Saturday, July 22, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: U Mass Minutemen

U Mass Minutemen
I continue to be perplexed as to why U Mass stays in FBS football, when they are so obviously such a bad fit for it. They do not have the facilities (and let's not get started on driving to Foxborough), and they don't have a conference home. Nobody really wants to be an independent, except for Notre Dame, and there is not one conference clamoring for U Mass. How much longer can this program flail away in this current status, especially when they are averaging two wins per season over the last five years?

What To Be Excited About: Offense
Andrew Ford, who started his career at Virginia Tech (wouldn't they love to have him now?), passed for 2665 yards last season, and tossed 26 TD passes to 14 INTs. He completed 60.8% of his passes, while averaging 242.3 yards passing per game.

Top target Adam Breneman is back at TE after catching 70 passes for 808 yards and eight scores last fall. He is a field stretching TE, and is an absolute NFL prospect at the position. He averaged 5.8 receptions per game last season. Andy Isabella also returns at WR after catching 62 passes last season. RS freshman Brennon Dingle looked very good in the spring game, and will be pushing for reps.

Marquis Young is back after leading the Minutemen in rushing last fall. He ran for 898 yards and four scores while averaging 16.5 carries per game.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The line returns just two starters in Tackles Raquan Thomas and Jack Driscoll. The entire interior line must be replaced, and two of the potential replacements are just sophomores. With Thomas and Driscoll, there could be as many as four sophomores starting on the line at any time.

Depth at receiver is not great, as nobody outside of Isabella and Breneman caught more than 20 passes last fall. Finding targets will be tough, and that is only if Ford has enough time to get the ball up field with such a young line in front of him.

The run game, despite the return of Young, needs a massive lift after averaging just 99.5 yards per game last season. As a team, the Minutemen averaged just 3.26 yards per carry in 2016.

What To Be Excited About: Defense
Two starters return on the line in DE Sha-Ki Hollness and NT Ali Ali-Musa. They combined for 11.5 TFLs last fall, and should form a foundation for a defensive unit that desperately needs an identity. Junior Joe Previte will start at DT, while Da'Sean Downey starts at DE as the Minutemen move to a standard 4-3 set. Downey moves to the line from OLB, and could add a solid pass rush off the edge after finishing with 8.5 TFLs last fall.

Steve Casali returns at LB, and finished with eight TFLs last season. He will slide into the ZIP spot after leading the team with 105 tackles last season. He will be joined by returning starter Tedrick Lowery, who who collected 37 tackles, but played in just eight games last fall. Shane Huber will come off of the bench to start this season at MLB.

Logan Laurent will handle both PK and P duties this fall, and connected on 7/9 attempts last season on limited tries, and averaged 41.65 yards per punt.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
U Mass finished just 120th in the nation in pass efficiency defense last season, so the secondary is under siege. Isaiah Rodgers is back at CB, while Lee Moses is back at Safety. Rodgers finished with seven PBUs last season, while Moses finished with six. Two new starters will be introduced in Jackson Porter at CB, and Charan Singh at Safety. With an updated depth chart, Moses could actually move to safety, relegating Porter to the bench. Singh could be challenged by Patrick Amara, and Jesse Monteiro could enter the picture at Safety? Confused yet? Good.

2017 Schedule
8/26 Hawaii, 9/2 at Coastal Carolina, 9/9 Old Dominion, 9/16 at Temple, 9/23 at Tennessee, 9/30 Ohio, 10/14 at South Florida, 10/21 Georgia Southern, 10/28 Appalachian State, 11/4 at Mississippi State, 11/11 Maine at Boston, 11/18 at BYU

Final Overview
Let's not hack at the steak here. This program is simply biding time until they run out of options in FBS football. The reality is that this program is not built for this level of football, nor was it ever. Tat said, it's very hard to see how the Minutemen are going to be any better this season than last. The only game on this schedule that I can see U Mass being favored to win is probably the finale against Maine at Fenway Park in Boston. It could be another long season in Amherst.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Army Cadets (Black Knights)

Army Cadets (Black Knights)
Army turned a major corner under head coach Jeff Monken last season, and won eight games, including a Heart of Dallas Bowl victory over North Texas, which was revenge for a loss to UNT earlier in the year. Army also beat Navy last year, snapping a massive drought. Will Army have enough talent returning to make another solid run in 2017?

What To Be Excited About: Offense
Ahmad Bradshaw is back at QB for his senior season after passing for 703 yards and rushing for 826 yards and eight scores. He averaged 4.46 yards per carry in the triple option attack. He is hardly what I would call an accomplished passer, but in this offense, that is all back burner stuff.

FB Andy Davidson returns after leading the Black Knights with 961 yards and 12 scores. He is the power back that makes everything run in this offense. Jordan Asberry also returns after rushing for 421 yards, and averaged 7.31 yards per carry last season at Slotback. Darnell Woolfolk also returns after rushing for 600 yards, and Kell Walker returns after averaging 6.52 yards per carry. Army will have the deepest stable of backs of anyone in the nation, with many of the backs returning having massive game breaking ability.

Christian Poe returns at WR for when Army does go on the pass, and averaged 13.3 yards per reception last season. Jeff Ejekem averaged 12.22 yards per catch, and also returns.

Four starters return on the line, which is a solid foundation for any running game. Rick Kurz is back at LT, Bryce Holland is at Center, Mike Houghton starts at RG, while Brett Toth is back at RT. Senior Josh Boylan is expected to start at LG.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Blake Wilson is back at PK, but he had a rough go in 2016, as he hit just 4/8 FG attempts all season. He also missed three PAT attempts.

Depth at receiver will not be god this fall, as there is literally limited to zero experience or production among the reserves. The top two reserves had two receptions combined last fall.

What To Be Excited About: Defense
On shocking thing about Army last fall was how good their defense was. They allowed just 19.8 points per game on the season, which was a full eight point per game improvement over 2015.

Alex Aukerman is the star of the defense, and returns at LB after leading the team with 15 TFLs in 2016. He added 7.5 sacks, 59 tackles, and a pair of QB hurries. Kenneth Brinson also returns to the fold, and finished with 45 tackles last fall, with a solid 7.5 TFLs to go with his stat line. The Black Knights do have to find two new starters, but they were deep last season. Scott Washle will likely start at MIKE, and James Nachtigal, a junior, will likely start at WILL.

Three starters return in the secondary in CBs Elijah Riley and Marcus Hyatt, and Safety Rhyan England. Riley and Hyatt combined for seven PBUs last season, while England finished with 53 tackles. This unit allowed just 170 yards passing per game last fall. James Gibson will likely be the starter at the open Safety spot as a junior.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
There will be some work to do in fall camp on the line, where only NT Andrew McLean returns as a starter from last season. He finished with just one TFL last fall. John Volt returns at DE, but finihsed with just 6.5 TFLs. Ray Wright, a junior, is expected to claim the open DT spot.

The Punter position was anything but good last season. JD Mote returns, but averaged just 36.27 yards per try, which was onle of the worst numbers in the nation.

2017 Schedule
9/1 Fordham, 9/9 Buffalo, 9/16 at Ohio State, 9/23 at Tulane, 9/30 UTEP, 10/7 at Rice, 10/14 Eastern Michigan, 10/21 Temple, 11/4 at Air Force, 11/11 Duke, 11/18 at North Texas, 12/9 Navy at Philadelphia

Final Overview
Monken turned a major corner in year three with Army, which is exactly on time according to my curve for any new coach in just about any program. The good news is that it looks sustainable at this point, with more than enough talent on hand to make another run at the eight win mark this season. There a re a few tough dates (Ohio State in unwinnable), but this team has a real chance to be one of the great teams in Army football history. A return to a bowl game is more than possible, and it should be a better landing spot than the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Look for another big season for Army football.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Brigham Young Cougars

BYU Cougars
Kalani Sitake is heading into year two of his term as BYU head coach, and despite some things going up and down at the QB position, the Coougars could be called a success last season after winning nine games. Sitake did not walk into a typical empty cupboard as a new head coach sometimes does, and there is some serious talent coming back this season, although there are losses as well. Still, it will be interesting to see how the Cougars come back in year two under Sitake, and try to emulate and surpass the success of last season.

What To Be Excited About: Offense
Tanner Mangum finally gets to gt out from the shadow of Taysom Hill, and quite frankly, that should have happened last season when it was painfully obvious that Hill was a shadow of his former self. Mangum was the hero of two seasons ago at QB, and now, this is fully his show. Mangum completed 22/33 passes last fall, and showed that he really is the guy to run this offense. In 2015, he passed for 3377 yards and 23 TDs, so we all know what he can do.

Jamaal Williams is gone as the all-time leading rusher for BYU, and Squally Canada is slated to start, but look out for RS freshman Ula Tolutau, who originally signed with Wisconsin before going on his two year Morman mission. He is a big, bruising back that could carry the load for this run game.

Four starters return on the line for the Cougars in LT Thomas Shoaf, LG Keyan Norman, CTejan Koroma, and RG Tuni Kanuch. Junior Austin Hoyt is projected to start at RT as we head into fall camp, with RS freshman Kieffer Longson listed as his backup.

Rhett Almond was solid at PK last season, as he hit 17/21 FG attempts on the season, for an 81% success rate. Look for more production from him this fall.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
There is some concern in the receiver corps after BYU lost their top three receivers from 2016. Jonah Trinnaman, who caught 28 passes last season, is now the group leader. Talon Shumway projects as the number two, but caught just three passes in seven games last fall. Aleva Hifo also figures into the mix after an 11 catch season. Akile Davis and Micah Simon, both sophomores, could figure in as well. TE Moroni Laulu-Pututau looms large at TE, as much is expected of him, but he has to fend off Tanner Balderee for the job.

Johnny Linehan returns at Punter after averaging 42.46 yards per punt last season.

What To Be Excited About: Defense
The LB spot should be rock solid this fall with the return of Fred Warner, Butch Pau'u, and Francis Bernard. Warner led the team with 86 tackles, while Pau'u was right behind him with 83. Bernard was third on the team with 79 total tackles. The group also combined for 23 total TFLs last fall, with Warner providing 10.5 of them.

