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2010 Sun Belt Preview - Team By Team Looks
Louisiana LB Grant Flemong
Louisiana LB Grant Flemong
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 12, 2010


Preview 2010 - CFN Sun Belt Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish


Preview 2010

Sun Belt Team By Team


- Arkansas State Preview | Florida Atlantic Preview | FIU Preview
- Louisiana Preview | MTSU Preview | North Texas Preview
- Troy Preview | ULM Preview | WKU Preview

- 2010 Sun Belt Preview | 2010 Sun Belt Unit Rankings | 2010 Sun Belt Schedules & Picks
- 2010 CFN All-Sun Belt Team & Top 30 Players | Get Sun Belt Tickets
- 2010 Sun Belt Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish

Sun Belt Predicted Finish

1. Middle Tennessee
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 7-1

Offense: Mike Schultz, the team’s third offensive coordinator in three seasons, came to the job just before spring ball, but he’s not going to change a whole bunch with a slew of good veterans in place from one of the Sun Belt’s most dynamic offenses. Dwight Dasher is a running quarterback who improved his passing ability by leaps and bounds, but he’s not going to have to do it alone this year with RB Phillip Tanner back from a knee injury. The strength of the offense should be the line, which returns four starters, and it should be allowed to do more for the running game. The receiving corps is big, fast, and has the basics, but there isn’t a lot of experience and there isn’t a sure-thing No. 1 target to rely on.
Defense: After spending the last four seasons at Wisconsin, Randall McCray will take over the Middle Tennessee defense that was among the best in the nation at getting into the backfield. Several key parts of last year’s excellent defense are gone, but the pressure will continue from all sides led by end Jamari Lattimore. FS Jeremy Kellem leads a loaded secondary that should be among the best in the Sun Belt, but stopping the run will be an issue early on after losing all-star linebackers Cam Robinson and Danny Carmichael and with little bulk at tackle. This will be a disruptive defense that should be a wall at times as the season goes on.

T2. Arkansas State
Predicted Overall Record: 6-6
Predicted Conference Record: 6-2

Offense: Offensive coordinator Hugh Freeze will change things up a bit as ASU makes the change from a running attack to a no-huddle, more balanced game. The hope is to generate more big plays with the passing game, and while the receivers aren’t experienced, there’s excellent upside with some dangerous young prospects. The O line is big and experienced, but it’s not built for a speed game and will have to get everyone healthy after so many problems last year. The backfield has a good back in Derek Lawson, who’ll finally get more of a chance to show what he can do, while the quarterback situation should be solid with dual-threat playmaker Ryan Aplin getting the first look and strong passer Phillip Butterfield getting his chances, too.
Defense: The Sun Belt’s top defense last year both in yards and points allowed has enough pieces back to be among the best in the league again. There might not be a tremendous pass rush after the loss of Alex Carrington to the next level, but the ends are solid and there’s enough experience and athleticism among the outside linebackers to expect more plays in the backfield. The secondary is the weakest part of the D, but it’s not all that bad with some good options at safety, especially if M.D. Jennings is back from a knee injury, and good prospects at corner. It’s not going to be a brick wall of a pass defense, but it’s going to good enough to win with considering the defensive front seven isn’t going to let much happen against the run.

T2. Troy
Predicted Overall Record: 7-5
Predicted Conference Record: 6-2

Offense: After finishing third in the nation and fourth in passing, the Troy offense will undergo a little bit of a change under new offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield. With Neal Brown off to Texas Tech, Edenfield will still try to keep the passing game going with the Sun Belt’s best receiving corps and two excellent backs, DuJuan Harris and Shawn Southward, who can catch as well as run well in space. The key will be replacing QB Levi Brown, who bombed away for 4,254 yards and 23 touchdowns, and there’s going to be a fight for the job with Jamie Hampton and Corey Robinson battling it out early into the season. The line will be fine even with a few key losses, but it could struggle at guard with star Tyler Clark moving to center.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Jeremy Rowell has some work to do. After a dominant 2008, the Troy D was shockingly miserable finishing 104th in the nation overall with college football’s third-worst pass defense. Now all the talent is gone including Troy linebacking legends Boris Lee and Bear Woods and pass rushing terrors Cameron Sheffield and Brandon Lang. The tackle situation is so scary that the D might end up moving to a 3-4 to utilize all the quickness at linebacker. There are a ton of young talents in the secondary and the pass rush will be fine with Jonathan Massaquoi and Mario Addison likely to be regulars in the backfield, but overall, the D will be a big wad of clay that needs to be molded.

