB Clint Marks
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior WR
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman WR Jay
Best pro prospect: Sophomore OT Germayle Franklin
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Marks, 2) WR Bobby
Williams, 3) Franklin
Strength of the offense: Experience, quarterback
Weakness of the offense:
Power runner, offensive line consistency
Clint Marks is a great fit for the new offense with his
experience and accuracy. If he's not the Sun Belt's best
quarterback, he's number two. The real interest is at the number
two spot where top prospect Joe Craddock will finally get to
shine after missing all of last year. Patrick Jackson has been
around long enough to be a competent backup.
The key to the unit: Clint Marks has to play like a
veteran leader and carry the new offense, while Joe Craddock
needs meaningful playing time to be ready for 2007.
Quarterback Rating: 6
- Clint Marks, Sr. - 197-298, 66%, 2,083 yds, 8 TD, 7 INT,
2 rushing touchdowns
The left-handed senior has been a good starter for the last two
seasons with 21 straight starts, 29 career touchdown passes and
5,425 passing yards. He didn't bomb away last year like he did
in 2004 thanks to a more balanced offense, but he certainly has
no problems throwing it as much as needed. Even though he has
thrown 24 career interceptions, the key to his game is accuracy
completing 68% of his throws. He should thrive in the wide-open
- Patrick Jackson, Jr.
A decent passer who knows the system, his practice experience
and his decision making will have to be enough to keep Joe
Craddock out of the number two spot. While not a great runner,
- Joe Craddock, Soph.
Considered the star of the future, Craddock was battling Clint
Marks for the starting spot last year before getting hurt. He
has a great arm and far more mobility than Marks. Now he needs
playing time and the experience to become the main man next
It's not going to be a big-time ground attack, but it
should be better even without a true power back. There wasn't
much of a running game last year with Eugene Gross carrying
almost the entire load, and now there needs to be more balance
after averaging 110 yards per game. Gross, Demarco McNair and
Alex Suber are all able to catch as well as run. Suber is back
after missing most of last year with a knee injury, while McNair
returns after missing the season due to academic problems.
The key to the unit: Eugene Gross needs to average
closer to five yards per carry. Demarco McNair and Alex Suber
have to stay on the field to provide more options.
Running Back Rating: 5
- Eugene Gross. Sr. - 182 carries, 724 yds, 4 ypc, 13 TD,
33 catches, 277 yds, 8.4 ypc, 1 TD
The leading rusher over the last three seasons is a shifty 5-9
and 208 pounds with great hands. He tore up Sun Belt teams last
season highlighted by a four touchdown day against Florida
Atlantic and a three score performance against UL Monroe. While
he's not going to power over anyone, he's great in the open
field and should flourish in the Rick Stockstill offense.
- Fullback Hunter Birtsch, Jr. - 1 catch, 6 yds
The former walk-on is purely a blocker who'll see a little more
offensive work this year now that he has the full-time starting
gig taking over for Nick McAfee. He's 244 pounds and should be a
big boost for the ground game.
- Demarco McNair, Jr.
Back after missing all of last year due to an academic issue,
the 188-pound junior averaged 5.3 yards per carry in 2004 and
turned into a good runner by the end of his freshman season.
He's an even quicker back than Eugene Gross.
- Alex Suber, Soph. - 16 carries, 55 yds, 3.5 ypc, 4
catches 28 yds
Suber started to look like a potential top playmaker for the
offense before getting knocked out in the third game of the
season with a knee injury. He's like a smaller version of Eugene
- Fullback Josh Dutton, Sr.
A scout teamer so far, the 230-pound senior will battle with
walk-ons Anthony Smith and Spike McDaniel He's a physical
blocker who won't ever see a carry.
This should be a decent corps as long as
Bobby Williams can become the type of number one target who can
replace last year's leading man
Taron Henry is experienced enough to turn into a solid number
two man on the inside, but the key to the unit will be the
emergence of Pierre Ingram, Jay Robinson and Jonathan Grigsby.
Stephen Chicola is one of the Sun Belt's best tight ends.
The key to the unit: More scores and more big plays
are needed after only catching six touchdown passes. Bobby
Williams and Pierre Ingram have to turn into reliable deep
Receiver Rating: 5
- Bobby Williams, Soph. - 22 catches, 303 yds, 13.8 ypc,
Is he the team's new receiving star? Does he have what it takes
to be the number one target and be reliable enough to handle the
workload after being suspended from spring ball? He finished fourth on the team in receiving as a true
freshman turning into a surprisingly steady target from the
start. He's 6-3 with the athleticism to be a big-play star.