The secondary looks to be in good shape with the return of three starters from the bowl game win over Wyoming. Troy Warner and Dayan Ghanwoloku both return at CB, while MicahHannemann will be back at Safety. Warner finished with seven PBUs, while Hannemann finished with five. Ghanwoloku finished with three INTs as well. Senior Matt Hadley is projected to win the open Safety job, but Zayne Anderson and Tanner Jacobson are both in the mix as well.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The line is a serious question mark entering fall camp, as the Cougars are looking at all new starters up front this fall. Corbin Kaufusi and Trajan Pili project as the starters at DE, while Handsome Tanielu also could figure in, possibly as a starter or as a rotation end. The Cougars are looking at Kesni Tausinga at DT, while Tevita Mo'unga could start at NG. Depth may be thin.

2017 Schedule
8/26 Portland State, 9/2 LSU at Houston, 9/9 Utah, 9/16 Wisconsin, 9/29 at Utah State, 10/6 Boise State, 10/14 at Mississippi State, 10/21 at East Carolina, 10/28 San Jose State, 11/4 at Fresno State, 11/10 at UNLV, 11/18 U Mass, 11/25 at Hawaii

Final Overview
The Cougars certainly are a talented bunch as we enter the 2017 season. The front end of the schedule is loaded, but most of those early games are completely winnable for BYU, and when you look at the watered down back end of the schedule, there is no reason to expect that with this 13 game schedule, the Cougars would not be able to make a run at nine or ten wins this fall. Sitake has another talent rich environment to work in, and this could be a very nice ride for the Cougars. Look for big things.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Nobody accepts 4-8 seasons at Notre Dame, and because that is where this team ended up last fall, Brian Kelly is squarely in the firing line if the ship does not turn completely around in 2017. The Irish are turning up the tempo on offense under OC Chip Long, and Mike Eiko's defense will be under heavy scrutiny. Do the Irish have enough gas in the tank under this staff to make the complete turnaround and return to the lofty heights that are expected every season?

What To Be Excited About: Offense
Josh Adams returns to the tea as he led them in rushing last season as a sophomore. If Notre Dame wants to win and win now, a switch to a more balanced approach with Brown getting 18-20 carries per game would probably be more the way to do it. He rushed for 933 yards and five scores while averaging 5.91 yards per carry last fall.

The receiving group should be one of the best that Kelly has had at Notre Dame. Equanimeous St. Brown is the leader of the group, as he caught 58 passes last fall, or 20 more than anyone else. He went for 957 yards and nine scores, while averaging 16.57 yards per grab. He has the size and strength to match up well on the outside. Myles Boykin and Chase Underpool are projected as starters as well, but CJ Sanders and Kevin Stepherson will challenge for time as well. Look for Alize Mack to have a breakout season at TE after returning from an eligibility issue last fall with academics.

The line is loaded with talent, as four starters return in LT Mike McGlinchey, LG Quentin Nelson, C Sam Mustipher, and RG Alex Bars. McGlinchey and Nelson are All-America candidates.

Justin Yoon returns at PK, and hit 13/17 FG attempts last season.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
All reports are good on Brandon Wimbush at QB, but the junior is all hype right now. He had a solid spring, but all eyes will be on the undersized QB with the golden arm as we head into the opener. If he can deliver on his promise, the season should go well, if not, the Irish are in trouble. We've seen this hype before, and sometimes it does not pay off. Here's hoping that it does.

What To Be Excited About: Defense
Jerry Tillery returns to lead a talented front line. The DT finished with a solid 37 tackles last fall, but will be joined by three new starters. Daelin Hayes and Jay Hayes will start at DE, while Jonathon Bonner lines up next to Tillery at DT. There is depth behind them as well, for a change, so the Irish could load as many as eight linemen into the rotation this fall.

LB is solid as well, as Drue Tranquill and Nyles Morgan both return. Greer Martini was a solid rotational backer who finished last season with 7.5 TFLs, and will return as well. Morgan led the team with 90 tackles last fall, while Tranquill was good for 79. Martini finished with 55 tackles. Depth looks to be decent.

The CB position is stocked well coming into fall camp. Julian Love will return to start, but will need to show major improvements if he is to help out with the rest of the secondary, which is in fluid motion as far as potential starters are concerned.

Tyler Newsome is back at Punter, and has one of the better legs in college football. He averaged 43.36 yards per punt last season, and punted just shy of five times per game.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
While there are plenty of bodies to rotate on the line, experience is limited, and potential is what is high. Notre Dame gets athletes, but they have to come together as a unit now to prevent themselves from allowing over 182 yards rushing per game again.

The secondary is a mess outside of Love. The CB position is loaded with talented young players, but they are, as I said, young. The Safety spots are up for grabs, and nobody quite knows right now who will line up opposite Love at CB. This is a situation that bears watching when the Irish head into camp in a couple weeks.

2017 Schedule
9/2 Temple, 9/9 Georgia, 9/16 at Boston College, 9/23 at Michigan State, 9/30 Miami (Ohio), 10/7 at North Carolina, 10/21 USC, 10/28 NC State, 11/4 Wake Forest, 11/11 at Miami, 11/18 Navy, 11/25 at Stanford

Final Overview
There are pieces in place to ensure that Notre Dame does not repeat a season in which they win just four games and do not go bowling. That is basically the apocalypse as it pertains to football in South Bend. It was as ugly as it could be last season, and a repeat would surely mean that Kelly does not last the season as coach. He flirted with some other jobs last off-season, and that did not go over well with the administration or fan base. All eyes are on him this fall, and if the changes and tinkering do not work, this is going to get bad.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Troy Trojans

Troy Trojans
Neal Brown took Troy from a four win team in his first season, to a 10 win team in year two. He is ahead of the progression curve as it sits now for the Trojans, and it could get even better in year three. Brown returns his best weapons on offense, and the defense has talent at all three levels. Could this be the year that the Trojans make a move and win the Sun Belt title overall?

What To Be Excited About: Offense
Brandon Silvers returns at QB, and could be one of the better trigger men in the nation this fall. He passed for 3180 yards and 23 TDs against 12 INTs. He also managed to complete 63.7% of his passes, and may be poised to have his best season yet. He also added four more scores on the ground, but expect him to stay within the pocket this season and let it fly.

Jordan Chunn is also back at RB after rushing for 16 TDs last season for the Trojans. He rushed for 1288 yards, but is also capable of eclipsing that total in 2017. Teams really keyed in on him last fall, but with an active passing game that could be improved over last season, they may not be able to key on him nearly as much this season. Look for Memphis transfer Jamarius Henderson to give Chunn a credible partner in the run game that he did not have a year ago.

All three starting receivers and the starting TE will return this season for Troy. Emanuel Thompson, Tevaris McCormick, and DeAndre Douglas all return at WR, while Gabe Hill is back at TE. Thompson caught 80 passes last season, while Douglas caught 60. McCormick caught 35 passes, while fourth receiver John Johnson, who is also back, added another 24 receptions. The overall depth chart goes 11 deep at receiver this fall, making this one of the deepest receiving groups anywhere in FBS football.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Only one starter returns on the line in LG Steven Rowzee. Antonio Garcia, arguably the best lineman in Troy history, is off to the NFL, and that unit of last season allowed the fewest sacks in FBS football. That is a ton of talent to replace, but there is talent to be found. THe issue is getting it all to gel before the season starts at Boise State on 9/2.

The PK position will be looking for a new starter a swell for the Trojans, as Ryan Kay has departed after an 18 FG effort in 2016. RS junior Bratcher Underwood is the leading candidate there.

What To Be Excited About: Defense
Despite some major departures, the Trojans should be very good up the middle on the line, as both NG Travon Sanders and DT Jamal Stadom will return. Stadom finished with 9.5 TFLs and will try to be the guy to replace the production of the departed Sun Belt Defensive POY in Rashad Dillard.

The secondary should be solid, especially against the deep ball, as both Safeties return in Kris Weatherspoon and Cedarius Rookard. NB Tyquan Russell also returns. Weatherspoon and Rookard combined for 12 PBUs at Safety last fall, while combining for 104 tackles. Russell finished with 36 tackles while primarily covering the Slot. CB Kamryn Melton also returns for his senior season after finishing last fall with eight PBUs. Blace Brown returns at CB as well after leading the team with six INTs. Rookard and Melton combined for another five INTs last fall.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
There could be some issues at LB for the Trojans in 2017. They are completely hitting reset there with Sam Lebbie looking like the lock at the BAN position. AJ Smiley could move to the SPEAR position and battle Tyquan Russell there, with Zo Bridges moving to the MLB spot. This will all have to be ironed out in fall camp.

The Punter will be new as well, as Ryan Kay departs. RS freshman Tyler Sumpter has the inside track there.

2017 Schedule
9/2 at Boise State, 9/9 Alabama State, 9/16 at New Mexico State, 9/23 Akron, 9/30 at LSU, 01/11 South Alabama, 10/21 at Georgia State, 10/28 Georgia Southern, 11/2 Idaho, 11/11 at Coastal Carolina, 11/24 Texas State, 12/2 at Arkansas State

Final Overview
Despite some questions on defense, especially at DE and LB, the Trojans will likely have enough talent to really push hard and deliver that Sun Belt title under Neal Brown this season. The Boise State trip in the opener will be very tough, and they also get LSU later in the season, but the rest of the schedule is manageable, so I would not be shocked to see the Trojans make another major run at double digit victories, or close to that. Another bowl is a lock right now, and then the issue will be retaining Brown, because if this season goes like I think it will, there will be some schools that will be trying to pluck him away. It should be a fun ride this season.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Texas State Bobcats

Texas State Bobcats
Everett Withers came from a strong run at James Madison to take over a program that Dennis Franchione never got off the ground, and he had a tough go of it in year one, as the Bobcats finished with just two wins. Withers, the former Ohio State assistant, has the pedigree to win, but this roster is in just year two of a complete rebuild, and it's very tough to see how long it will take to get competitive. After getting blown out on a regular basis last fall, this team has to find some confidence, and just learn how to best compete with talent that just is not entirely up to par across the board. That process is in place, but nothing gets built in one year.

