2009 CFN Sun Belt Team Capsules
NorthTexas RB Cam Montgomery
NorthTexas RB Cam Montgomery
Posted Aug 15, 2009

2009 CFN Sun Belt Predictions and Team-by-Team Thumbnail Views

2009 CFN Sun Belt Preview

CFN Team Capsules & Picks

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 

1. Troy | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 9-3   Predicted Conf. Record: 8-0
Best Offensive Player: WR Jerrel Jernigan, Jr.
Best Defensive Player: LB Boris Lee, Sr.
Offense: The spread offense should keep on humming with all the skill stars returning and the interior of the line intact. The only issue will be at tackle where first-team all-stars Dion Small and Chris Jamison are gone, but the Trojans have a slew of great recruits coming in who can start right away. The big question mark, and it's a good problem to have, is at quarterback where Levi Brown is back after leading the team to the Sun Belt title over the second half of last year. However, Jamie Hampton is coming back from a knee injury and is the best all-around option to run the attack. There are other good quarterbacks waiting in the wings and jockeying for position on the depth chart. DuJuan Harris leads a quick group of running backs, while Jerrel Jernigan is an All-Sun Belt star receiver who does a little of everything well.
Defense: 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.

T2. Florida Atlantic | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 6-6   Predicted Conf. Record: 6-2
Best Offensive Player: QB Rusty Smith, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: CB Tavious Polo, Jr.
Offense: The offense was a bit of a disappointment last season, at least early on, and it wasn't consistent. It struggled against any defense with a pulse, but when it was on it was fantastic thanks to Rusty Smith and the high-octane passing game. The Sun Belt's best air attack should be dominant with Smith getting back his good deep threats led by Cortez Gent to stretch the field. The return of tight end Jason Harmon from a knee injury adds another big-time weapon. The running game will once again be along for the ride with a few very quick but inexperienced options working behind a decent line that'll keep Smith clean, but won't do much for the ground game.
Defense: Last year's defense was loaded with veterans and did precisely squat until a good Motor City Bowl. Now there are some major changes being made with three new starters at linebacker, a new strong safety in place of Greg Joseph, and some replacements coming on the front four. There's been no pass rush over the last few years, and there still won't be one, and the run defense will be mediocre. On the plus side, the potential is there for a good year from the secondary with three good veterans returning led by corner Tavious Polo, who was never quite right throughout last year. The key overall will be the push into the backfield after finishing 112th in the nation in sacks and 110th in tackles for loss. A steady pass rusher will have to emerge.

T2. Middle Tennessee | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 6-6   Predicted Conf. Record: 6-2
Best Offensive Player: RB Phillip Tanner, Jr.
Best Defensive Player: LB Danny Carmichael, Sr.
Offense: Tony Franklin, the offensive coordinator booted from Auburn last year, will bring his spread attack to the Blue Raiders, and he has the players to run it with all the starters returning. The key will be the play of quarterback Dwight Dasher, a multi-talented playmaker who has to show he can be consistent enough to make the right decisions on a regular basis. The receiving corps is loaded with speed and production, but it might go underused if there's a renewed reliance on the ground game. The line got 12 games out of four of the starters and has a good situation at the other spot, right guard, while RB Phillip Tanner is a touchdown machine who should benefit from the new style.
Defense: While this won't be the Sun Belt's best defense, it should finish in the top three. The defense was able to reload on the front to come up with a good getting into the backfield. Now the line will be a strength, while the secondary is loaded up with starters and veterans led by corner Alex Suber and safety Jeremy Kellem. The pass defense will be among the best in the Sun Belt, and there will be plenty of tackles for loss and a good pass rush, but the concern will be at linebacker where new outside defenders are needed to flank star tackler Danny Carmichael in the middle. Power running teams should be able to produce, but spread offense might have problems with the Blue Raider quickness.

