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2009 Sun Belt Preview - Unit Rankings
UL Lafayette LB Antwyne Zanders
UL Lafayette LB Antwyne Zanders
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 15, 2009


2009 CFN Preview - Sun Belt Unit Rankings from top to bottom

2009 CFN Sun Belt Preview

Unit Rankings

Team Previews & Predictions
- Arkansas State | Florida Atlantic | FIU | Middle Tennessee
- North Texas | Troy | UL Lafayette | ULM | Western Kentucky

- 2009 CFN Sun Belt Preview
- 2009 CFN All-Sun Belt Team & Top 30 Players
- 2009 CFN Sun Belt Team Capsules
- 2009 Sun Belt Schedules & CFN Picks
- 2009 Sun Belt Unit Rankings
- 2008 CFN Sun Belt Preview 

Offenses

1. Arkansas State
The backfield will be the best in the Sun Belt and the receiving corps will be the fastest in the league, but it could all come apart if the line isn't strong. Three key starters, including both tackles, have to be replaced from a line that struggled in pass protection but blasted away for the ground game. Corey Leonard will be one of the nation's most productive dual-threat quarterbacks, but he has to be more consistent, while RB Reggie Arnold has Sun Belt Player of the Year potential. Backup running back Derek Lawson would be a 1,000-yard rusher if he was the starter. The receiving corps won't make a ton of catches, but it's lighting fast, experienced, and will stretch the field.

2. Florida Atlantic
3. Troy
4. Middle Tennessee
5. North Texas
6. UL Lafayette
7. FIU
8. ULM
9. Western Kentucky

Quarterbacks

1. Florida Atlantic
Rusty Smith is a special passer with two full years 38 games of experience under his belt. He’s about to be one of the nation’s most productive quarterbacks as he reaches his potential. Jeff VanCamp is an interesting No. 2 option who’ll be groomed for the 2010 starting job. The program desperately needs to develop a No. 3 passer.
 
2. Arkansas State
3. Troy
4. Middle Tennessee
5. North Texas
6. FIU
7. UL Lafayette
8. ULM
9. Western Kentucky
 
Running Backs

1. Arkansas State
The running game, helped by QB Corey Leonard, cranked out an impressive 2,440 yards and 19 touchdowns, and there's no reason to think ASU can't do it again. Arnold and Lawson form a devastating 1-2 punch, while there are several good backs waiting in the wings to show what they can do. Blake might be the Sun Belt's best fullback. As good as this group is, the ground game has to work week in and week out.

2. Troy
3. ULM
4. Western Kentucky
5. North Texas
6. Middle Tennessee
7. UL Lafayette
8. Florida Atlantic
9. FIU

Receivers

1. Florida Atlantic
Look out. Because of the style of offense and because Rusty Smith is the quarterback, this veteran, talented corps should go ballistic. The FAU passing game was 25th in the nation last season and first in the Sun Belt, and it should be even better with Cortez Gent leading an explosive group and star tight end Jason Harmon back from his knee injury.

2. FIU
3. Arkansas State
4. Troy
5. Middle Tennessee
6. North Texas
7. ULM
8. Western Kentucky
9. UL Lafayette

Offensive Lines

1. UL Lafayette
Only injuries can prevent this from being the Sun Belt’s best line. With first-team all-stars in Chris Fisher and Brad Bustle to start with, another star in Jonathan Decoster, and two other strong starters in Ian Burks and Kyle Pirtle who are rock solid, run blocking won't be a problem. There's even some good depth to count on for down the road and to create a good rotation now. This will be the team's biggest strength by a long shot.
 
2. Troy
3. Florida Atlantic
4. Middle Tennessee
5. Arkansas State
6. FIU
7. Western Kentucky
8. North Texas
9. ULM

Defenses

1. Troy
The defense dominated last season with one of the nation’s best pass rushes and a swarming front six that always got into the backfield. There are four superstars to build around in defensive ends Brandon Lang and Cameron Sheffield along with linebackers Bear Woods and Boris Lee. But that's where the sure-things stop. The secondary loses three all-stars (Terence Moore, Sherrod Martin and Tavares Williams), and while there are good prospects waiting to step up, there's no one as good as last year's playmakers. The question will be style as the coaches often like to go with a 4-2-5 lineup to get all the good defensive backs on the field, but this year there might be more from a strongside linebacker with David McDowell coming off a redshirt. This will still be one of the Sun Belt's best defenses, but it won't be the dominant force of last year.

2. Arkansas State
3. Middle Tennessee
4. FIU
5. UL Lafayette
6. ULM
7. North Texas
8. Florida Atlantic
9. Western Kentucky

Defensive Lines

1. Troy
Brandon Lang is on the short list for Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year honors, Cameron Sheffield will be an all-star, and the tackles will get into the backfield on a regular basis. The line won't be as good as last year, but there's excellent depth tremendous pass rushing ability, and the potential to once again be the Sun Belt's dominant front four. While the production against the run will be average, the line will make up for it by making a ton of plays behind the line.

2. Arkansas State
3. Middle Tennessee
4. FIU
5. North Texas
6. UL Lafayette
7. Florida Atlantic
8. ULM
9. Western Kentucky

Linebackers

1. Troy
Thanks to the emergence of Bear Woods, the Troy linebacking corps went from a concern to a major strength last season. Woods and Boris Lee are big-time playmakers who can hang with anyone in America. This year there’s nice depth to count on if needed with Donnell Golden and Xavier Lamb ready to step in if needed. If David McDowell is on the field and has a decent year, the linebacking corps could be the strength of the team.
 
2. Arkansas State
3. UL Lafayette
4. ULM
5. North Texas
6. FIU
7. Western Kentucky
8. Florida Atlantic
9. Middle Tennessee

Secondaries

1. Arkansas State
The secondary has been a strength of the defense for the last three years, but this time, it was for a different reason. The pass defense really was that good in 2006 and 2007, but last year the DBs got help from a phenomenal pass rush. Getting into the backfield won't be a problem for the line, so the veteran secondary should benefit once again and come up with another great season.
 
2. Middle Tennessee
3. Troy
4. FIU
5. Florida Atlantic
6. ULM
7. UL Lafayette
8. North Texas
9. Western Kentucky


Special Teams

1. Troy
The Sun Belt's best special teams of 2007 were starting from scratch last year, and they became the league's best in 2008 leading the conference in punting, kickoff returns, and yards allowed. They were also third in punt returns. Everyone is back, so expect more of the same. Troy will win at least two games because it'll be better, far better, than almost everyone on its schedule.

2. Arkansas State
3. Western Kentucky
4. FIU
5. UL Lafayette
6. Middle Tennessee
7. Florida Atlantic
8. ULM
9. North Texas