What To Be Excited About: Offense
The passing game should receive a boost this season, as all three starting receivers return in Tyler Watts, Elijah King, and TE Gabe Schrade. King is the best of the bunch, as he averaged 16.43 yards per catch last fall. Thurman Morbley returns as well to give the Bobcats a solid receiving corps. Now they just need someone to get them the football on a consistent basis.

Three starters return on the line, including both Tackles in Tristan Mizerak and Jacob Rowland, and Aaron Brewer at Center.

Marcus Ripley did not get a ton of work in, but he took advantage of what opportunity he had by hitting 5/6 FG attempts. He will return to handle the PK job as a sophomore.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The run game was absolutely abysmal last season, as the Bobcats averaged just 82.42 yards rushing per game as a team. Stedman Mayberry, the starter last season, is rapidly falling down the depth chart, as RS freshman Robert Brown and sophomore Anthony Taylor are currently running ahead of him on the two deep.

The Bobcats are handing over the QB position to Mississippi State transfer Damian Williams, who comes in with a ton of promise. The staff seems excited about him, but he has to transfer that potential into real game ability, and he had all of two career starts at Mississippi State before the transfer. There's reason for excitement, but until we see what he can do in a game for the Bobcats, there is reason for concern as well.

The line, while blessed with three returning starters, will be very young overall, as four underclassmen could be handling starting duties on opening day against Memphis. That combination normally does not work out very well.

What To be Excited About: Defense
The LB spot could be a strength in 2017, as three starters return in the 3-4 set. Bryan London, one of the best players in the Sun Belt, is back after a 141 tackle effort that also saw him lead the team in TFLs with 8.5. Gabe Loyd, who finished with 102 tackles, also returns this fall. Frankie Griffin finished with 46 tackles as a sophomore, and returns to start as well.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
Ishmael Davis is the lone returning starter that seems a lock to retain his job on the line this season after finishing with 6.5 TFLs from his DE spot in 2017. Jordan Mittie, who was the starter at NT to end last season, is being pushed at NT by Sami Awad and Gjemar Daniels, and Mittie could end up moving to DE where would battle Dean Taylor for a starting spot.

The secondary is in complete rebuild mode, as all four starters will be new this fall. Anthony J Taylor and Jashon Woddy are expected to lock down the CB jobs, while AJ Krawczyk and Quinn Tiggs are projected to start at the Safety spots. There is limited, at best, experience with this group, and depth will be non-existent.

James Sherman is expected to grab the starting Punter job this fall, but punted just three times last season, to unimpressive results.

2017 Schedule
9/2 Houston Baptist, 9/9 at Colorado, 9/16 Appalachian State, 9/23 UTSA, 9/30 at Wyoming, 10/7 UL-Monroe, 10/12 at UL-Lafayette, 10/28 at Coastal Carolina, 11/4 New Mexico State, 11/11 Georgia State, 11/18 at Arkansas State, 11/24 at Troy

Final Overview
Patience is the key here for the Bobcat faithful, who have a very active fan base. There is enough talent in the recruiting base to eventually build this program up, but it will take some serious time, and anything less than five years to get it done is just asking too much at this point. Withers certainly has his hands full, and the schedule maker did this team no favors by starting this season off with Colorado, Appalachian State early, and a trip to Wyoming to end the month of September. The "rivalry" game with UTSA returns, and that should be a lot of fun for the fans. All in all, I expect another rough year in San Marcos, but we will be looking for signs of development and growth.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: South Alabama Jaguars

South Alabama Jaguars
It was a strange ride for the Jags in 2016, as they opened the season with a win over Mississippi State, but followed it with losses to Georgia Southern at home, and to ULL on the road. They beat San Diego State, but lost to ULM. USA did just enough to skate into the Arizona Bowl, but were no match for Air Force, and after the long strange trip that the season was, the Jags finished just 6-7. Will they be able to show enough consistency to overcome the ups and downs and challenge for a spot in the top half of the Sun Belt?

What To Be Excited About: Offense
With several losses on offense, the best returning player will be RB Xavier Johnson. He is a very good back in a not so great overall rushing attack that was less than able last season. Johnson led the team with 831 yards rushing and 10 scores, while averaging 5.51 yards per carry. If South Alabama wants to get into a consistent groove in 2017, they hand him the rock as much as he can handle it. JC transfer Tywun Walters is expected to give the Jags an inside punch as well in combo with Johnson.

Three starters return on the line in LT Noah Fisher, C Harrison Louden, and RG Dominic Esposito. Head coach Joey Jones went on and on during the off season about how much more physical this team should be coming out of spring ball, and if that is the case, running the ball with Johnson would be that much more certain.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Dallas Davis was not healthy at the end of last season, and it hurt the team's ability to get into a flow. He also did not produce enough when he was healthy. He returns after tossing just 11 TDs to 12 INTs last season, while completing just 56.7% of his passes. As he heads into his third season as the starter, it's time to produce.

The receiving corps is questionable heading into the season, as the Jags are trying to replace three starters. Quinton Lane and Sa'Morry Collier, both seniors, will try to fill the gap, and should be joined by sophomore Jordan McCray. The top four receivers from last season, including JOsh Magee and super TE Gerald Everett, are all gone.

The kicking game was inconsistent, as were most other spots on the field for the Jags last season. Gavin Patterson hit just 10/16 FG attempts on the season, and will be back to try to improve on those numbers.

What To Be Excited About: Defense
Despite missing three of five starters in the secondary as we head to fall camp, the secondary is still expected to be the strength of the defense after the Jags allowed just 174.6 yards passing per game last fall. Neiko Robinson and Jeremy Reeves both return at Safety, while junior CB Jalen Thompson has some serious potential. Reeves finished with seven PBUs last fall, and picked off three passes, while Thompson led the team with four INTs. Robinson finished with 64 tackles.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The line played sloppy last season, and only DT Tyree Turner returns as a starter. The front seven was primarily responsible for allowing 215 yards rushing per game last season. If that is to improve, the new starters will have to step up and shore up the issues that plagued this unit last fall.

Darrell Songy is the lone returning starter at LB, and he led the team with 100 tackles last season. He added 7.5 TFLs. He will have to bring sophomore to bring a new starter along quickly, but the group fighting for the open job is big, and mostly young.

The Punting game will suffer the loss of Brandon McKee, who averaged over 44 yards per punt last season. Corliss Waitman will take over the job, but in 17 punts last season, he was mostly unimpressive.

2017 Schedule
9/2 at Ole Miss, 9/8 Oklahoma State, 9/16 Alabama A&M, 9/23 Idaho, 9/30 at Louisiana Tech, 10/11 at Troy, 10/21 UL-Monroe, 10/26 at Georgia State, 11/4 UL-Lafayette, 11/11 Arkansas State, 11/18 at Georgia Southern, 12/2 at new Mexico State

Final Overview
South Alabama seems like a program constantly in flux. Just when they have certain pieces together, the rest of the puzzle is incomplete. It has been that way for some time now, and Joey Jones has got to do something to bring some kind of roster and production consistencies to light here. They are not a bad program, but not a solid one either. If the Jags cannot get over the hump this season in conference play, it may be time to think about new blood to run things. The early schedule is brutal, with games against Oklahoma State and Ole Miss, and with an emerging team in Idaho to open conference play coming two weeks after that. Ole Miss provides an opportunity, as the program is in shell shock over the strange situation with the staff. Overall, this could be merely an average year for USA until they show that they can consistently compete from week to week.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: New Mexico State Aggies

New Mexico State Aggies
Doug Martin marches into his fifth season as head coach at NMSU with just a 10-38 record, and the Aggies have not won as many as four games since 2011. It would serve to say that with a relatively new AD, everything rides on this season for Martin, as the Aggies have been removed from the Sun Belt conference after the 2017 season. The Aggies will play as an independent next season, even though there were options on the FCS level, much as Idaho found. This program cannot sustain long term as an independent, and if they are to find a home, finding a way to win now would prove prudent. The problem is, I am not sure that this team can win now at all.

What To Be Excited About: Offense
Tyler Rogers is not a perfect QB, but he is a good QB for this football team. He passed for 2603 yards and 16 scores, but the drawbacks are a 55.4% completion rate and 12 INTs. Still, he is the best hope the program has of getting it done in 2017.

Larry Rose III is a rock solid back, and may be one of the best in the nation that not many people know about. His major issue this season is that he must stay healthy, as he missed three games last season. He still managed to rush for 865 yards per game, average 96.11 yards per game, and 5.44 yards per carry last season. He rushed for 1651 yards in 2015, when he was last completely healthy.

Parker Davidson was very good at times at PK last season as a sophomore, hitting 15/19 FG attempts. He returns for his junior season to give the Aggies a much needed scoring option.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
There are a lot of different projections about the starting receivers based on both two and three receiver sets. The problem is that there were really no stand out options in the receiving corps last season, and so there should be battles across the board for starting jobs. There could be as many as five different receivers battling for two or three spots betweenGregory Hogan, Johnathon Boone, Isaiah Lottie, Jaleel Scott, and Josh Aganon.

The line could also be an issue, as just two starters return in LT Sage Doxtater and RG Desmond Candielarie. As many as three seniors could find starting jobs, but depth could be a major issue.

What To Be Excited About: Defense
Three starters are back on the line in DE Jassavia Reese, DT Kourtland Busby, and DT Roy Lopez. Stody Bradley is also back at DE. Busby will be challenged by sophomore Darius Anderson, but this kind of challenge may only provide more depth as the season wears on.

The secondary added a ton of depth with some JC infusions, but four starters also return, and this weakness of last season could now be a strength. Shamad Lomax and DeMarcus Owens have an edge to start at CB, but Jared Phipps could have something to say about one of those spots. Jacob Nwangwa and Jaden Wright are likely to start at the Safety spots.

Payton Thiesler had a solid effort last season at Punter, as he averaged 41.58 yards per punt.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The LB unit may have some issues this fall, as only one returning starter is back in junior Terrill Hanks. Hanks is a good one, as he led the team with 12.5 TFLs, and finished with 103 tackles. He will be surrounded by new starters. Leon McQuaker and Javahn Ferguson are projected to be the new starters, but Shane Jackson and Dalton Harrington could make a move in fall camp on McQuaker's spot.

