practice starts March 14, Spring Game April 15
The big spring question is ... Can the running game continue
to rumble without Antonio Warren and Shermer Bracey? The Indians rode
the ground game to the New Orleans Bowl, but they'll have to go on
without their two star backs. This was a different team when Warren was
healthy, and now it'll likely be up to Chris Easley to keep the attack
The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. It's
one thing to have to replace the top running backs, but it's another to
have to replace the entire backfield. Nick Noce might not have been the
most accurate quarterback around, but he was a gamer and provided a
tough leader for the offense. Now it'll likely be up to Travis Hewitt,
who's a good athlete but not all that big.
Spring attitude... Win the Sun Belt title again. It's not
going to be easy with so many big replacements in the backfield, but one
of the league's best defenses only has a few holes to patch on the
defensive line. Head coach Steve Roberts has the system in place to
succeed, and there's no reason ASU can't be another North Texas and go
on a run.
Florida Atlantic Spring
practice starts March 29, No official spring game
The big spring question is ... Can the 2006 Owls be more like
the 2004 Owls? Florida Atlantic was a surprise team two years ago with
win s over Hawaii, North Texas, MTSU and FIU to suggest that they might
be a power in 2005. Nyuh-uh. Lack of steady offense and horrendous run
defense led to an ugly 2-9 season with the only wins coming over UL
Lafayette and North Texas. Head coach Howard Schnellenberger has to get
his run defense to toughen up again and he needs to figure out how to
put more points on the board after averaging a mere 13.82 per game.
The most important position to watch is ... Cornerback. One
of the team's top defenders, Willie Hughley, is gone along with fellow
corner Lawrence Gordon from a secondary that wasn't all that bad
allowing 177 yards per game. Now it'll be up to Quincy Skinner and Corey
Small to make sure the pass defense doesn't become a problem.
Spring attitude... Toughen up. FAU doesn't just have to be
stronger against the run, it has to figure out how to power the ball as
well after averaging a mere 114 rushing yards per game. Winning in the
Sun Belt isn't hard if you can do one thing well and play decent
defense, so a turnaround season might not be all that hard to come by if
the Owls can be more physical on both sides of the ball.
Spring practice starts March 27, Spring Game April 15
The big spring question is ... Can the Golden Panthers keep
the momentum rolling? FIU finished the year playing well on a three game
winning streak beating Western Kentucky, destroying Florida Atlantic,
and getting by MTSU. The 5-6 year was this close to being an
impressive first year as a D-I member with near-misses against North
Texas and Troy.
The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. Josh
Padrick was the heart and soul of the FIU offense throwing for 2,461
yards and 13 touchdowns while also adding a little bit of mobility.
It'll likely be up to Tavares Kendrick, who's a big, strong, athletic
passer and a good enough talent to take the team to the next level in
the Sun Belt. His development will be the key to the season.
Spring attitude... Just keep getting better. After a solid
first season in Sun Belt play, the Golden Panthers don't have too much
further to go to actually be in the race for the conference title. The
defense has to replace several key starters and the running game could
use more pop, but this is an athletic team that has the potential to be
better this year by midseason.
Spring practice starts April 4, Spring Game: April 29
The big spring question is ... How will things be different
under new head coach Rick Stockstill? Probably not much. MTSU had the
league's best defense last year, and Stockstill has promised his D will
be tough and hard-nosed. Then again, all coaches say that. His offense
will be wide-open, which is was under Andy McCollum. Stockstill will pay
off a few years from now when his recruiting skills kick in and he
brings more talent to Murfreesboro.
The most important position to watch is ... Defensive
lineman. The Blue Raiders were nasty up front last year with a
tremendous D line, but now the top tackles need to be replaced along
with end Devarick Scandrett. There's decent size returning with Bobby
Payne on one end and tackle Chris Anderson in the middle, but more
playmakers have to emerge early on this spring if MTSU is going to lead
the league in run defense again.
Spring attitude... Find a way to get more out of the offense.