- Taron Henry, Jr. - 20 catches, 192 yds, 9.6 ypc
A good part-time starter over the last few seasons, the athletic
Henry is tough enough to handle himself on the inside. He's more
than experienced enough to be one of the team's steadiest
receivers and could grow into a number one target on key downs.
He'll also be used on kick returns.
- Pierre Ingram, Sr. - 1 catch, 6 yds
212-pound senior has all the tools to be a great one with track
star speed to go along with his size, but he hasn't been able to
stay healthy with a broken foot along with hamstring and ankle
problems. If he can stay healthy, he'll be too much for most
defensive backs to deal with.
- Tight end Stephen Chicola , Jr. - 29 catches, 231 yds,
8 ypc, 1 TD
Chicola has grown into a tremendous receiver finishing third on
the team in catches highlighted by a nine-grab game against Troy
late in the year. He's an average blocker, but his hands and
route running ability are among the best in the Sun Belt.
At 6-5 and 248 pounds, he's physical enough to outmuscle his way
- Jonathan Grigsby, Jr. - 3 catches, 50 yds, 16.7 ypc
Small and quick, the former walk-on saw regular playing time
over the second half of last season. Now he'll push for the
starting spot in three wide sets.
- Jay Robinson, RFr.
Robinson started last year as a receiver before becoming the
emergency quarterback. Now the 6-4, 199-pound redshirt freshman
will move back to receiver to try to become a big presence on
- Tight end Clinton Corder, Jr. - 1 catches, 18 yds
The junior returned after missing most of 2004 with an ankle
injury. He's mostly a blocker for the ground game playing in
two-tight end sets next to Stephen Chicola. He's smaller than
Chicola with the potential to become a decent receiver.
It should be among the best in the Sun Belt, if not the
best, if sophomores Franklin Dunbar and Richard Bortner improve on
strong first seasons. Germayle Franklin is a rock at right tackle and
should be a first team all-star, Dunbar is a sure-thing at left tackle,
and all the other jobs are open for a battle with good backups ready to
fight for starting time. There has to be improvement after allowing 37
sacks and only paving the way for 1,200 rushing yards.
The key to the unit: Can the big line be athletic
enough to handle the new offense? The skill positions are solid, so if
the offense fails, the line will get a bulk of the blame.
Offensive Line Rating: 5
- OT Franklin Dunbar, Soph.
Dunbar came through with a tremendous freshman season taking over for
Brandon Nix at left guard and became the team's most consistent lineman.
He's a big too big at 6-5 and 354 pounds, but he has surprisingly decent
feet and is a punishing run blocker.
- OG Brandon Nix, Jr.
A once promising defensive lineman, Nix had a rough first season getting
replaced after six games. Now the starting left guard job is his where
he has to combine better all-around production with his toughness.
- C Marcus Gates, Sr.
The former defensive lineman has settled in at center where he should be
good if he can hold off the charge of Paul Cantrell. Gates is a physical
blocker who got better as last year went on.
- OG Richard Bortner, Soph.
Bortner took over as a starter halfway though last season and now will
battle with Cade Becher for the starting job on the right side. He's one
of the team's biggest guards at 6-6 and 334 pounds with the potential to
be an all-star with a bit more time.
- OT Germayle Franklin, Sr.
The team's best offensive lineman, the 6-4, 316-pound senior will anchor
the line from the right side. He earned second-team All-Sun Belt honors
and should be a lock for bigger things this year. He's always on the
field and always solid, and now he has to be a more dominant and
consistent pass blocker.
- C Paul Cantrell, Sr.
Cantrell will give Marcus Gates a huge push for the starting center
job. At 313 pounds, he's a bigger option and will be used in pure
- G Cade Becher, Sr.
Becher doesn't have the talent of Richard Bortner at
right guard, but he's a strong veteran who'll push for time. The 6-3,
300-pound senior is being given every shot at the starting job.
- G David Price, Soph.
Price has to be ready at a moment's notice with Brandon Nix not exactly
set at left guard. The Mississippi State transfer is bigger than Nix at
6-3 and 305 pounds.