2017 Schedule
8/31 at Arizona State, 9/9 at New Mexico, 9/16 Troy, 9/23 UTEP, 9/30 at Arkansas, 10/7 at Appalachian State, 10/14 at Georgia Southern, 10/28 Arkansas State, 11/4 at Texas State, 11/18 at UL-Lafayette, 11/25 Idaho, 12/2 South Alabama

Final Overview
There are a ton of issues for Martin to deal with in fall camp, but this could be one of his better teams that he has had, but that could all be relative when the season is done. I don't see many games on this schedule where the Aggies could be favored, and that is a huge problem. Martin has just ten wins in four years, and if that trend continues this season, he could be gone.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks
Matt Viator is in year two of a complete strip down and rebuild of this program, and in my opinion, finishing 4-8 in year one was a pretty good showing for this football team. At this point, it's all about building talent and moving in the right direction, and year two will be ab out staying competitive in close games, and trying to push for a bowl game. While the schedule early may seem a road block to that goal, what can we really expect of this team come conference time in 2017?

What To Be Excited About: Offense
Marcus Green caught 36 passes to lead the team last season, and three of the top four receivers all return, which should stabilize the passing game to a degree, depending on who wins the QB battle in camp. Xavier Brown got in some starts last season, and returns, and the third spot projects to D'Marius Gillespie. RJ turner also returns and could push Gillespie out of some playing time. Turner and Brown are major deep ball threats.

What To be Concerned About: Offense
There could be questions at the QB position as we head into fall camp. Garrett Smith, who started a chunk of games, but was never spectacular last season, missed spring football with an apparent knee injury suffered in season. Caleb Evans got the starting reps during spring, and showed more command of the offense, and could wind up the starter by opening day. This figures to be a battle in camp that could push right into the opener.

RB is another spot that is unsettled heading into camp. Ben Luckett was the starter last season, but again, an injury in spring ball derailed him, and he also did not show a ton of flash during the season last year. He could be pushed out by Alabama transfer Derrick Gore. RS sophomore Austin Vaughn is expected to push for playing time as well.

Three sophomores could end up starting on the line this fall, and could take up from Center to Right Tackle. Devin Jackson and Eastwood Thomas did both get starts as freshmen, but this unit has to start to come together when it comes to run blocking for this team to succeed.

Craig Ford did not get a ton of opportunities, but he came up short of the 70% success mark when he hit just 9/13 FG attempts.

What To Be Excited About: Defense
The entire starting line returns on defense for the Warhawks in 2017. Caleb Tucker and Shaquille Warren take up the DE spots, while Tyler Johnson and Jaylon Veasey both return inside.

Both LBs return as well in Chase Day and Devin Griffith. These two combined for 22 TFLs last season, and are one of the most active duos in FBS football among LBs. Cortez Sisco, Jr. comes off the bench, and could probably start elsewhere.

Three starters return in the secondary in CB Juwan Offrey, DB Marcus Hubbard, and S Wesley Thompson. The hope is with 60% of the starting lineup coming back in the secondary, that this unit can show major signs of development and improvement over the group that allowed 22 TD passes a year ago. JJ Dallas and Collin Turner both figure in at CB and Safety. Look for Jarrell Brown to also figure in at CB during camp, as will Logan Latin at BUCK (DB) and Nick Ingram at FS. IN any event, this could be one of the deeper units that ULM has had in a long time.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The Warhawks have to reboot at Punter, as Dayton Balvanz has departed. Junior Harrison Helm may get first crack at replacing him after transferring from SE Louisiana.

2017 Schedule
8/31 at Memphis, 9/9 at Florida State, 9/16 Southern Mississippi, 9/23 at UL-Lafayette, 9/30 Coastal Carolina, 10/7 at Texas State, 10/14 Georgia State, 10/21 at South Alabama, 10/28 at Idaho, 11/4 Appalachian State, 11/18 at Auburn, 11/25 Arkansas State

Final Overview
Matt Viator was a perfect choice to coach ULM, despite the fact that he went just 4-8 in year one. What we are looking for with this program is development and improvement, and a move into the right realm looking forward. The tools are in place, and the program brought in just enough JC help to mix solidly with young talent on hand. The record could actually take a step back this season, as the schedule is pure hell, but I would like to see how this team fights in those tough games, and from that, we will know where the Warhawks are headed.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Idaho Vandals

Idaho Vandals
The final season of FBS football is set to commence for the Vandals, and the shame of it is that this is happening right when the Vandals are becoming interesting in the Sun Belt. Idaho finished with nine wins last season, by far one of their most successful seasons as an FBS (1-A) program.Paul Petrino has the Vandals ready to charge once again, and this team will try to challenge for a conference title on their way out the door. Can they upstage everyone as they leave the group?

What To Be Excited About: Offense
Matt Linehan returns as a senior, and will close out his career at Idaho as a four year starter. He has evolved into a solid passer, as he passed for 3184 yards and 19 TDs last season. He averaged 244.9 yards passing per game, and added another four scores on the ground.

The receiving unit does suffer the loss of their two leading receivers, who were both TEs, but the group is decent enough to carry the day this fall. Reuben Mwelha caught 16 passes last season, and steps into a starting role, but Alfonso Ununwor and Jacob Shannon both return as well, and they combined for 67 receptions last season.

The Vandals have a solid combo pack coming back at RB this fall in Aaron Duckworth and Isaiah Saunders. The two combined to rush for 1403 yards last season, and scored 14 times.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Four starters on the line will be sophomores or freshmen, and the entire second unit will be composed of the same. Experience and depth will basically be non-existent. One name to watch, however, is Jordan Ross, a senior, who still is hanging in among the youngsters.

Austin Rehkow is gone at PK, and that is a huge hole to replace, as he has been probably the best PK/P combo kicker in the nation over the last four seasons.

What To Be Excited About: Defense
The return of Aikeem Coleman at DE is a huge gain for the Vandals in 2017, as he led the team with 11 TFLs last fall.

A very talented group of LBs returns for the Vandals this fall in Kaden Elliss, Tony Lashley, and and Ed Hall. Lashley led the tea in tackles with 105 last fall, while Hall and Elliss combined for 136 tackles. This unit also combined for 20 TFLs last season, and may be one of the top LB units in the west this season, as far as overall production goes.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
Other than Coleman coming back at DE, the line is void of any real play makers in DT Zach Cable and NT Arie Anderson. Again, depth is severely limited.

The secondary is in rebuild mode this season, as FS Armond Hawkins, a senior, is the lone returning starter, and he finished with just three PBUs last season. Dorian Clark and Lloyd Hightower project as the starters at CB, while Jordan Grabaki is projecting to win the SS spot.

Rehkow also affects the Punting game, as he was one of the best in the nation the last three years running. He actually posted his worst year by far last fall, averaging 41.64 yards per punt.

2017 Schedule
8/31 Sacramento State, 9/9 UNLV, 9/16 at Western Michigan. 9/23 at South Alabama, 10/7 UL-Lafayette, 10/14 Appalachian State, 10/21 at Missouri, 10/28 UL-Monroe, 11/2 at Troy, 11/18 Coastal Carolina, 11/25 at New Mexico State, 12/2 at Georgia State

Final Overview
Idaho was one of the most shocking teams in the nation last season, as after a 2-3 start, they finished the season by winning seven of their final eight games, including a huge bowl win over Colorado State in Boise. This will be their final go in FBS football, as they slide back to the FCS and Big Sky Conference next fall, but this program will be entering their old home moving in a rock solid direction, and could even be in a position to compete for a Big Sky title right away in 2018. This season, the Vadals may have just enough on offense, and to some degree on defense, to make a Sun Belt run before they check out after the season. I see another bowl on the horizon.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Hugh Freeze Resigns at Ole Miss Amid Escort Scandal

The last straw was finally located in Oxford, and after piles of allegations over the course of the last few years, Ole Miss was finally forced to provide an ultimatum to head football coach Hugh Freeze, quit or be fired. The reasoning was not the 21 plus allegations, including lack of institutional control charge. The final shot to the proverbial skull was the fact that phone records could be traced from a university provided cell phone belonging to Freeze to a Tampa, Florida based escort service, a number that was mentioned in a lawsuit brought upon the university and Freeze by former head coach Houston Nutt.

Nutt is suing Freeze and Ole Miss for slander among other things, as Freeze, solid scumbag this he is, tried to throw Nutt and his staff under the bus for some, or many of the allegations brought against the school from the NCAA. Nutt has to feel very vindicated this evening, as it was his lawyer that found the phone number connection in a records gathering effort for the lawsuit. It was the lawyer for Nutt who told Ole Miss that their team had damaging information that could potentially be very embarrassing to the university should it get out. Ole Miss played chicken, and they lost.

Let me paint a picture for you. Houston Nutt has a wife, Jill, of 25 years. He has three daughters. He has tried to throw a former coaching staff under the bus for massive improprieties, and now, as a father of those three daughters, Freeze is tied to a prostitution service. Whether or not those services were rendered to him personally, or were a tool to be used to lure recruits, has not yet been sorted out, but what father of a daughter, much less three, can possibly engage in this type of behavior, and better yet, go to SEC media days and tout how he and his staff are "trying to do that right thing", and then go on a 16 minute filibuster-like rant during his time on the podium at said media days to avoid having to talk about this case? How could he then complain how for yet another year, he had to attend an SEC media event, and not talk about his players because of this scandal or that? He brought it all on himself, his program, and the school, and the school was too morally bankrupt to eliminate this liability until he involved them in something more amoral than just breaking a few rules. Let that all sink in for a moment, because the corruption of it all is stunning, to say the least.

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter stated that after a conversation with Freeze and AD Ross Bjork, that Freeze stated that there has been a "pattern of personal conduct inconsistent with the standard of expectations for the leader of our football team." That sounds like a man caught, but does it not also sound like a man falling on his sword for the "greater good"? This has been ongoing for some time, and someone is going to try to tell us that these people had no idea? They are trying to ignore all of the facts and say that this was a character flaw issue in his personal life, because that was part of the statement tonight, but it goes so much deeper than that. It's so convenient to me that they would have stood by him just two weeks ago amid all of the other chargers, but suddenly this was too much? It just does not make any sense on its own merit.