4. Arkansas State | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 6-6   Predicted Conf. Record: 5-3
Best Offensive Player: RB Reggie Arnold, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: DE Alex Carrington, Sr.
Offense: 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.
Defense: ASU had the best defense in the Sun Belt two years ago, and it was fantastic last season finishing behind Troy in most major categories and leading the league in run defense. With eight returning starters and plenty of experience, it'll be a shock if this isn't one of the top two defenses in the league again. The pass rush, led by All-America caliber end Alex Carrington, will be unstoppable at times, while the active line should come up with regular plays behind the line. The linebackers lose Ben Owens, but there's a ton of experience and lots of athleticism. The secondary is small, but everyone can hit and everyone can move.

5. FIU | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 4-8   Predicted Conf. Record: 4-4
Best Offensive Player: WR T.Y. Hilton, Soph.
Best Defensive Player: CB Anthony Gaitor, Jr.
Offense: Offensive coordinator Bill Legg came in from Purdue and there was a night-and-day improvement. Even though the veteran offensive line didn't block anyone and despite the lack of a running game, the offense was strong considering 2007 might have been the worst offensive year in the history of college football. The attack will be all about the passing game where steady and solid QB Paul McCall has a tremendous array of weapons to work with. T.Y. Hilton might be the best under-the-radar playmaker in the country, but he's not the only wide receiver who should shine. Everyone of note is back for the passing game with size, speed, experience, and depth in the receiving corps. The line gets everyone back, but it has to find something it can do well. Darriet Perry has to become a No. 1 back right away to provide some semblance of balance.
Defense: The potential is there for the defense to be among the Sun Belt's best if someone of note emerges on the defensive front. Wholesale changes are being made on the line that was good last year, but never got to the quarterback. The linebacking corps could be strong with Scott Bryant a good all-star on the weakside and Tyler Clawson a decent veteran in the middle. Anthony Gaitor stepped up big-time as a top cover-corner last year and should be among the Sun Belt's best this season. With Ashlyn Parker back from a knee injury and Jeremiah Weatherspoon back in the mix, the safeties go from a problem to a possible strength.

6. UL Lafayette | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 4-8   Predicted Conf. Record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player: C Chris Fisher, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: LB Antwyne Zanders, Sr.
Offense: The Ragin' Cajuns led the Sun Belt in offense, scoring, and rushing with a devastating attack that averaged 449 yards and 33 points per game. This year, there's a major, major strength to go along with some ten-mile wide holes to fill. The offensive line will likely be the best in the Sun Belt and it might not even be close with three all-stars, five starters, and good depth returning from a group that blasted away for 264 rushing yards per game. And then there are the skill players. Gone are QB Michael Desormeaux, RB Tyrell Fenroy (the Sun Belt Player of the Year), and WR Jason Chery. Now there's a major question mark at running back, a search for a No. 1 wide receiver to help out tight end Ladarius Green, and a big concern at quarterback where Brad McGuire and Chris Masson will battle it out for the starting job through the fall.
Defense: After having one of the worst defenses in America in 2007, ULL struggled way too much throughout last year to come up with any sort of production. The line was awful with no pass rush and way too many problems against the run, while the linebacking corps that was expected to be a strength struggled with injuries and had to do too much. Now, with Antwyne Zanders back in the middle of the linebacking corps, and everyone returning healthy, there should be a big improvement, but with just 17 sacks and nine interceptions last season, the defense has to do more to come up with the big play. At least things were better than they were two years ago, and if safeties Gerren Blount and Maurice Rolle and CB Orkeys Auriene can spark a good year from the secondary, there could be night-and-day improvement in the overall production .

