Preview 2007 - Offense
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What you need to know: Things should be more consistent now
that the quarterback situation is settled (at least to start the
year) with Rusty Smith the full-time starter and Sean Clayton
the backup. The running backs are experienced and quick, and
Frantz Simeon leads a decent receiving corps, but it's all up to
the line which was decent in pass protection last season but
awful in the running game. It's a small front five by design,
and that's a major issue for a ground game that averaged just
110 yards per game and an offense that struggled to amass 300
yards and 15 points per outing.
Passing: Rusty Smith
108-194, 1,285 yds, 6 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Charles Pierre
207 carries, 756 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Frantz Simeon
35 catches, 590 yds, 1 TD
Star of the offense: Sophomore QB Rusty Smith
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
OT Lavoris Williams
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Cortez Gant
Best pro prospect: Junior WR Frantz Simeon
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Smith, 2) Simeon, 3) RB
Strength of the offense: Quarterback, quick running back
Weakness of the offense: Offensive line size, depth
Projected Starter: It took a while, but sophomore Rusty Smith
eventually took over and showed glimpses of talent
highlighted by a 312-yard day against Troy. While he wasn't
consistent and threw eight interceptions and only six touchdown
passes, he displayed the arm and the potential to be the type of
quarterback to revolve the offense around. Not a runner, the
6-5, 212-pounder is a pro style passer who'll eventually put up
big numbers. Even though he wasn't necessarily sharp this
spring, this is his offense now.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Sean Clayton
was the main starter throughout most of the season before the
coaching staff made the switch to Smith over the final few
games. While he doesn't have the arm or the passing ability of
Smith, the 6-5, 225-pound Clayton is big and can run with 154
yards including 68 against South Carolina and 54 against UL
Monroe. Consistent passing is a problem completing just over 50%
of his throws for 925 yards and five touchdowns with six
interceptions in eight starts. Redshirt freshmen Jeff VanCamp,
another 6-5 passer, and Eli Cranor will compete for the
Watch Out For ... Smith to grow into a Sun Belt star.
All he needs is a little more time, seasoning and experience.
Strength: Size and experience. Smith and Clayton
are huge passers able to see over the line without a problem.
Sun Belt teams would love to have a veteran No. 2 like Clayton
waiting in the wings (even though he appeared to regress a bit
in spring ball).
Weakness: Smith's lack of running ability. The
offense is a bit more limited by Smith's limited mobility. While
he makes up for it with his arm, it would be nice to have a
quarterback who can tear off for a few big runs here and there.
Outlook: If Smith emerges like he's expected to,
the quarterbacks will be a strength for the next few years.
It'll be tempting to give Clayton time when the team is
struggling, but getting the inexperienced backups some
meaningful work to prepare for next year will be vital.
Projected Starters: Junior Charles Pierre grew into the
role as the starter finishing with a team-high 719 yards and
four touchdowns with 100 yard games against Southern Utah,
Arkansas State and North Texas. He's a tough 5-9 and 195 pounds
with surprising power, nice hands, and tremendous speed. Now he
has to show off his wheels needing to break off more big plays
and become more creative to find the holes and make things
happen on his own once he returns healthy from a hip problem
that plagued him this spring. Leading the way will be 227-pound
fullback William Rose, who got eight carries for 31 yards
and a touchdown last season playing behind Aaron Sanchez.
smart player with good running ability, he has to be the blocker
Sanchez was and the same type of safety-valve receiver. He will
be as long as he can finally stay healthy.
Projected Top Reserves: Back in the mix is
DiIvory Edgecomb, the
team's top running back at the end of 2005, after being
academically ineligible. He's a strong, talented back who got
his chance to shine again this spring with Pierre out. When he's
right, he's the team's best all-around back.
senior B.J. Manley is quick back with the potential to
tear off big runs, but he hasn't been able to do it too often
with 137 yards and two scores in limited action thanks to
injuries. Mostly a special teamer, he has the shiftiness and
hands to be used more as a receiver.
The third runner in the mix
will be sophomore Willie Floyd, a 5-9, 165-pound
speedster who will fly if he can get the ball in the open field.
He has good hands and should get the ball a bit as a third down
back. Manley and Floyd might just be keeping the seat warm for
the incoming freshman as 225-pound
might quickly take over.
As good as they might be, Stinson will probably end up at
linebacker and Blanchard will have to work his way into the
rotation this fall.
Behind Rose at fullback will be 5-11,
203-pound Dominick Walker, who hasn't gotten any work
recently after getting hurt late in 2005. He has experience as a
tailback and could be used for more power.
Watch Out For ... more big plays. There's too much
speed and quickness in the backfield to only be averaging 2.9
yards a carry.
Strength: Quickness. Pierre, Manley and Floyd can
all move, and even Rose has good speed for his size. Now they
have to use it to crank out bigger runs.
Weakness: Power. While Pierre is tough, if Rose
and Walker aren't powering the ball, there's no one among the
tailbacks to pound away for hard yards.