The simple fact at this point is this. The university now had a smoking gun being used against them. They could deny everything else. They could throw anyone under the bus they so chose to, because there is no risk in that. This was a different thing altogether. It had the fingerprints of Freeze all over it, and this was something that could not be swept away. Ole Miss may have been in trouble before, but this is a whole new level of hell unleashed, and if the NCAA allows them to skate on this because they say that they solved the issue by firing Freeze, the NCAA itself should be disbanded. The NCAA does not need to double down now. They need to go all in and quadruple down on this thing.

What befuddles me the most is that this happens at all. With Baylor and their sexual assault issues, with stories from years past where student "tutors" ended up as being play things tossed to the wolves at Tennessee and Missouri, at Louisville where an assistant takes the fall for the head basketball coach by arranging sex parties between players and prostitutes in the basketball dorm, these things always get out. Always. Many programs have been brought to their knees by these gaps in character and moral judgement. So the question begs, why do coaches still think that this is a behavior that could ever be acceptable  in any way, and why do schools continue to retain said coaches? Why was it not enough for Ole Miss to fire Freeze in the midst of a 21 violation report, but a sex scandal was the final straw?

Freeze is an amoral piece of garbage. I say that with all sincerity. He is a pathetic excuse for a coach, a man, a leader of men, a father, and a husband. He should be banned from coaching for life. He blatantly has tried to cover up his own misdeeds by blaming it on another coach. The university joined him in doing so, but now they are to be looked at under a much larger microscope, as both Vitter and Bjork are now engaging in an act of throwing Freeze down as the fall guy for everything that is wrong with the program, in order to make themselves look compliant. It's the oldest trick in the book, and the NCAA should not allow them to get away with it, nor should the state of Mississippi.

AD Ross Bjork called this a "sad" and "unexpected" day for Ole Miss, but how is that remotely possible? How unexpected could the downfall of Freeze have been, no matter how the fall came about? Bjork himself should have been the instrument of the demise of Freeze, and he is completely complicit in that he allowed it to get to this, and Vitter is complicit in that he allowed Bjork to allow it to get to this. There is only one solution now. The entire administration must go in the wake of this. There are no exceptions, and nobody should be safe from this. There needs to be a clean sweep of the Ole Miss administration, and it needs to happen now, so that the reputation of the university can get on the mend, and for the school to become a model of the actual "right way of doing things", and not the Freeze version of the right way of doing things. Simply put, there was a pattern of this activity going all the way back to January of 2016, and that is only what the university will acknowledge. Someone knew what was going on, and nobody did a thing to stop it.

I may be naive in my take here, but at the end of the day, a football coach is more than a football coach. He is a leader of young men. Young men come to their campus at an impressionable time in their lives, many being many miles from home for the first time. A head coach and his staff have to be responsible for these young men, and they have to teach them through the process of being football players how to play not just the game of football and succeed, but how to be professional and decent human beings once the game is over. I do not think that this is too much to be asked, and when coaches are being paid unspeakable amounts of money to run these programs, it should be damned well expected.

The University of Mississippi has failed here. That is the long and short of it. They allowed a coach to walk around and spout his beliefs and his Godliness when they full well knew that it was all an act. His tacit denials of any portion of wrongdoing at SEC media day last week is a complete and utter example of how the university enabled Freeze and his behaviors. As long as this team continued to win on any level, the MO was deny, deny, deny, and act completely shocked at the severity of allegations. I guess that approach did not work very well. In the end, in football, W stands for winning, not for whores, whether they be administrators who turn a blind eye for the glory of winning a game, or for those who work for escort services.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Preview: Georgia State Panthers

Georgia State Panthers
Georgia State is starting over this fall, as Trent Miles finally ran out of time with the Panthers as coach. Shawn Elliott, the offensive line coach from South Carolina, is the new man in charge, but has a limited sample size to see what he can do. He did not succeed during his time as interim head coach for the Gamecocks, but that was a tricky situation after a mid-season resignation. He will get every chance to move this team forward, but the roster he inherits is not exactly built to succeed right away. The Panthers will move into Turner Field, but can they make themselves interesting enough to fill the seats?

What To Be Excited About: Offense
The line should have experience in 2017, as four upperclassmen are slated to start. LG Davis Moore, RG Alex Stoehr, and RT Sebastian Willer are all seniors. C Gabe Mobley will start as a junior.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The QB position is up i the air as we head into fall camp. Last year's starter, Conner Manning, returns after passing for 2684 yards, but he ha slipped to second string on the most recent depth chart posted just days ago behind the backup last year, Aaron Winchester. Winchester passed for 271 yards in limited duty last fall. This battle is going to continue through fall camp.

The run game was one of the worst in the nation last season, as the Panthers averaged just over 87 yards per game on the ground. Kyler Neal is the returning starter, but ran for just 314 yards on just 75 carries.

Todd Boyd returns at WR and caught 33 passes last season, but averaged just a shade over 10 yards per catch last season. He will try to replace the departed Robert Davis, who was amazing for the Panthers during his career, but that is a large order. The rest of the projected starting lineup lacks experience and depth.

The LT spot could be up in the air, as sophomore Hunter Atkinson is projected to start. He could be pushed in camp by Chris Sibilia, but he is just a freshman.

Neither PK made a mark last fall, so the Panthers are starting over with freshman Barry Brown

What To Be Excited About: Defense
Mackendy Cheridor has a shot to become a leader on defense as the DE ranked second on the team in TFLs with six. The major issue is that he will not have much  help up front.

Michael Shaw is a potential star at OLB after leading the team last season with 12 TFLs. He finished with 76 tackles overall. Trey Payne returns as a senior, and finished with 65 tackles last fall.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
Other than Cheridor, this is not the most talented defensive line in the Sun Belt.Marterius Allen is slated to start at DE opposite Cheridor, and Julien Laurent starts at NT, but they bring very little to the pass rush game.

Shaw and Payne are all alone at LB. Ed Curney and Niemus Bryant have virtually no experience in game settings, and the entirety of depth at the LB position is nill.

The secondary is a mess as well, as the Panthers projected starters did very little last season. BJ Clay is listed in the second unit as of last week, and is the most experienced returning player with five PBUs last season.

Brandon Wright is back as the Punter, but did little to impress last fall, averaging just 39.84 yards per punt.

2017 Schedule
8/31 Tennessee State, 9/16 at Penn State, 9/23 at Charlotte, 9/30 Memphis, 10/7 at Coastal Carolina, 10/14 at UL-Monroe, 10/21 Troy. 10/26 South Alabama, 11/4 at Georgia Southern, 11/11 at Texas State, 11/25 Appalachian State, 12/2 Idaho

Final Overview
The Panthers very well may end up being the worst team in the Sun Belt this fall. The roster is a bit of a mess, there is almost zero star power on offense, and the defense is only marginally better. Trent Miles was never exactly the right guy for the job, and the talent level has been spotty under his direction, save for Robert Davis at WR, who is now gone. It may take a couple of years to get this machine running, and it may even take longer. Don't expect much of anything this season.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns
The Ragin' Cajuns won three of their final four games last season to secure a bowl bid, where they lost to Southern Miss, 28-21. In case you have not noticed, as of late, the Mark Hudspeth era is not going very well. I would say that he is on the hot seat, but he seems to be the cat with nine lives, although he is running out of them. After a 6-7 finish in 2016, another such season in 2017 may see him really struggle to keep his job.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
There is not much to be excited about offensively for this football team in 2017. We will star at the Tackle spots, where they have two seniors pegged to start in D'Aquin Withrow and Grant Horst. Christian Cederquest may push for time as a junior at LG, while Adrian Goodacre may do the same at RG.

The PK game may be in good hands as well, as Stevie Artigue returns after connecting on 19/24 FG attempts in 2016.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The QB situation was not great last season with LSU transfer Anthony Jennings at the controls, and he is now gone. The projected starter is Jordan Davis, a RS junior who attempted all of three passes last season, and that was in a bad QB group. The only other legitimate answer is sophomore Dion Ray, who attempted one pass last season.

The run game took a big hit in losing Elijah McGuire to graduation. They move on to Darius Hoggins, who carried just 51 times last fall. The good news is that he does possess some explosiveness, as he averaged 5.51 yards per carry. Jordan wright is also back after a 62 yard season, but is more of a plodding kind of back.

The passing game takes an even bigger hit, as experience coming back is not great. Keenan Barnes and Ja'Marcus Bradley are back after combining for 52 receptions last fall, but the experience and talent level drops way off after that, and there is limited to no depth available.

The interior line could be a mess, with three sophomores set to start. There are some upperclassmen behind them, but they provide little in the way of big game experience.

What To Be Excited About: Defense
The front line should provide some punch and pressure this fall with the return of DE Joe Dillon, DT Taboris Lee, and NT Kevon Perry. Dillon led the team with 12.5 TFLs last season, while Lee and Perry combined for 11.5. This group may form the foundation and leadership for the entire defense this fall.

The Safety position should be adequate this fall, but not when it comes to pass coverage. Travis Crawford and Tracy Walker both return, and combined for 132 tackles, but they only combined for five PBUs on the season.

Steven Coutts will be a huge help at Punter after averaging over 44 yards per punt as a sophomore last season.

Jarvis Jeffries, TJ Posey, and Terik Miller all are projected to start, but not one of these players had as many as 20 tackles last fall. Depth will be a huge issue here as well.

The Cajuns were probably one of the worst ball hawking teams in the nation last fall at the CB or NB positions. Damar'ren Mitchell, Troy McCollum, and Levarious Varnado are all starting, but combined for just five total PBUs as a unit, and the team allowed 249.89 yards passing per game.