T7. North Texas | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 3-9   Predicted Conf. Record: 2-6
Best Offensive Player: QB Riley Dodge, RFr.
Best Defensive Player: LB Tobe Nwigwe, Sr.
Offense: After two years and with moderate success, the offense finally has the pieces (for the most part) brought in by head coach Todd Dodge to run the offense the way he wants to. The line gets back all five starters along with G/C Kelvin Drake, the team's best lineman who missed all of last year hurt, while the backfield has three good runners in Cam Montgomery, Lance Dunbar, and Micah Mosley. But the offense is supposed to revolve around the passing game, and while it has had its moments over the last two years, it's been wildly inconsistent and inefficient. Riley Dodge, the coach's son and one-time superstar recruit, has to live up to the promise at quarterback, and the three newcomers at receiver, Oklahoma transfer Tyler Stradford and JUCO transfers Jamaal Jackson and Michael Outlaw, have to be fantastic right away. There will be bumps in the road and there will be problems early on, but eventually the light will go on and the offense should explode. Patience, even after two years under Dodge, will remain a key virtue.
Defense: A nightmare over the past few seasons, the defense is at least loaded with experience. It all starts with a need for a pass rush after finishing 112th in the nation in sacks, coming up with just 11, while finishing 111th in tackles for loss. Eddrick Gilmore has to shine at one end, while Brandon Akpunku has to add a spark on the other side. The linebacking corps has the potential to be terrific with Tobe Nwigwe and Craig Robertson leading a deep, productive group. Four of the top five tacklers from last year will be at linebacker. The secondary is young, but promising with good prospects at each spot. Now there needs to be more production.
T7. ULM | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 3-9   Predicted Conf. Record: 2-6
Best Offensive Player: RB Frank Goodin, Jr.
Best Defensive Player: LB Cardia Jackson, Sr.
Offense: A mega-disappointment last year, the ULM offense will try to do a little more option and get the speedy running backs on the move a bit more. Step one is replacing QB Kinsmon Lancaster, but that won't be too hard with Trey Revell ready to step in and lightning-fast Zach Rhodes a good option. Backs Frank Goodin and Rodney Lovett struggled last year, but they were both hurt and they didn't get much room to move. The line struggled throughout the season, especially in pass protection, and it's not likely to be much better. The receiving corps should be a strength with speed, depth, and good options all across the board. Now there needs to be a steady passer to get them the ball.
Defense: The defense had the potential to be one of the best in the Sun Belt last year, but it was a complete and utter disaster. Gone are co-defensive coordinators Phil Elmassian and Manny Michel and out with them will be the 4-2-5 alignment. Now the defense will go to a 3-3-5 set to highlight one of the team's strength, the linebackers. Cardia Jackson is among the best in the Sun Belt, while Theo Smith and Josh Thomas are solid playmakers on the outside. The secondary is all about getting the stars back. While Darius Prelow is a rising star, Josh Thompson needs to get a sixth year from the NCAA, James Truxillo needs to get healthy after suffering a knee injury, and Greg James has to get back in the mix after being suspended. The key to the entire defense will be the pass rush, which has been non-existent over the last few years. Aaron Morgan is a great pass rusher, but he's it. Overall, there's enough experience and enough talent to be better than 109th in the country again, but it'll take some work.

9. Western Kentucky | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 1-11   Predicted Conf. Record: 0-8
Best Offensive Player: RB Tyrell Hayden, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: FS Mark Santoro, Soph.
Offense: The offense sputtered and coughed all season long with no running game, not enough pop in the passing game, and eight games with 13 points or fewer. While there's some major rebuilding being done, helped mostly by a great recruiting class and a youth movement, the potential is there for far more production with the emergence of a line that gets four starters back. The key will be to get steady place from the quarterbacks with senior Brandon Smith getting the first look and three freshmen, redshirt freshmen Marcus Vasquez and Kawaun Jakes, and true freshman Courtney Dalcourt, all speedy options who'll get their chance. The 1-2 rushing punch of Tyrell Hayden and Marell Booker has the potential to be great if the line has a better year, while veteran receiver Jake Gaebler should steady a mediocre group of targets that needs help from the recruiting class.
Defense: There are plenty of decent athletes and a lot of interesting prospects coming in from the recruiting class, but it could be another year of trying to find something that works. The 3-4 alignment will occasionally be a 3-3-5 with several decent corners, but there has to be more production. It's not like the Hilltoppers played a who's who of passing teams, but they still got lit up. The pass rush has to come from the outside linebackers, but they should be the weak link on the D with no depth whatsoever. On the plus side, there are enough inside linebackers to form a great rotation, while the corners are extremely deep. The front three will rely on at least seven underclassmen to be part of the mix, and they need to use their athleticism to make up for the mistakes. This will be a stepping-stone season before becoming strong in 2010 .

- 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