4. Florida Atlantic
Predicted Overall Record: 5-7
Predicted Conference Record: 5-3

Offense: The Owl offense was full of veterans and full of talent last year, and now it’ll have to undergo a major overhaul with just three starters returning, a painfully young offensive line, and tons and tons of youth. The backfield is set with QB Jeff Van Kamp a solid veteran to work around, while 1,392-yard back Alfred Morris is among the best players in the Sun Belt. The receiving corps desperately needs a No. 2 target to help out Lester Jean, and Rob Housler has to step up at tight end in place of Jason Harmon, but the big concern is a line that has almost no experience, little size, and will start four sophomores and a redshirt freshman. This might not be an explosive attack right away, but it’ll be dangerous by the middle of the year once everyone knows what they’re doing.
Defense: A complete and utter disaster. That was the FAU defense last year with miserable line play leading to no pass rush, no run defense, and too much stress put on a not-that-bad back seven. Former linebackers coach Kurt Van Valkenburgh will take over the defense and will try to make everyone far more aggressive. The defense came up with a pathetic 12 sacks and five interceptions, but with nine starters and a ton of young talent waiting in the wings, there’s absolutely no excuse to not be far better. The secondary gets everyone back, but it needs some semblance of a pass rush to help the cause (there hasn’t been one in two years). There’s size, speed, athleticism, and a ton of experience across the board, but there’s a long way to go after finishing 112th in the nation in total defense and 106th in scoring D.

T5. FIU
Predicted Overall Record: 3-9
Predicted Conference Record: 3-5

Offense: New offensive coordinator Scott Satterfield has to find something that works, and it all begins with the line. A disaster once again last season, the front five was one of the team’s biggest disappointments. On the plus side, all the injuries and issues meant playing time for several players who’ll need to form a cohesive unit this year, especially in pass protection. The receiving corps is fantastic, led by T.Y. Hilton, Syracuse transfer Jeremiah Harden gives the backfield another fast runner, and the quarterback situation is improved with Wayne Younger looking far sharper this offseason and Mississippi State transfer Wesley Carroll good enough to shine right away. But for an offense that averaged a mere 321 yards and 23 points per game, finding some consistency and more of a ground game is a must.
Defense: The defense should’ve been far better, but injuries, no consistency, and problems against the run led to a disastrous season finishing second-to-last in the nation in yards allowing 492 yards per game and over 35 points per outing. On talent and athleticism, FIU has the potential to have among the best defenses in the Sun Belt, but all the parts have to be there. Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins has tremendous options in the secondary to play around with helped by the return of safety Ashlyn Parker from injury and with CB Anthony Gaitor and FS Jonathan Cyprien among the league’s best players. Only one starter returns to the front seven, but there’s a boatload of young playmakers led by LB Winston Fraser and DE Tourek Williams, who’ll help the Golden Panthers get into the backfield on a regular basis. However, this isn’t a huge defense and it has to be far, far better against the run.

T5. North Texas
Predicted Overall Record: 3-9
Predicted Conference Record: 3-5

Offense: The offense had been building toward big things last year, and even though the team went 2-10, the attack finished 36th in the nation in yards. The passing game wasn’t efficient, but the ground attack, led by breakout Sun Belt superstar Lance Dunbar, was terrific. Expect more of the same with, arguably, the league’s best line to pave the way with four returning starters and a few all-star candidates. One-time superstar QB recruit, Riley Dodge, will move to receiver, but the passing game should be better with a loaded receiving corps and two good bombing options in Nathan Tune and Derek Thompson. Basically, if the Todd Dodge offense (now run by new offensive coordinator, Mike Canales) doesn’t work in Denton, it never will.
Defense: North Texas hasn’t stopped anyone in years, and this season doesn’t appear to be much different. Relative compared to previous seasons, the UNT D was a bit better, and there’s enough experience and an infusion of JUCO talent to provide ready-made depth. The front seven has to do far more to get into the backfield after finishing 116th in the nation in sacks and 97th in tackles for loss, and the D has to come up with ways to keep points off the board after allowing 21 or more in ten of the 12 games. The linebacking corps has veterans, the tackles are huge, and the safeties are fine, but the corner situation is a problem and someone has to start forcing turnovers. The front seven has to find something it can do well.