2017 Schedule
9/2 SE Louisiana, 9/9 at Tulsa, 9/16 at Texas A&M, 9/23 UL-Monroe, 10/7 at Idaho, 10/12 Texas State, 10/19 Arkansas State, 11/4 at South Alabama, 11/11 at Ole Miss, 11/18 New Mexico State, 11/25 Georgia Southern, 12/2 at Appalachian State

Final Overview
There is no way that I can see this football team finishing with a winning record, much less can I see them making a run at a conference title. I have seen this team projected as high as fourth in the Sun Belt standings, but I think even that is an over reach. Hudspeth once was a shining coaching prospect, but the shine is wearing off, and not much is working. I see this as maybe being a four win football team this fall.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Georgia Southern Eagles

Georgia Southern Eagles
A 5-7 record for the Eagles is never an acceptable thing, and such was the case last season. Tyson Summers comes into the season on a both of a hot seat, as the only thing that works in this program is winning. The Eagles always do well when they run the football and play effective defense. The problem they had last season is that they allowed just as many points per game as they scored, and that is a major problem that needs to be rectified. Do they have the tools to do so this fall?

What To Be Excited About: Offense
Myles Campbell led the team with 42 receptions last season, and will return to give the Eagles a dependable weapon in the passing game.

Four starters return on the line. Ryan Northrup (LG), Jeremiah Culbreth (C), Curtis Rainey (RG), and Drew Wilson (RT) all return, which will help the run game, which will need some help this fall.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The QB situation will need to sort out in fall camp, as the Eagles attempt to replace the departed Kevin Ellison. Seth Shuman played a bit last fall, but was not a successful passer, completing just 47.2% of his pass attempts, while tossing just one TD to three INTs. He carried eight times for 39 yards in limited action. Shai Werts is a solid runner, but his passing game is suspect as well.

The Eagles, who will be returning to a power option run game this fall, will need to find some new backs to carry the load. Wesley Fields and LA Ramsby are slated to start. Ramsby ran for eight scores, while Fields averaged 5.23 yards per carry.

Malik Henry is slated to be the second starting receiver, but caught just two passes last season, as did starting TE Ross Alexander.

The PK position is in a reboot, and sophomore Tyler Bass is slated to win the job.

What To Be Excited About: Defense
Not much. There are several holes to fill, and not much coming back to fill them with. FS Joshua Moon is back after picking up 72 tackles last season, but he is not much in pass defense.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
There are issues everywhere. The line has some production issues, as DE Logan Hunt and DT Darrius Sapp return after combining for just five TFLs between them last fall. JB Kouassi is expected to start at the open DE spot, while Chris Washington steps in at NT. Depth is a major issue.

Chris DeLaRosa has potential at LB, but must prove that he can stay healthy after missing the final five games of last season. If he can, then this position gets upgraded immediately. The major problem after his health is that he has two new starters flanking him in Jacorey Belvin and Brandon Holley.

CB Jessie Liptrot is back at CB after an underwhelming freshman season. He was in way over his head a year ago. Sean Freeman is projected to start next to him as a junior. Jay Bowdry returns at SS, but again, did not do much as a freshman last fall.

Punter Matt Flynn is back, but averaged just 39 yards per punt last season.

2017 Schedule
9/2 at Auburn, 9/9 New Hampshire, 9/23 at Indiana, 10/4 Arkansas State, 10/14 New Mexico State, 10/21 at U Mass, 10/28 at Troy, 11/4 Georgia State, 11/9 at Appalachian State, 11/18 South Alabama, 11/25 at UL-Lafayette, 12/2 at Coastal Carolina

Final Overview
If Tyson Summers was in trouble after just one season as head coach, nobody is going to like what may happen this season. There just are not enough pieces to fix what ailed the program, and Summers already virtually wiped out his offensive staff after year one. That's not a great start. The one thing that the Eagles do have is a solid offensive line, and that is probably the best place to start for a rebuild, which is basically what this is at this point.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Preview: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
The Chanticleers are busting into FBS football for the first time, and the program is primed to succeed on this level such as Appalachian State and Georgia Southern have before them in the Sun Belt. Despite some holes on the roster, the Chanticleers have a foundation that has built up fairly quickly under Joe Moglia. How quickly will the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers take to move up the ranks?

What To Be Excited About: Offense
There are eight open holes this fall, and that is a tough way to enter FBS football. The only returning starters are WR Chris Jones, LG Adam Lawhorn, and C Jamarion McBride. This is probably not the best look to succeed early on, but it's hard to bet against this coaching staff.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
There are, as I said, eight starting spots up for grabs, and none bigger than at QB, where as many as many as five candidates have tossed their hats into the ring. Tyler Keane starterd seven games last season, but is getting moved aside by Syracuse grad transfer Austin Wilson. Wilson got a minimal break last season, playing in place of the injured Eric Dungy, but the sample size to get a read on him is very small. Sophomore Austin Bradley and senior Josh Tilley, who was injured during spring ball, are also in the fight.

The top two backs from last season are gone. Boston College transfer Marcus Outlow will join Osharmar Abercrombie will try to do their best to hold up the run game.

WR Ky'Jon Tyler will join TE Laquay Brown will both do their parts to hold down the passing game.

The Chanticleers will also hit the reboot button at PK with Masamitsu Ishibashi.

What To Be Excited About: Defense
Marcus Williamson and Myles White will return at the DE spots, and they provide decent pressure from the edge. Dwayne Price will also return at DT to give the Chanticleers a solid front. Ja'Ree Tolbert will likely start at the open DT spot.

Shane Johnson will have to step up even bigger than he did last season at LB with the departure of Alex Scearce. Johnson finished with 66 tackles, even after missing two games last fall.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
With Scearce gone, the Chants will turn to Laqavious Paul, a sophomore, to take his place. This is a huge replacement for this defense, and there is little room to fail.

The secondary returns only two of five starters in NB Kerron Johnson and CB Anthony Chesley. It will be interesting to see the changes that will be made in personnel, as there has been some talk of moving to a standard 4-3 from a 4-2-5 set.

Evan Rabon is back at Punter, but only averaged 39 yards per punt last season. The defense will need more real estate than that.

2017 Schedule
9/2 U Mass, 916 at UAB, 9/23 Western Illinois, 9/30 at UL-Monroe, 10/7 Georgia State, 10/14 at Arkansas State, 10/21 at Appalachian State, 10/28 Texas State, 11/4 at Arkansas, 11/11 Troy,11/18 at Idaho, 12/2 Georgia Southern

Final Overview
It's year one of an entirely new era of Coastal Carolina football, and as much as I want to prop this program up for the successes in Big South Football, they are in an entirely new universe now. The roster has some definite holes, but this is a talented staff that gets the most of what they have on hand. I would not bet against them entirely, but I do expect this team to hit some bumps before they can fly without turbulence. The future is indeed bright, but that's a longer term projection, not a short term one.

Bilo's2017 College Football Previews: Appalachian State Mountaineers

Appalachian State Mountaineers
The Mountaineers appear to once again be the favorite to win the Sun Belt, but there should be some push from a couple of other teams like Troy and Arkansas State along the way. There is some explosive talent coming back on offense, and the defense was one of the best in the nation last fall, allowing just 17.8 points per game. Could another major title run be at stake for the Mountaineers this fall? Absolutely, it should.

What To Be Excited About: Offense
The two biggest stars on the team are back on offense in QB Taylor Lamb and RB Jalin Moore. Lamb is a very efficient dual threat passer who passed for 2281 yards and 15 TDs last season to eight picks. He completed 60.6% of his pass attempts, and also managed to rush for 505 yards and nine more scores, while averaging 5.67 yards per carry.

Moore is a beast at RB for the Mountaineers, and rushed for 1402 yards and 10 TDs last season. He averaged 5.92 yards per carry, while averaging over 107 yards rushing per game. He is one of the best returning backs in the nation this fall.

There is decent leadership coming back on the line in RT Beau Nunn and RG Colby Gossett, who are both seniors. Tobias Edge-Campbell is at LG, and will be a junior this fall.
Michael Rubino put in a solid effort at PK as a freshman, as he connected on 15/21 FG attempts.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
 Shaedon Meadors is back at WR after leading the team with 45 receptions last fall, but the Mountaineers lack big time play makers at the receiving positions overall, and if that issue does not get remedied in fall camp, Lamb could be limited by his target choices up field.

Depth is also a concern behind Moore at RB this fall, as they lose Marcus Cox and his 112.78 yards rushing per game.

There are some youth concerns on the line at a couple of spots. Victor Johnson starts at LT as a sophomore, while C Ryan Neuzil, the projected starter, is just a RS freshman.

What To Be Excited About: Defense
The three man front for the Mountaineers should be first rate once again this fall, as DEs Antonious Sims and Caleb Fuller both return along with NT Myquon Stout. Sims led the team with 12 TFLs last season, while Fuller and Stout combined to add four more up the middle. Okon Godwin had a decent sophomore campaign last season, and should rotate in and out at DE as well.

Eric Boggs returns at ILB this season after leading the team with 98 tackles last season, and will be joined by Devan Stronger on the outside, who finished with 71 tackles, which was good for third on the team.

Clifton Duck is quietly one of the better CBs in the nation, and returns after finishing with eight PBUs last fall. Duck led the team with five INTs, one of which went for a score. Duck also added 57 total tackles. AJ Howard also returns at SS after finishing with 54 tackles and four PBUs.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
While Biggs and Stringer have the right side of the LB corps locked up, the two projected starters on the left side are not quite as concrete. Rashaad Townes and Anthony Flory are projected to win jobs there, but combined for just 24 tackles last fall. They have a ton of catching up to do in fall camp, and will also have Teh'Ron Fuller and Edward Davis looking for time at their heels.

The same situation exists in the secondary, as two spots are not nearly entirely locked up just yet. Brandon Pinckney is projected to start at LCB, and finished with just one PBU in 11 games last fall. Josh Thomas is projected to start at FS, and finished with just two PBUs, and 28 tackles. Depth is not great on the second unit in the secondary right now, so these two players need to step it up in camp.

The Punting situation is unresolved at this point, with Rylee Critcher projected to start after Bentlee Critcher moved on after last fall.

