2009 Sun Belt Early Lookaheads
| Florida Atlantic
| Florida International
| Middle Tennessee
| UL Lafayette
| UL Monroe
2008 CFN All-Sun
2008 CFN Preseason All-SEC Team
2007 Sun Belt Lookback/Recaps |
2008 Sun Belt Lookaheads
2008 Sun Belt Lookbacks/Recaps
CFN Preseason Prediction: 5-7 Final Record: 6-6
Corey Leonard and Reggie Arnold. Leonard is the Sun Belt’s best
all-around quarterback, while Arnold is a 100-yard rushing day waiting
to happen. These two will be among the top starts of the Sun Belt
season, while the defense gets eight starters back including Sun Belt
Defensive Player of the Year, DE Alex Carrington. PK Josh Aracuo will be
among the best in America.
Why to be grouchy: Who’s going to pave the way for Leonard,
Arnold and the running game? OT Matt Mandich was an all-star, and the
line loses three other starters, only getting back right guard Drew
Hilton. Ben Owens was a special linebacker who’ll be missed, while
corner Dominique Williams was also a producer.
The number one thing to work on is: The offensive line. While the
line struggled in pass protection, that was partly because Corey Leonard
was often times dropped behind the line trying to make things happen.
ASU is a bit of a factory when it comes to producing good blockers, but
it’ll be the key to the Sun Belt season. If the front five comes through
with a big year, ASU will be in the Sun Belt title hunt until the end.
OT Matt Mandich
Biggest defensive loss: LB Ben Owens
Best returning offensive player: QB Corey Leonard, Sr. & RB
Reggie Arnold, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: DE Alex Carrington, Sr.
Prediction: 7-5 Final Record: 7-6
Why to get excited:
Rusty Smith. FAU led the Sun Belt in passing last year thanks to Smith,
a 6-5, 230-pound pro prospect who was the 2007 Sun Belt Player of the
Year. With TE Jamari Grant and all the top receivers returning, there’s
no reason FAU shouldn’t be in the mix for a second conference
championship in three years mainly because of the offense. However …
Why to be grouchy: The defense is going to have to start from
scratch in several areas. Eight starters are gone including star tackle
Jervonte Jackson, corner Corey Small, LB Frantz Joseph, and safety Greg
Joseph. The Owl defense was fine last year, but nothing special, and now
it’ll have to deal with a massive overhaul. Making matters worse, the
defense needs to …
The number one thing to work on is: … figure out how to generate
pressure. The Owls are supposed to be ultra-athletic and extremely quick
up front, but getting into the backfield was a major problem with just
13 sacks on the year while finishing 110th in the nation in
tackles for loss. The production against the run was all but
non-existent for key stretches.
RB Charles Pierre
Biggest defensive loss: DT Jervonte Jackson
Best returning offensive player: QB Rusty Smith, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: FS Ed Alexander, Jr.
Prediction: 2-10 Final Record: 5-7
Why to get excited:
The team that became competitive and dangerous over the course of last
year should be even better if the experience can turn into more
production. QB Paul McCall is back to lead an offense that returns nine
starters. The offense finished last in the Sun Belt in rushing and total
offense, but was fifth in scoring. It’ll have to carry the weight for a
while because …
Why to be grouchy: … almost everyone of note is gone off the
defense. CB Anthony Gaitor is special, and linebackers Scott Bryant and
Tyler Clawson are back, but the entire defensive front needs to be
replaced, along with three starters in the defensive backfield. Head
coach Mario Cristobal is bringing in the athletes, but it’s asking a lot
to plus the holes up right away.
The number one thing to work on is: Besides the defensive line
that’s starting from scratch, the running game needs work. The stats
weren’t great partly because the offensive line gave up a slew of sacks.
Even so, it’s not like the running backs were producing much as FIU
finished last in the Sun Belt in rushing averaging just 99 yards per
game. Starting backs Julian Reams and A’mod Ned are gone, meaning the
spring will be about finding new bodies to carry the rock.
RBs Julian Reams & A’mod Ned
Biggest defensive loss: DE Quentin Newman
Best returning offensive player: WR T.Y. Hilton, Soph.
Best returning defensive player: LB Scott Bryant, Sr.
Prediction: 5-7 Final Record: 5-7
The Blue Raiders will be loaded with veterans on both sides of the ball.
Ten starters return on offense, with the one replacement at quarterback.
Dwight Dasher, with a little more seasoning, should be a batter player
than last year’s starter, Joe Craddock. The defense gets back six
Why to be grouchy: Everyone comes back on the special teams. That
might seem like a good thing, but the Blue Raiders were among the worst
in America in punting and return game, On the plus side, PK Alex
Gendreau is back after hitting 10-of-14 field goals. Outside linebackers
Lonnie Clemons and Ivon Hickman were two good defenders who will be
The number one thing to work on is: The running game. There’s no
excuse to have speedy veterans like Phillip Tanner and Desmond Gee and
be so bad at running the ball. The rushing numbers will be far better,
if only because projected starting quarterback Dwight Dasher is a
runner, but the backs have to do more behind a veteran offensive line.
Middle Tennessee was strong last year in pass protection, and now the
front five has to push someone around.
QB Joe Craddock
Biggest defensive loss: DT Trevor Jenkins
Best returning offensive player: RB Phillip Tanner, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Danny Carmichael, Sr.
Prediction: 3-9 Final Record: 1-11
While the overall talent level might be in question, there’s experience
returning in several key areas. The offensive line returns intact, and
that includes the reserves, while the defense gets back eight starters.
Yes, the defense was the worst in college football, but at least it’ll
now be among the most experienced in the Sun Belt.