Outlook: To be successful in the Sun Belt you have
to run, and this group didn't get it done on a consistent basis
last season finishing 95th in the nation averaging 110 yards a
game (after averaging 114 in 2005) and combining for just nine
touchdowns. There's experience and the potential explosion to do
a whole bunch more.
Projected Starters: Junior Frantz Simeon has the
potential to become the Sun Belt's most dangerous receiving
weapon with next-level speed and great hands. He started to
shine once Rusty Smith took over at quarterback becoming a
favorite target with 97 yards against Middle Tennessee, a
110-yard day against Troy and 83 yards against FIU. However, he
didn't score his first touchdown until the season finale. He'll
get the start at the inside Z position after leading the team
with 35 catches for 590 yards and a 16.9-yard average.
outside X will be sophomore Cortez Gent, a good looking
6-2, 170-pounder who caught six passes for 66 yards, but has 4.6
speed and the decent size to become a dangerous deep threat.
6-4, 230-pound senior Mike Wilds will take over at tight
end, but he's only seen time so far when injuries have hit. He
has the athleticism to become a receiver, and now he has to
start making plays.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 195-pound sophomore
Chris Bonner is a bigger inside target than Simeon. A
good runner with the ball, he average 12.7 yards per catch on 14
grabs last season as a steady reserve. He has the athleticism to
move to the outside if needed and see action in three-wide sets.
Sophomore Conshario Johnson has good speed playing behind
Gent at the X, and he has a little bit of experience catching 15
passes for 195 yards averaging a solid 13 yards per grab. He
didn't start getting into the mix until the second half of the
season, but he should shine now with Rusty Smith at the helm.
Coming in to immediately push for time will be true freshman
who bring 6-3 size and track speed to possibly see time right
away on the outside. Backing up Wilds at tight end will be 6-1, 185-pound
Jason Harmon, who finishing second on the team in receiving
with 26 grabs for 261 yards and two touchdowns. While physical
for his size, the junior will only be used as a receiver while
Wilds can do a little of everything.
Watch Out For ... plenty of production. It's not like
Sean Clayton was an awful passer, but he wasn't Rusty Smith. The
passing offense will revolve around getting the ball in the
hands of the quick receivers on the move.
Strength: Simeon. Most Sun Belt teams don't have a
sure-thing number one receiver, and while Simeon has hardly been
a star so far, that could quickly change.
Weakness: A sure-thing number two. Gent, Johnson
and Bonner all have to show they can produce on a consistent
basis and take heat off of Simeon.
Outlook: A bit of a wild-card depending on the
emergence of all the sophomores, this could become a strength if
everyone plays up to their potential right away. If nothing
else, this could become one of the Sun Belt's better receiving
corps, although that's not saying much. It would be a huge help
if Wilds became a productive short-range target early on.
Projected Starters: The biggest concern is replacing the steady
but unspectacular Nello Faulk at right tackle, but 6-3, 250-pound
sophomore Lavoris Williams appears comfortable in the job. Having
to watch Rusty Smith's blindside, Williams did a good job in practices
so far with good athleticism and quick feet.
Next to him will be 6-2,
239-pound sophomore David Matlock, a part-time center who started
three games in the middle and once at left guard. The former defensive
lineman should be more comfortable on the offensive side now that he's
had a year to figure out what he's doing and could end up moving to the
middle once again.
The anchor up front should be 6-1, 290-pound center Nick Paris,
who started nine games last year missing three with an injury and was
out this spring with a knee problem. The former guard has slimmed down,
gotten in better shape, and will be better on the move.
The right side
is set with starting guard Jarid Smith and tackle John Rizzo
returning. The 6-3, 280-pound Rizzo has been a versatile blocker at
both tackle and guard throughout his career starting the first half of
the season at tackle and the second half at guard. A decent run blocker,
he has to improve in pass protection. The 6-2, 258-pound Smith started
the first half of last year at right guard before getting hurt.
Projected Top Reserves: Size among the backups is
vital, and no one's bigger than 6-2, 310-pound redshirt freshman Ryan
Wischnefski, who'll back up Paris in the middle. A big blocker, he
could move to guard at times just to get his bulk on the field.
245-pound junior Brandon Jackson hasn't been able to shake the
injury bug having the most problems with an ankle injury two years ago.
He has starters' ability at either guard spot and will start out behind
Matlock at left guard and could take over for on the left side if
Matlock moves to center.
Watch Out For ... a big-time rotation. Playing with
smaller, quicker linemen is fine is you're able to keep them fresh. FAU
will have to get more of a rotation going.
Strength: Quickness. Everyone can move well and
everyone is tough for their size. The coaching staff doesn't go after
big, bulky players choosing to be athletic up front, which is fine
Weakness: .... there's no production. It hasn't
worked. The line hasn't been good at anything. If you're going to be so
small, you need to be tremendous in pass protection. While fine, it
needs to be better.
Outlook: The line did improve a bit last season
allowing 25 sacks after giving up 34 the year before, but that was
helped by having Faulk at left tackle. There might not be a whole lot of
production for the ground game and the bigger, better defensive lines
(oh the Florida game will be ugly) will dominate this group, but it
should be decent overall in Sun Belt play if the left side is solid.