2017 Schedule
9/2 at Georgia, 9/9 Savannah State, 9/16 at Texas State, 9/23 Wake Forest, 10/7 New Mexico State, 10/14 at Idaho, 10/21 Coastal Carolina, 10/28 at U Mass, 11/4 at UL-Monroe, 11/9 Georgia Southern, 11/25 at Georgia State, 12/2 Louisiana-Lafayette

Final Overview
The Mountaineers, despite a couple of questions on defense and at  the receiver positions, still have more than enough star power to move on and compete for a conference title in 2017. With a couple of breaks in the schedule, this team could potentially crack the top 25. A solid showing against Georgia in the opener would help, but a loss there does not really hurt the overall effort. This should be another rock solid season for this legacy program.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Arkansas State Red Wolves

Arkansas State Red Wolves
The Wolves had one of the best runs going in FBS football to finish last season, as they closed out 2016 on an 8-1 run. The challenge now is to take that run and extend it into the 2017 season, but that is going to be a difficult thing to do, as they open at Nebraska and Miami, with another road trip to SMU in week four of the schedule. Can the Red Wolves overcome that meat grinder schedule early to go on another late run for a shot at a Sun Belt title later?

What To Be Excited About: Offense
Justice Hanson returns at QB after an impressive effort in 2016. He passed for 2719 yards and 19 TDs to eight INTs, and averaged 209.2 yards passing per game as a sophomore. With that full year under his belt, he should show some major development as we head into the 2017 season, as long as that early schedule does not wreck him.

Hanson should be able to spread the ball around again this fall, as leading receiver Blake Mack returns at TE, as do WRs Dijon Paschal, Chris Murray, and Christian Booker. Mack led the team with 34 receptions for 652 yards, and averaged over 19 yards per catch.

The Tackle spots look to be solid, as juniors Lanard Bonner and Jamal Fontenot take the field.

What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The run game gets Warren Wand back, as he was the leading rusher last season, but if ASU is going to have any success, sustainable success anyway, the run game is going to have to show serious improvement over last season. The entire rushing attack for Arkansas State averaged just 3.45 yards per carry.

The line has some issues on the interior, with both Guards and the Center all projected to be sophomores or freshman. Both Guard spots (Dalton Ford, Troy Elliott) are sophomores, while C Jacob Still will be a RS freshman.

A new PK will need to be found in camp as well, as JD Houston, who struggled last season, is gone. Sawyer Williams, a RS sophomore, is projected to start there.

What To Be Excited About: Defense
Ja'Von Rolland-Jones, is one of the best DEs in the nation after a season in which he collected 21.5 TFLs on the year. He finished with 13 sacks, and seven more QB hurries last fall, and added 57 total tackles. Dee Liner is back at DT, and added eight more TFLs, and Donovan Ransom takes up a ton of space at NT to allow the edge guys to get loose.

LB Kyle Wilson is also one of the best LBs in the nation that nobody is talking about, as he finished last fall with 16 TFLs, and 80 tackles overall. He averaged 6.15 tackles per game.

Justin Clifton excelled at the NB spot last season, and finished second on the team with 87 tackles. He added five PBUs and a pair of INTs. Blaise Taylor is also a top flight talent coming back at CB, as he finished with nine PBUs last season, and tied for the team lead with three INTs.

What To Be Concerned About: Defense
Wilson does not have a ton of help coming at LB. Caleb Caston is the projected starter at the BANDIT position, but finished with 11 tackles overall last season. Trent Ellis-Brewer is just a sophomore, and saw very little action last fall. Sophomore Kirk Louis could push him in camp, while Griffin Riggs will look for time at the BANDIT spot.

The secondary has some glaring holes as we head into camp, and none bigger than at FS, where the depth chart is wide open. BJ Edmonds is also looking to establish himself at the SS spot, and will be getting very little help. Nehemiah Wagner is also a question mark at the CB spot opposite Taylor.

The Punting game could be a problem as well, as Damon Foncham struggled last season to a 39.3 yard per punt average.

2017 Schedule
9/2 at Nebraska, 9/9 Miami, 9/16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 9/23 at SMU, 10/4 at Georgia Southern, 10/14 Coastal Carolina, 10/19 Louisiana-Lafayette, 10/28 at New Mexico State, 11/11 at South Alabama, 11/18 Texas State, 11/25 at UL-Monroe, 12/2 Troy

Final Overview
The early schedule could crush the team's spirit before the year even gets out of the first month. It is very likely that Arkansas State could start the year at just 1-4 before coming home to take on Coastal Carolina on 10/14, and that game is no lock. If the Red Wolves are going to put together another run to save themselves like they did last season, they are going to have to hope for some miracles along the way. It could get bumpy this fall, especially when the defense takes the field with issues in the back eight.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Ole Miss Rebels

Ole Miss Rebels
It's going to be an interesting season in Oxford, as the drama around this program continues to unfold off of the field. The team is in a self imposed bowl ban, and the school and Hugh Freeze are being sued by former coach Houston Nutt, who the current staff is trying to blame some violations on, when that is clearly not the case. With no bowl to play for, and a whole bunch of violation related material still at play, how does this team maintain focus for what could be a lame duck coach in 2017?

UPDATE 7/20/17: Hugh Freeze has resigned as Ole Miss Head Football Coach, due to a scandal involving the usage of a known escort service. The scandal emanated from the Houston Nutt lawsuit, as it was his lawyer who found the phone numbers in a record check in preperation for the suit. 

What To Be Excited About: Offense
Van Jefferson and DeKaylin Metcalf are back to start at receiver, and caught a combined 71 passes a year ago. Of course, the unit has to go a long way to offset the personnel losses of last fall, but we will go into that in the next section.
Shea Patterson showed some flash while playing for the injured Chad Kelly a bit last fall, and will be the new starting QB for the Rebels this fall. He showed that he could be effective as a runner as well as a passer, but his accuracy numbers need an upgrade to get the Rebels running, especially on an offense with so many holes already needing to be filled.
Gary Wunderlich was basically automatic at PK last season, as he hit 22/23 FG attempts. He will be back in play in 2017 as a senior.
What To be Concerned About: Offense
The unit is a bit of a mess after losing Chad Kelly at QB, Evan Engram at TE, Demore'ea Stringfellow and Quincy Adeboyejo at WR, and others, including RB Akeem Judge.
Trying to replace that much talent is overwhelming all at once, and the recruits have not always been as good as advertised.
The line could be an area of concern as well, as there is no senior leadership projected into the starting lineup.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The line looks about 50% effective with the return of DE Marquis Haynes and DT Benito Jones. They combined for 15.5 TFLs last fall. They also combined for 92 total tackles on the season.
DeMarqus Gates will be back at LB, and led the team in tackles last fall with 79. He also added 5.5 TFLs last season, and will be a major threat from the middle of the field.
Will Gleeson and Wunderlich shared the Punter job last season, but Gleeson is back, and averaged a strong 44.11 yards per punt.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
While half of the line is quite good, the other half is completely unproven at this point. Breeland Speaks is back at NT, while Victor Evans is back at DE. They finished with a combined 4.5 TFLs last season.
While Gates is solid at LB, Detric Bing-Jukes did not play all that well last season, finishing with just 41 total tackles on the season. Only 19 of those tackles were solo jobs.
The secondary may very well start the season as the worst in the SEC. There are no identifiable ball hawks who can really get after the football, and no play makers across the board.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 South Alabama, 9/9 UT-Martin, 9/16 at California, 9/30 at Alabama, 10/7 at Auburn, 10/14 Vanderbilt, 10/21 LSU, 10/28 Arkansas, 11/4 at Kentucky, 11/11 UL-Lafayette, 11/18 Texas A&M, 11/23 at Mississippi State
Final Overview
In all honesty, I cannot fathom why Hugh Freeze is still employed as the head coach at Ole Miss. The amount of potential damage that he has wrought upon the university is staggering, and it is starting to show up in the recruiting battles, as recruits will stay away from the Rebels until the smoke clears. This is probably the least talented team that has hit the field under Freeze, and with all of the drama ongoing, and the bowl ban, it is hard for me to see this team really playing with a high level of effectiveness in 2017. The record really does nt matter, as this team is going nowhere in the postseason anyway. I see, at best, a five win team, and Freeze should be shown the door to give this program a shot at a clean slate and fresh start.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Arkansas Razorbacks