Why to be grouchy: Can anyone on defense actually play? There’s
LB Toby Nwigwe, who would’ve received more Sun Belt respect if he had
played on a better team, and Craig Robertson is a strong running mate.
Everything else is up for grabs. The defensive line needs to be
night-and-day better for the team to make any overall improvements.
The number one thing to work on is: The passing game. This is
supposed to be what North Texas is able to do, and now it’ll have to
move on without QB Giovanni Vizza, who’s transferring to Texas A&M, and
top WR Casey Fitzgerald, who graduated. There is a buzz around what
might be ahead with Riley Dodge, the coach’s son and the star recruit of
a few years ago, expected to get the starting nod. Good receiver
recruits are choosing UNT for the chance to play with him.
WR Casey Fitzgerald
Biggest defensive loss: DT Isaac Thomas
Best returning offensive player: QB Riley Dodge, RFr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Toby Nwigwe, Sr.
Prediction: 6-6 Final Record: 8-5
Why to get
defending Sun Belt champions are loaded, especially on defense. The
defensive tackles are gone, but Brandon Lang and Cameron Sheffield are
terrific ends to lead the front four. The linebacking tandem of Boris
Lee and Bear Woods might be the best in America, and not just the Sun
Belt. Offensively, QB Levi Brown and WR Jerrel Jernigan are talented
playmakers to build around.
Why to be grouchy: The offensive line and secondary need work.
Troy was able to reload in the secondary last year, but now it has to
replace all four starter including Sherrod Martin and Terrence Moore.
Troy had the best offensive line in the Sun Belt by far, but now it has
to replace three starters including First Team All-Sun Belt tackles
Chris Jamison and Dion Small.
The number one thing to work on is: The offensive tackles. Not
only are Jamison and Small gone, but so is key reserve Will Chambliss,
who was good enough to start on the left side. Nic Riley and Jacob
Creech will get the first look this spring, but the line has to find two
steady blockers or the league’s No. 2 offense is going to sputter early
OTs Dion Small and Chris Jamison
Biggest defensive loss: Safeties Terrence Moore and Sherrod
Best returning offensive player: WR Jerrel Jernigan, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Boris Lee, Sr.
Prediction: 4-8 Final Record: 6-6
It might not take too much to get over the hump and hit the magical
seven-win mark needed to get to a bowl. The defense was a nightmare last
season, but three starters return to the front four while three starters
are back in the secondary. The depth was young, extremely young, but now
there’s a year of experience to work with.
Why to be grouchy: You don’t just replace QB Michael Desormeaux
and RB Tyrell Fenroy. How good were they? Fenroy was named the Sun Belt
Player of the Year, while Desormeaux was named the league’s Offensive
Player of the Year. The defense might be experienced, but it’ll have to
make huge strides to be better than last season when it was among the
worst in the nation.
The number one thing to work on is: Better defensive line play.
ULL managed just 16 sacks on the year, was 100th in the
nation in tackles for loss, and allowed a whopping 213 rushing yards per
game; the worst in the Sun Belt. The offense isn’t going to be as
potent, so if ULL wants to be in the title chase, it needs better play
from the front four.
RB Tyrell Fenroy & QB Michael Desormeaux
Biggest defensive loss: SS Derik Keyes
Best returning offensive player: C Chris Fisher, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Daylon McCoy, Jr.
Prediction: 5-7 Final Record: 4-8
Why to get excited: Eight starters return on offense, and one
of the key starters, QB Kinsmon Lancaster, can be replaced by solid
backup Trey Revell. However, there won’t be the rushing production out
of the quarterback spot like there was with Lancaster. Defensively, nine
starters return to a group that struggled, but should be far better.
Why to be grouchy: Lancaster was a special player who was able to
make things happen even when the line wasn’t giving him much help. The
passing game was lousy to begin with, and even though there should be
more overall production with Revell under center, but he won’t have one
of the team’s best targets, All-Sun Belt TE Zeek Zacharie.
The number one thing to work on is: Generating pressure. It’s
this simple. If the front four is able to start getting into the
backfield on a more regular basis, the still-improving secondary would
get more of a break. The offensive line gets four starters returning,
and now it has to find one thing it’s able to do well.
Biggest offensive loss: QB Kinsmon Lancaster
Biggest defensive loss: S Chance Payne
Best returning offensive player: WR Darrell McNeal, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Cardia Jackson, Sr.
Prediction: Not Available Final Record: 2-10
Along with having the Sun Belt’s best recruiting class this year, WKU
has a vast array of options returning for most of the key spots (with an
emphasis on “most” … more on that in a moment). Eight starters return
on offense, including leading receiver, Jake Gaebler, and the defense
that was so strong throughout last year welcomes back seven starters.
Why to be grouchy: K.J. Black is transferring. The team’s best
quarterback will transfer to Prairie View A&M. After getting hurt last
year, and being demoted for a time, Black fell out of favor with the
program, and vice versa, and needed a new start. That means Brandon
Smith will go into the spring as the main option, but it’ll be an open
casting call to find the right fit, which means ....
The number one thing to work on is: … finding a starting
quarterback. With Black gone, along with starter David Wolke, Smith will
get the first shot with inexperienced redshirt freshmen Kawaun Jakes,
Anthony Sheppard, and Marcus Vasquez all getting a chance to show what
they can do. The offense was abysmal last year, and if there isn’t more
production from the quarterback, it’ll be more of the same.
Biggest offensive loss: QB David Wolke
Biggest defensive loss: FS Travis Watters
Best returning offensive player: WR Jake Gaebler, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Blake Boyd, Sr.