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2009 Conference USA Preview - Unit Rankings
East Carolina DT Joseph Linval
East Carolina DT Joseph Linval
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 31, 2009


2009 CollegeFootballNews.com Preview - Conference USA Unit Rankings

2009 CFN C-USA Preview

Unit Rankings

Team Previews & Predictions
East
- East Carolina |
Marshall |
Memphis | Southern Miss | UAB | UCF

West
- Houston |
Rice | Tulane | Tulsa | SMU
|
UTEP

- 2009 CFN C-USA Preview

- C-USA Team-by-Team Capsules

- CFN All-C-USA Team & Top 30 Players
-
C-USA Unit Rankings
- C-USA Schedules & Predictions

- 2008 CFN Conference USA Preview

Offenses

1. Houston
A year ago, Houston had a new staff, a new system, and a new set of skill position players, yet averaged 562 yards and 40 points a game. What will Dana Holgorsen’s wide-open attack accomplish now that just about everyone is back? It’s a scary thought for Conference USA defenses that had few answers for Case Keenum and his band of precocious freshmen backs and receivers. Almost overnight, RB Bryce Beall and receivers Tyron Carrier and Patrick Edwards blossomed into dynamic playmakers, giving the quarterback a slew of dangerous weapons. The only thing that’ll keep the Cougs from bettering their 2008 numbers is an offensive line in transition. If it can gel in a hurry, with the help of a couple of JUCO imports, this offense will be borderline unstoppable.

2. East Carolina
3. Southern Miss
4. Tulsa
5. Memphis
6. UTEP
7. Marshall
8. UAB
9. SMU
10. Rice
11. Tulane
12. UCF

Quarterbacks

1. Houston
As long as Case Keenum is upright, Houston boasts one of the nation’s premier quarterbacks. If he can throw 44 touchdown passes with a new staff, a new offense, and a completely green supporting cast, what happens now that everyone has spent a year together? If the Cougars can pick off an FBS opponent, like Oklahoma State or Texas Tech, Keenum is capable of getting into the Heisman discussion.

2. East Carolina
3. UTEP
4. UAB
5. Southern Miss
6. Tulsa
7. SMU
8. Memphis
9. Rice
10. Marshall
11. Tulane
12. UCF

Running Backs

1. Southern Miss
When Damion Fletcher is in the backfield, the Eagles have the top back in the league and one of the most underrated runners in America. Extremely efficient in his running style, he’ll frustrate defenses by consistently picking up six yards when it looks like he’s only gained three.

2. Houston
3. Memphis
4. Marshall
5. Tulsa
6. Tulane
7. East Carolina
8. UCF
9. Rice
10. UTEP
11. UAB
12. SMU

Receivers

1. SMU
Everyone is back and a year older, which is promising news for the passing attack. Not only are Emmanuel Sanders and Aldrick Robinson all-stars and legitimate next-level players, but all of the young kids should be better prepared to contribute as secondary options this season. 

2. Houston
3. East Carolina
4. Tulsa
5. Memphis
6. UTEP
7. Southern Miss
8. Marshall
9. UAB
10. Rice
11. Tulane
12. UCF

Offensive Line

1. East Carolina
Now that the talent and depth are in place, it’s time for the Pirate offensive line to produce up to its potential. If guard Doug Palmer is in the mix, as expected, the program could have as many as three or four all-leaguers, which should mean bigger holes for the running backs and more time for the quarterbacks to survey the field.

2. Marshall
3. Houston
4. UTEP
5. Southern Miss
6. Memphis
7. UAB
8. Tulane
9. Tulsa
10. Rice
11. UCF
12. SMU

Defenses

1. East Carolina
What does East Carolina do after delivering its best season defensively in over a decade? How about get better? Eight starters and 25 lettermen return to a D that led Conference USA in scoring defense, total defense, and takeaways. Aside from depth, which could become a problem as the season develops, there are no glaring weaknesses on this side of the ball. It all begins up front, where DE C.J. Wilson leads a defensive line that could produce three NFL Draft picks in the next two years. With the pressure created by these guys, it’s going to be difficult to move the ball through the air on a Pirate secondary that’s fast and athletic, and knows what to do when the ball is in its hands. FS Van Eskridge and LB Nick Johnson are the stars of a back seven that’s going to produce a bunch of big plays again this season.

2. Southern Miss
3. UCF
4. Marshall
5. Houston
6. Memphis
7. Tulsa
8. Rice
9. Tulane
10. UTEP
11. SMU
12. UAB

Defensive Line


1. East Carolina
No one in Conference USA boasts a better collection of talent on the defensive line. In fact, it might not even be that close. East Carolina is experienced and disruptive on the front four, which will make everyone behind that first line of defense, especially the secondary, much better. The development of those second-stringers bears watching for 2009 and beyond.

2. UCF
3. Marshall
4. Southern Miss
5. Tulane
6. Memphis
7. Houston
8. Tulsa
9. Rice
10. SMU
11. UTEP
12. UAB

Linebackers

1. East Carolina
While not dotted with slam dunk all-stars or future NFL types, the linebackers are a steady, reliable collection of veterans, who’ll help form one of Conference USA’s top front sevens. The game-changing plays may escape them, but most ball carriers in the open field will not. Nick Johnson is an exception, with the skill set and intensity to end his college career with honors.  

2. Memphis
3. UCF
4. Southern Miss
5. Houston
6. Tulsa
7. SMU
8. Marshall
9. Rice
10. UTEP
11. Tulane
12. UAB

Defensive Backs

1. East Carolina
East Carolina had one of the league’s toughest pass defenses last fall. Now that UCF has been gutted by graduation, the Pirates will stand alone in that category in 2009. Collectively, they form an attacking unit that creates turnovers and keeps the play in front of them. With support from a terrific pass rush, few will throw with success on the Pirates this season.

2. Southern Miss
3. Houston
4. Marshall
5. UCF
6. Rice
7. UTEP
8. Memphis
9. Tulsa
10. Tulane
11. UAB
12. SMU

Special Teams

1. East Carolina
A glaring weakness at this time last year, the special teams are on the verge of becoming a team strength. PK Ben Hartman will contend for all-conference honors and P Matt Dodge could be a fringe All-American with another season of growth. Remember, it was a blocked punt that propelled East Carolina to the upset of Virginia Tech last September.

2. Houston
3. Marshall
4. UCF
5. Tulane
6. Tulsa
7. SMU
8. Rice
9. UTEP
10. UAB
11. Memphis
12. Southern Miss