Arkansas Razorbacks
The Razorbacks finished just 2-4 last season, which included a game against Virginia Tech where the Razorbacks just let the game get away from them. People talk about the hot seat that Kevin Sumlin is sitting on, but the seat has to be equally as warm for Bret Bielema, who has not been a shell of the coach that he was at Wisconsin. Can the Razorbacks turn it around in 2017, or will they be looking elsewhere for a coach in 2018?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
The offense is in capable hands with QB Austin Allen, who passed for 3430 yards with 25 TDs. The drawback is that he also tossed 15 INTs last fall, and that could be a recurring problem once again. He did complete 61.1% of his passes. If he can cut down on the miscues, Allen could be considered as a top flight college QB in a league that does not have many of those.
The line actually has a shot to be solid in 2017. Hjate Froholdt (LG), Frank Ragnow (C), Johnny Gibson (RG), and Brian Wallace (RT) are all upperclassmen this fall.
Cole Hedlund is back at PK after hitting 5/7 tries in limited duty last season. He should be abreakout star for the Razorbacks this season.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Rawleigh Williams III was forced to retire due to a second neck injury, and that leaves a huge hole in the run game. Devwah Whaley did rush for 602 yards as a freshman last fall as the primary backup, and now his his opportunity as a sophomore. He is promising, but now it has to translate to star power in the field. Depth behind him, and at QB, is not great.
The Razorbacks lost a ton of talent in the receiving corps, with four of the top five receivers having moved on. Jared Cornelius is the lone returnee who caught at least 20 passes last fall. He finished with 32 for 515 yards.
The LT spot could get interesting, as sophomore Colton Jackson and freshman Shane Clenin as the only two players on the current depth chart in the battle to start.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The Hogs are in decent shape at CB, as both Henre' Toliver and Ryan Pulley are slated to start this fall. They combined for a total of 19 PBUs last season, with Toliver collecting 13 of them. They should be able to provide some relief from the back end of the defense. Josh Lidell is also back at FS, and added four more PBUs, and finished second on the team with 68 tackles.
Blake Johnson takes over at Punter, and although he does not have much on the old resume, he has a giant power leg, and he will likely flourish this fall.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
McTelvin Agim is solid at DE, with 5.5 TFLs last season, but the rest of the line is untested and unproven. Austin Capps will start as a sophomore at DT, while Armon Watts gets a look at DE.
The LB group is in a bit of a shuffle, with the only surefire starter coming back being Randy Ramsey at the RZR position. He finished last fall with 5.5 TFLs, but finished with just 23 overall tackles.The rest of this group is competing for their jobs in camp. Josh Harris, Dre Greenlaw, and and Karl Roesler are all projected as starters, but it was an under productive group in 2016. Grant Morgan, De'Jon Harris, and Michael Taylor II are all pushing for time as well.
DeAndre Coley is back at Safety, but was very limited in production last fall. He finished with just 37 tackles, and was almost non-existent in pass defense.
2017 Schedule: 8/31 Florida A&M at Little Rock, 9/9 TCU, 9/23 Texas A&M at Arlington, 9/30 New Mexico State, 10/7 at South Carolina, 10/14 at Alabama, 10/21 Auburn, 10/28 at Ole Miss, 11/4 Coastal Carolina, 11/11 at LSU, 11/18 Mississippi State, 11/24 Missouri
Final Overview
This could be a long year for the Razorbacks. I feel comfortable in calling them a favorite in five games, at best. The QB situation, and a chunk of the line, are the only things that shine on offense, and the defense is a unit that completely failed overall a year ago when they gave up over 31 points per game. The staff seems to be playing musical chairs at LB and along the front line this fall camp, and those situations must be resolved by week two, when TCU comes to play. Bret Bielema could be in for some trouble with this team.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Mississippi State Bulldogs
Dan Mullen looked like his team was in trouble as the season opened with a loss to South Alabama. The Bulldogs were able to pull themselves together enough to finish the season 3-2 and get into the St. Petersburg Bowl  on a waiver with a 5-7 record. Will the Bulldogs have the talent and the drive to actually finish with a inning record in 2017, and better yet, can they make a push to finish as high as third in the SEC West?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
The Bulldogs have one of the more interesting QBs in the SEC in Nick Fitzgerald, who is a better runner than passer. He passed for 2423 yards last season with 23 TDs and 10 INTs. He completed just 54.3% of his passes. He was most effective when on the move, as he led the team in rushing last fall with 1375 yards and 16 scores, while averaging 7.05 yards per carry and 105.77 yards per game rushing.
Aeris Williams is a decent back when given the rock out of the backfield, as he rushed for 720 yards and four scores, and is probably the best yardage back the Bulldogs have, as he averaged 5.26 yards per carry.
Donald Gray caught 41 passes last season, which was good for second on the team. He and Keith Mixon were two of just four receivers who caught 20 passes or more last season. Mixon caught 20 passes for 227 yards.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
If Fitzgerald goes down to injury, there is no real depth behind him. There is always a risk with running QBs, and if that risk becomes reality, the Bulldogs could end up in a world of hurt trying to move the football.
The RB corps is loaded down with good, but not great backs, and that needs to change to create balance in the offense. Someone other than Williams needs to step up and show some explosiveness and some overall skill, as right now, depth at RB is thin as well.
With Fred Ross gone after catching 72 passes last season, the Bulldogs need an absolute leader, or maybe more than one, this fall. Jamal Couch, who is expected to step into the starting lineup in the place of Ross, caught just eight passes last fall.
The line has some sore spots as well, as two freshmen are slated to start at the tackle positions in Greg Eiland and Stewart Reese. That is a scary prospect.
PK Westin Graves was all over the place last fall, hitting just 11/19 FGs. Freshman Tucker Day is projected to take over that job as we head to fall camp.
What To be Excited About: Defense
The Bulldogs appear to be pretty well set at LB, as all four projected starters had solid years in 2016. Leo Lewis finished second on the team with 79 tackles on the season as a freshman. Gerri Green finished with 43 tackles, and Desmond Harris finished with 37. Transfer Montez Sweat is a JC transfer with some promise and is projected to start right out of the gate. For a unit that lost some talent after last fall, this group is primed to succeed.
The same could be said up front, where Cory Thomas and Jeffery Simmons are projected to start on the line. Both showed enough flash last season to make one believe that they could fill in seamlessly at the DE spots. Braxton Hoyett is slated to start in the middle at NT.
The Bulldogs appear to be in good shape at the Safety spots, as Bradon Bryant returns at SS, and Mark McLauren is back at FS. They combined for 113 tackles and seven PBUs last season.
Logan Cooke returns at Punter after averaging 40 yards per try last fall.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The projected starting CBs, Jamal Peters and Tolando Cleveland, left a little to be concerned about last season, as neither were effective ball hawks in 2016. The team allowed 281 yards passing per game, and i that happens again, challenging for a higher spot in the conference standings will not be a possibility. There is little depth here.
The depth and prosuction on the bench across the defense is a bit lacking, so health will be a huge priority for this football team.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Charleston Southern, 9/9 at Louisiana Tech, 9/16 LSU, 9/23 at Georgia, 9/30 at Auburn, 10/14 BYU, 10/21 Kentucky, 10/28 at Texas A&M, 11/4 U Mass, 11/11 Alabama, 11/18 at Arkansas, 11/23 Ole Miss
Final Overview
The Bulldogs need an uptick in performance this season after winning just five games to skate into a bowl in a waver because, well, there are just too many bowls. The Bulldogs have enough tools on hand to make a move in the SEC West, but there also enough concerns hanging around that, if made into a reality, could sink this football team right t the bottom of the division. Everything has to fall right into place to make it all happen. I can see a five win team again, but I can also see an eight win team if all the chips fall into place. That's living on the fence.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Texas A&M Aggies

Texas A&M Aggies
Every game during the regular season will be played in a bubble for the Aggies and coach Kevin Sumlin. It would seem hat, even during the Johnny Manziel years, that the Aggies have always found ways to fall short of goals, even when they managed to beat Alabama. That will not cut it this season, and so every game, starting with the opener, will be watched in every excruciating detail.  Will the Aggies be able to do enough to save Sumlin from the chopping block in 2017?
What To be Excited About: Offense
The combo punch at RB is back in Treyveon Williams and Keith Ford. Williams rushed for 1057 yards and eight TDs last season, while averaging 6.78 yards per carry, and is one of the more explosive backs in the nation. Keith Ford added 669 yards and six scores, while averaging 5.31 yards per carry. Sophomore Kendall Bussey only carried 20 times last fall, but was extremely explosive, averaging 8.6 yards per carry.
Christian Kirk caught 83 passes last fall, and scored nine times, and is now the undisputed leader at WR for the Aggies, but we will talk about the rest of the receiving unit in a moment.
Daniel LaCamera was decent at PK last fall, hitting 17/24 FG attemps, but more should be expected from him this fall.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Jake Hubenak got some time in under center at QB last fall when Trevor Knight was down for a stint. He passed for 884 yards with six scores and two INTs, but completed just 58.7% of his passes. He never looked truly comfortable in the offense, and will have to show what he can do in camp as the full time starter. Depth behind him is thin, at best.
Other than Kirk, the receiving corps is loaded with unknowns and limited producers. Jhamon Ausbon is a freshman, while Damion Ratley caught just two passes last season, and they are both projected as starters. Overall depth is negligible.
The line is fairly young as well, with not one senior projected to start as we head into camp. The unit will be composed of two sophomores and three juniors, so again, it's time to see what this group can do.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The Aggies are in solid shape at DT, where both Zaycoven Henderson and Kingsley Keke both return. They combined for 17 TFLs, and should be one of the better middle line breakers in the SEC in 2017. Jarrett Johnson will also start at DE, and recorded 6.5 TFLs last season.
Otara Alaka is back at OLB this fall, and will be greatly depended on to mentor a seriously inexperienced group at LB, which will be discussed in the next section. Alaka finished last season with 74 tackles, good for third on the team.
Priest Willis is back at CB, and made a strong impression last fall after transferring from UCLA. He has become an NFL caliber CB after finishing last season with eight PBUs and 33 tackles. Armani Watts and Donovan Wilson are back at the Safety spots. Watts finished with 56 tackles last season, while Wilson finished with 59.
Shane Tripuca is back at Punter, and averaged 42.83 yards per punt last fall.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
Qualen Cunningham is moving into a starting DE spot where Myles Garrett used to roam, but he has little in the way of production to make anyone believe that the production level a that spot won't take a big dip there. He recorded just 17 tackles and one TFL last season as a junior.
Other than Alaka at LB, the other two spots are open for a battle this fall.Sophomore Tyrel Dodson is projected to start at MLB, while freshman Anthony Hines III is projected at the open OLB spot. Junior Dwayne Thomas is the only other LB on the current two deep that is poised to challenge, and that is at the OLB spot. Depth will be an issue at LB for the Aggies.
Charles Oliver showed some grit at CB in nine games as a freshman last season, and is projected to start at the open CB spot, but he has much to prove yet, and may be targeted early as teams try to avoid Willis. Roney Elam, a RS sophomore, could give him a push in fall camp.
2017 Schedule: 9/3 at UCLA, 9/9 Nicholls State, 9/16 UL-Lafayette, 9/23 at Arkansas (Arlington, TX), 9/30 South Carolina, 10/7 Alabama, 10/14 at Florida, 10/28 Mississippi State, 11/4 Auburn, 11/11 New Mexico, 11/18 at Ole Miss, 11/25 at LSU
Final Overview
The worst kept secret in college football is the degree of heat as it is applied to the seat of Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin is a credible coach, but the pressures of coaching in the SEC West, especially with Alabama running away from the pack, have gotten to extreme measures. There have certainly been gaffes under Sumlin, and there have been disenfranchised players in the program, which has led to losses, and all of that falls squarely on Sumlin. Looking at the schedule, it would be expected that the best one could absolutely expect would be eight wins. In my analysis, I do not believe that eight wins, again, would not be enough to save his job.