After getting nothing out of the running game last year, Stockstill has
to either make sure the passing attack is more productive or get more
production up front to get more than 110 rushing yards per game. MTSU
lost three league games by a total of ten points, so if the D can be
almost as good as last year, there's a great chance for a run at the Sun
Spring practice starts February 13, Spring Game: March 9
The big spring question is ... Will North Texas be North
Texas again? There has been a lot of shifting this spring with the
coaching staff and positions to try to get more production out of both
sides of the ball after a miserable 2005. The ground game will once
again be strong thanks to the return of Jamario Thomas, while almost
everyone returns on defense, for good or bad, except at corner where
Ja'Mel Branch and T.J. Covington have to be replaced after a decent
The most important position to watch is ... Linebacker. North
Texas is moving to a 3-4 defense to make up for the lack of size up
front. It didn't help that Brandon Monroe tore the MCL in his knee and
missed most of spring ball, but this move should be a showcase for all
the teams' young linebackers. This isn't a big group, but it can run
with several athletic, safety-like players for the outside.
Spring attitude... It was all about not accepting what
happened last year. After dominating the Sun Belt for so long, going 2-9
and ranking near the bottom in the nation in most of the big categories,
there was a lot of tinkering going on this spring to make sure that
doesn't happen again. The 2005 team was young and in a transition
period, but that doesn't seem to be used as an excuse. Better
quarterback play and stronger run defense should be enough to get back
in the Sun Belt title mix.
Spring practice starts: March 4, Spring Game: March 11 (practice ends
The big spring question is ... Will the offense ever produce?
All D and no O for the last few years has made Troy a bit of a flaky
team. The defense was good enough to win the Sun Belt with last year,
but the offense only produced 16 points per game with three against
Arkansas State and seven against MTSU to close the season. Outside of RB
Joel Whinghter, everyone of not returns to the offense so there's no
reason to be so bad again.
The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. It
was simply a disaster last year with Carl Meadows, Julian Foster and
Larry Dockery combining to barely complete 50% of their throws for 1,832
yards and 12 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. There wasn't any
consistency and no one moved the offense on a regular basis. The only
chance Troy has of getting back in Sun Belt contention is to get better
overall play from the most important position.
Spring attitude... It might be another rebuilding year. The
defense loses most of the front seven including star LB Bernard Davis,
and both of the tremendous corners. In other words, it could take a lot
for the Trojan defense to keep up its high level of play. Unless the
offense suddenly becomes explosive, this might be another down year. Of
course, no one at Troy is going to think that way, so it needs several
young players to grow into big-time contributors right away.
practice starts March 17, Spring Game April 8
The big spring question is ... How much will the second half
of last year carry over to this season? Arkansas State fans won't agree,
but UL Lafayette turned out to be the league's best team last year
finishing with a six game winning streak led by the nation's
seventh-ranked rushing attack. Of course, the 39-36 loss to ASU kept the
Ragin' Cajuns from going to the New Orleans Bowl, but that might only
serve as extra motivation going into this year.
The most important position to watch is ... Quarterback. How
will the coaching staff handle having, possibly, the league's two best
quarterbacks on its roster? Jerry Babb is a strong veteran with the best
passing skills on the team, but Michael Desormeaux is a devastating
runner tearing up ASU for 174 yards, Florida Atlantic for 83 and UCF for
76. Will it eventually be a rotation or can one take the job outright?
Spring attitude... Sun Belt title or bust. Most of the
offensive line returns as does star RB Tyrell Fenroy. The defense should
be even better if a space-eater can be found for 335-pound Mike Moore in
the middle. There's no reason ULL shouldn't be the preseason favorite to
win the title.
Spring practice starts March
14, Spring Game April 8
The big spring question is ... How does the team pick its
chin up off the mat? All the Indians had to do was beat UL Lafayette and
the Sun Belt title and a trip to the New Orleans Bowl was theirs. A
54-21 loss later sent ULM home with a losing record and a feeling that
the window of opportunity may have passed. How many times are you going
to have the best quarterback in Sun Belt history under center? Now
Steven Jyles is gone and the team needs to try to find the same magic
for a second straight year.
The most important position to watch is ... Defensive
lineman. All eyes will be on Kinsmon Lancaster to see if he can replace
Jyles, but the real issue is on the defensive line losing Brandon
Guillory, Mabrae Wilson, and the rest of the starters along with backup
end Lamont Finley. With Jamario Thomas and the North Texas running game
coming up in the first Sun Belt game on September 23rd, the line had
better be ready by then.
Spring attitude... Get everything together right away. With
North Texas and Florida Atlantic to start the Sun Belt season, ULM has
to be 2-0 or it could be a long year with six road games in the final
seven including an ugly five game road trip to end the year. Even though
Jyles is gone, the offense is full of experience and the entire
secondary returns so the team isn't starting from scratch.