T5. ULM
Predicted Overall Record: 4-8
Predicted Conference Record: 3-5

Offense: Offensive coordinator Steve Farmer is going to spread out the offense and get the quarterbacks and the one-back moving. The goal is to make Kolton Browning the type of all-around playmaking quarterback who can get everyone involved, and while he might not lead a consistent attack, he has some excellent home run hitters to work with. RB Frank Goodin and WR Luther Ambrose are among the Sun Belt’s fastest players, and they’ll get time to work behind a big line fortified by some key JUCO transfers. The offense was balanced last year and it should remain so under the new coaching staff, but it might take a while. With good speed and quickness all across the board, ULM should be able to keep up in conference play on athleticism alone.
Defense: The defense will take a step back after finishing last year first in the Sun Belt against the run and second in total defense. The loss of stars DE Aaron Morgan, LB Cardia Jackson, and key defensive backs Greg James and James Truxillo will be tough to overcome, but there’s plenty of speed and quickness from top to bottom for defensive coordinator Troy Reffett to work with. The 3-3-5 has a nice young group of defensive backs to work with, but it’ll take a little while for the group to improve on a rough year against the pass. There’s potential up front for a strong pass rush if end Troy Evans can take his game up a notch and if Ken Dorsey can grow into a factor on the other side.

8. Louisiana:
Predicted Overall Record: 2-10
Predicted Conference Record: 2-6

Offense: The offense that was so dominant for the ground game a few years ago struggled to find its groove last year. It was solid throwing the ball with Chris Masson emerging as a nice passer, but the rushing attack turned into a committee approach that didn’t really work. Expect more of the same. The great line of last year loses three key starters and might need a while to figure out what it’s doing, while there will be a steady rotation of runners including from backup quarterbacks Blaine Gautier and Brad McGuire in a Wildcat formation. The receiving corps might not be anything special, but tight end Ladarius Green should be an all-star.
Defense: The Cajuns haven’t had much of a defense for several years, and it’s mystifying. This year, there’s depth, size, and experience across the board, there are some decent all-star prospects, and there’s plenty of upside. So is this going to finally be the year when it all comes together? Probably not. Defensive coordinator Kevin Fouquier’s concept of TNT (tackles ‘n’ turnovers) is nice in theory, but there’s no sure-thing pass rush and that lack of pressure is a killer on the back seven. The secondary has the talent to come up with a nice year, but it needs help against quarterbacks who always get ten days to throw. The linebacking corps should be strong and the line is big and with several options, but it’s time for the D to start producing after allowing 404 yards and 30.33 point per game.

9. Western Kentucky
Predicted Overall Record: 1-11
Predicted Conference Record: 1-7

Offense: Willie Taggart knows how to get an offense moving and he knows how to get great play from his running backs. He has a star in Bobby Rainey to feed the ball to early and often, and there are enough good options to form a solid rotation for the ground game to work behind a big and experience line. However, the linemen have been abysmal in pass protection and need to be at least mediocre to allow the West Coast offense to function. Because the quarterbacks didn’t have any time, there weren’t any big pass plays and the passing attack was inefficient and ineffective. JUCO transfer Matt Pelesasa takes over the reins at quarterback and he should be a steadying factor, while the receivers, particularly the tight end tandem of Jack Doyle and Tristan Jones, should be more productive under the new staff.
Defense: There was a lot of athleticism, plenty of promise, and tons of interesting prospects to play around with last year. This was also a very, very, very young group that got ripped apart by any offense able to field 11 live bodies. In the old 3-4, there was no pass rush, no big plays, and few stops as the defense finished 118th in the nation in yards allowed, 119th in scoring, and dead last in sacks and pass efficiency defense. Gone is the 3-4 in favor of a traditional 4-3, and there’s enough size up front to do it. The key will be to generate pressure from somewhere, while the deep group of linebackers must come up with a meaningful play or three. The secondary will be the most interesting part of the team to keep an eye on with six good recruits coming in to challenge a group of veterans who never got a shot last year with no pressure from the front seven on opposing quarterbacks.

- Arkansas State Preview | Florida Atlantic Preview | FIU Preview
- Louisiana Preview | MTSU Preview | North Texas Preview
- Troy Preview | ULM Preview | WKU Preview

- 2010 Sun Belt Preview | 2010 Sun Belt Unit Rankings | 2010 Sun Belt Schedules & Picks
- 2010 CFN All-Sun Belt Team & Top 30 Players | Get Sun Belt Tickets
- 2010 Sun Belt Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish