Friday, July 21, 2017

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

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

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.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: LSU Tigers

LSU Tigers
The Tigers did what needed to be done with their coaching situation, but nearly bungled the hire once they had one to make at the end of the season Ed Orgeron turned the team around in a way last fall, but they nearly handed the job to Tom Herman, or at least they wanted to, whether he wanted the job or not. Orgeron finally got the permanent job, but he has to understand that he was, by far, not the choice that people in the administration wanted. Can he do enough this season to make them feel safe with him at the helm, or is this another Ole Miss situation in the offing?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Derrius Guice showed people last season that maybe he was the best, if not most committed, back on the football team last season. He rushed for 1387 yards and 15 scores, and averaged 7.58 yards per carry. He is the most explosive returning back in the SEC, and is an early top ten contender for the Heisman.
A strong line is always an LSU staple, and it should be no different in 2017. KJ Malone (LT) and Maea Teuhema both return this fall, and Will Clapp should be solid at Center as well.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Danny Etling is back to start at QB, and has a new OC in Matt Canada, who worked with Nathan Peterman at Pitt last season. Etling showed signs of improvement throughout the season, but is also never going to be a superstar under center. He should get better under Canada, but he is a mere game manager, and nothing more.
There wasn't much going on in the passing game last fall, and so the receivers suffered as a result. Drake Davis and DJ Chark are projected to start, and combined for just 27 receptions last season. Depth is not great.
Depth is also an issue behind Guice at RB. If he gets hurt in 2017, there are very few options behind him that provide the same kind of punch.
The PK position is hitting reboot this fall. Freshman Connor Culp is projected to win the job.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The defense was as suffocating as always last season, but there are several questions about this group after some significant losses after last season.
One of the premier players returning is BUCK LB Arden Key, who led the team as a sophomore last season with 14.5 TFLs. Key added 56 tackles and 12 sacks to his resume last season. Donnie Alexander returns as well after a 45 tackle campaign, and promising sophomore Devin White will likely start after picking up 30 tackles as a freshman.
The secondary should be loaded this fall, as three starters return in CB Dante Jackson, CB Kevin Tolliver II, and SS John Battle. Jackson finished with eight PBUs, Tolliver added 21 tackles as a freshman, and Battle finished with 39 tackles.
Josh Growden had a solid freshman campaign at Punter, and averaged just over 41 yards per punt.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The Tigers have some issues on the line, as they took several of their personnel losses there. Christian LaCouture and Frank Herron are projected to start at the DE spots, while Greg Gilmore is slated in at NT. Gilmore is the most experienced of the three, as he started in the middle last fall.
Senior Corey Thompson is projected to win an OLB job, but he has very little to his resume at LSU. Michael Divinity, Jr. will push him for the job in fall camp.
The FS job is open heading into fall camp, with senior Ed Paris projected to start there, but he has not done very much thus far, and could be pushed by freshman JaCoby Stevens.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 BYU at Houston, 9/9 Chattanooga, 9/16 at Mississippi State, 9/23 Syracuse, 9/30 Troy, 10/7 at Florida, 10/14 Auburn, 10/21 at Ole Miss, 11/4 at Alabama, 11/11 Arkansas, 11/18 at Tennessee, 11/25 Texas A&M
Final Overview
There are holes to be sure for the Tigers on defense, and a few on offense. Orgeron will have his hands full in trying to put all of the pieces together, but the first thing will be to ramp up this offense to heights they have not seen in years. The defense cannot always carry the day for this football team, and the defense may have more holes to fill than the offense. Still, LSU should finish third in the West, but only if they can hold off string charges by Texas A&M and Mississippi State to do so.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Auburn Tigers

Auburn Tigers
The Tigers, since their last national title run, have slipped a good deal in the SEC West, and are trying to get back on track. When you look at the changes they have made,and who they have brought in as far as talent is concerned, this could be their window to get closer to Alabama in the West, and to get back into top 10 consideration nationally. With that said, will Auburn have enough in the tank to actually push Alabama sooner than later?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Jarrett Stidham is probably one of the most anticipated transfers in the nation this fall, as he heads to the Plains to take over at QB. He is expected to give the Tigers their best passer since Cam Newton left for the NFL. He sat out last season, but had a very nice run as a freshman at Baylor in 2015, when he passed for 1265 yards and 12 scores against just two INTs in 10 games. He will be primarily a passer in this offense, so expect a different look with him at the trigger spot. Sean White, who was solid at times last fall, is the backup.
The Tigers will also boast a rock solid one-two punch at RB, as Kamryn Pettway returns along with Kerryon Johnson. Pettway rushed for 1224 yards and seven scores, while averaging 5.86 yards per carry. Johnson added another 895 yards and 11 scores on the season. Look for Cam Martin and Stanton Truitt to add depth and a big play capability.
Three seniors return on the line, including at both tackles in Darius James and Braden Smith. Austin Golson will be expected to provide senior leadership from the Center position.
Daniel Carlson had one of the great seasons in Auburn PK history, as he hit 28/32 FG attempts. He returns for his senior year.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
One has to understand the nature of the QB instability that Auburn has had the last few seasons to not beat up to badly on the receiver corps, but this group has a long way to go in 2017. Luckil, they will have Stidham throwing the football, so more opportunities should arise. Only three receivers total caught as many as 20 passes last season.
Youth is the word of the day at the Guard spots on the line, as a pair of sophomores will be starting in Marquel Harrell and Mike Horton.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The Tigers will return with a 3-3-5 look this season. There were serious losses on the line after the season ended, but Marlon Davidson returns at DE after collecting 6.5 TFLs last season as a freshman.
Tre' Williams and DeShaun Davis both return at LB, and will provide some leadership. Williams finished with 67 tackles last season, while Davis finished right behind him with 63 tackles.
The CBs may be one of the best starting combos coming back this year in the nation with 17 combined PBUs between Javaris Davis and Carlton Davis. Safety Tray Matthews led the team with 76 tackles last season, and will be back. Stephen Roberts also returns at Safety after recording 57 tackles last fall.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
As I said earlier, the Tigers took some serious losses on the line with Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams both departing. Davidson returning is a serious pick up, but the Tigers are rebooting the other two spots with Dontavious Russell and Andrew Williams. They may very well have big seasons, but they need to prove themselves at this point. Depth is thin behind them.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Georgia Southern, 9/9 at Clemson, 9/16 Mercer, 9/23 at Missouri, 9/30 Mississippi State, 10/7 Ole Miss, 10/14 at LSU, 10/21 at Arkansas, 11/4 at Texas A&M, 11/11 Georgia, 11/18 UL-Monroe, 11/25 Alabama
Final Overview
This could be a big season for Auburn, and they should be favored to beat Clemson this go around, even with the game being played on the road. If the Tigers get through Clemson, they could get all the way to near the end of October before they would face another serious threat in the trip to Baton Rouge. There is talent on the roster, and the pick up of Stidham helps big time on offense, as the Tigers will finally have a multidimensional look once again. Will Auburn have enough to push Alabama out as the king of the SEC in 2017? Probably not, but returning to a 10 win season is not out of the question.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama got to the gates of the promised land once again, and while they fell short of winning the national title in a 40-35 loss to Clemson in a 4th quarter collapse, what the Tide has accomplished in the modern era is nothing short of amazing. Nick Saban has created the best overall program in the nation, and has anointed himself as king of all coaches in the college game. With another reload in order, will Alabama get back to the finals once again?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Jalen Hurts was a real find at QB last season, and gave the Tide a dual threat trigger man with the ability to keep defenses honest. He passed for 2780 yards and 23 TDs to just nine INTs as a freshman last fall, and completed 62.8% of his passes, while rushing for another 954 yards and 13 TDs. He averaged 4.99 yards per carry, an averaged over 12 carries per game to with his 25.5 pass attempts per game. As good as he was, he is still getting a bit of a push from freshman Tua Tagovailoa. Such is life at Alabama.
The run game is one of the best and deepest in the nation once again. Damien Harris led the team in rushing as a sophomore last fall with 1032 yards, and he scored just twice. He did manage to average 7.1 yards per carry, and could end up really exploding this season. Bo Scarbrough rushed for 812 yards, and scored 11 times, and may be the best overall back on the team. Look for Josh Jacobs and BJ Emmons to get some looks as well this fall.
Calvin Ridley caught 72 passes last season, and returns as the primary top option in the passing game.
The interior offensive line looks rock solid with the return of Ross Pierschbacher and Lester Cotton at the Guard spots, and with Bradley Bozeman at Center.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
With Ridley back as the top receiver, the concern is the depth around him. The other two projected starters are Cam Sims and Robert Foster, but they combined for just 15 receptions last season. There is no doubting their ability or talent, but they are unproven at this point, and there is little depth behind them as far as proven production is concerned. The loss of OJ Howard at TE is also a major killer.
The Tide will be young at the Tackle spots, as a pair of sophomores project to start in Jonah Williams and Matt Womack. Again, I am certain of their talent, but they have the curse of youth about them.
The kicking game is looking for a new starter at PK, and that is being handed to Andy Pappanastos, a RS senior who connected on the only attempt he tried last season.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Shaun Dion Hamilton and Rashaan Evans are the starters at ILB this fall, and they combined for 117 tackles last season. They are expected to be the new stars in the middle of the defense this season, and so will carry a lot of weight with them.
The CB situation is in good hands with Anthony Averett returning after he finished last season with eight PBUs. The Safety spot may have the best defensive player in the nation in Minkah Fitzpatrick, who finished with seven PBUs, six INTs, and 66 tackles. He is to be avoided at all costs in the passing game. Ronnie Harrison gets a lot of attention taken away by Fitzpatrick, but is rock solid as well. He finished with 85 tackles, seven PBUs, two forced fumbles, and a pair of INTs. Tony Brown plays the STAR in certain packages, and finished with 32 tackles last season in rotational duty.
JK Scott returns after completely crushing the ball on punts averaging 47.12 yards per try in 2016.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The Tide will be reloading on the line, as personnel losses cut deep. Again, the talent level is strong, but there are a trio of new starters who are trying tpo prove themselves as we move into a new season. Da'Shawn Hand and Josh Frazier will start at the DE spots, while Da'Ron Payne is back at NG, and could step right in and lead this unit. The depth players are young, but should get some experience on a rotational basis.
The OLB spots are much in the same shape as the line. Anfernee Jennings will be starting at the JACK spot as a RS sophomore, while junior Christian Miller gets his shot at WLB. Terrell Hall and Jamey Mosley still have some say in those spots as well.
Trevon Diggs will project to start at CB opposite Averett, and will also need to prove himself as the season wears on.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Florida State at Atlanta, 9/9 Fresno State, 9/16 Colorado State, 9/23 at Vanderbilt, 9/30 Ole Miss, 10/7 at Texas A&M, 10/14 Arkansas, 10/21 Tennessee, 11/4 LSU, 11/11 at Mississippi State, 11/18 Mercer, 11/25 Auburn
Final Overview
There is no doubt that this program is a machine that just keeps rolling until there is nothing left to roll over. Nick Saban took the loss to Clemson in the national title games as personal, and looks at that game as a lesson to learn from. When you are able to focus on an individual loss that much, you are doing something right. The Tide is in an excellent position to compete for yet another national championship, and they should win the SEC once again, as nobody in the conference is quite on their level right now. Expect nothing short of another amazing run.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Preview: Missouri Tigers

Missouri Tigers
Gary Pinkel left Mizzou die to major health issues, but it was apparent that he was losing his focus on the program before he left, and the wheels were coming off the rails. Barry Odom heads into his second every season as a head coach, and time for learning is coming to an end. He may have some major pieces to succeed on offense, but can the defense catch up? It's going to be interesting to see how this football team responds in year two of the current era.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Drew Lock is back to run what should be a solid offense in 2017. Lock passed for 3399 yards and 23 TDs to just 10 INTs. He needs some support around him this fall. He attempted 36.2 passes per game last fall, which may be too much. If he gets more support from the run game, he becomes a better, more efficient QB.
Damarea Crockett broke a freshman rushing record at Missouri with 1062 yards rushing, and he also added 10 scores. He averaged 6.94 yards per carry last season, and is a major big play threat in this offense. More work from him this season will mean more success from this offense. Ish witter returns as well, and is one of the best backups in the nation.
J'Mon Moore is back at receiver as well, and caught 62 passes for 1012 yards and eight scores. He also averaged 16.32 yards per catch. He is one of the better receivers in the conference, and in the nation. Johnathon Johnson and Dimetrios Mason also both return to start, and combined for 71 receptions last season.
The entire line also returns intact, as all five starters return. Tyler Howell is back at LT, Kevin Pendleton at LG, Alec Abeln at C, Adam Ploudre at RG, and Paul Adams at RT.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The PK position seems to be the only spot that is in flux as far as productivity is concerned. Tucker McCann is back, but hit only six of 12 FG attempts in 2016, and that will not get the job done. Someone needs to come in and make a push.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The defense is really where the probems begin and end for the Tigers as we enter fall camp in 2017. The Tigers allowed 31.5 points per game last fall, and allowed 28 points pr more seven times last season.
Marcell Frazier is the lone returning starter on the line as a senior. He finished second on the team last season with 8.5 TFLs, but he has little in the way of help coming in this fall.
Both Safeties return in Ronnell Perkins and Cam Hilton. They combined for nine PBUs last season and 92 tackles as well.
Corey Fatony is back at Punter, and had a rock solid effort last fall when he averaged 43.85 yards per punt. Having his leg will go some distance to relieve a beleaguered defense, giving them real estate to work with.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The Tigers stacked the deck on the line with JC transfers, but how much they will help is yet to be seen. The best of the bunch appears to be DT Rashad Hamilton, and he put on a show in spring ball.
Eric Beisel is back at LB, but he finished with just 44 tackles on the year. He did add 6.5 for loss. Terez Hall, a junior, looks to be in contention for a starting job, but is in a battle with Brandon Lee for that job as we head to camp.
Both CBs and the NB must be replaced in the 4-2-5 set. Missouri allowed 246.8 yards passing per game last fall, and that number may get worse with a new coverage group in place.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Missouri State, 9/9 South Carolina, 9/16 Purdue, 9/23 Auburn, 10/7 at Kentucky, 10/14 at Georgia, 10/21 Idaho, 10/28 at U Conn, 11/4 Florida, 11/11 Tennessee, 11/18 at Vanderbilt, 11/24 at Arkansas
Final Overview
Barry Odom has found his perfect combo on offense, and nobody brings back such an explosive run/pass/catch triad in the SEC as much as Missouri does. Hardly anyone in college football brings together such a successful QB, RB, and WR. Where it all can go wrong is on defense, and one cannot rely on the fact that improvement is on the horizon there. Odom is working hard to fill the gaps, but currently is taking some shortcuts with the JC route, which is unsustainable long term. He has to recruit hard on the defensive side of the ball, and build long term, and that is the only way to fix this problem, and that takes some time. As for now, with an incomplete football team entering the season, it would look to me as if the Tigers will be battling Vanderbilt to see who will be at the bottom of the SEC in 2017.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Preview: Vanderbilt Commodores

Vanderbilt Commodores
Derek Mason struggled to get the Commodores to six wins and a bowl game last fall, and once they got to the Independence Bowl, they were thoroughly dismantled by NC State. The Commodores head into 2017 still looking for believers, as most don't see this team finishing near the upper half of the watered down SEC East. Can Vanderbilt ride the legs of Ralph Webb to a higher level this fall?
What To be Excited About: Offense
The offense centers around the running ability of RB Ralph Webb. Webb ran for 1283 yards and 13 TDs last season. He averaged 5.13 yards per carry, and 98.69 yards per game. He could finish this season as the second leading all-time rusher in the SEC, and is one of the better backs in the nation. Khari Blasingame ran for 10 TDs last season on just 97 carries, and returns as the primary backup, as does FB Bailey McElwain.
The receiving corps is also well thought of. WRs Trent Sherfield and Kalija Lipscomb both return, as does TE Nathan Marcus. Caleb Scott and TE Justin Pinckney also return, and CJ Duncan returns as well as the top receiver from the team last season.
Tommy Osborne is back at PK, and hit 15/19 FG attempts last fall.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Kyle Shurmer is back at QB, and was a different player the second half. He still finished the season with just nine scores, and did toss 10 INTs. If he can be that guy from act two, the Commodores will be OK. If he is the guy from act one, not so much.
The offensive line is also a work in progress, and could see some major changes. Justin Skule is slated to start at LT, but is better on the right side. If he moves back to the right side, Devin Cochran, a RS freshman, could slide in at LT. Bruno Reagan is back at RG, and should stick there, but there are questions as to how everything should stack up when camp breaks.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Vanderbilt actually was solid most of the season on defense, giving up just over 24 points per game. The best part of the defense could be in the secondary, where three starters are back in CB Tre Herndon, SS Ryan White, and FS LaDarius Wiley. Herndon finished with eight PBUs, and also led the team with two INTs. White and Wiley combined for 10 PBUs. Wiley finished second in tackles with 76, while White was right behind him with 75. Joejuan Williams will start at CB as a sophomore after a strong debut last fall. Depth at CB is excellent as well.
Sam Loy was excellent as a freshman last fall at Punter, and averaged 41.65 yards per punt.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
Nifae Lealao is a rock solid NG up front, but the rest of the line is very much in flux. Jonathon Wynn is back at DE as a senior, and projects to start, but has not lived up to any billing as of yet. Dare Odeyingbo projects to start at the other DE spot, but that is not set in stone. Depth is not great at the end spots, either.
The LB spots are mostly open for competition in the fall, and Derek Mason openly admits that he has no real set rotation at this point. Oren Burks returns to start, but is the lone returning starter. Burks did finish with 6.5 TFLs, and 59 tackles as well.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Middle Tennessee, 9/9 Alabama A&M, 9/16 Kansas State, 9/23 Alabama, 9/30 at Florida, 10/7 Georgia, 10/14 at Ole Miss, 10/28 at South Carolina, 11/4 Western Kentucky, 11/11 Kentucky, 11/18 Missouri, 11/25 at Tennessee
Final Overview
With so many depth issues on defense, and so many questions on the offensive line, the Commodores may be hard pressed to head back to another bowl this season. Shurmer could turn himself around, but if the line in front of him does not work it out, it may all be for nothing, because he will be running for his life. It may take some time to iron everything out, and it may not happen between now and when the season ends. Several questions could be answered in camp, but the level of talent has dipped every year since Mason took over, and this roster is an example of that. The team may not bottom out this season, but once Webb is gone at RB, it may not be long before it does.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Preview: Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky Wildcats
There was a period early in 2016 where it looked like the Mark Stoops era would come to an end. The Cats started out just 2-3, and Stoops was his own worst critic. Kentucky turned it around after that, and won five of their final seven regular season games, and got to seven wins. The Wildcats have not fully turned the corner yet, but 7-5 at Kentucky is acceptable at the basketball school. Can this team make another run at a bowl game in 2017? Can they push through the top three in the SEC East? Will they fall back?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Stephen Johnson is back at QB, but he is not the perfect QB to run this offense. That said, he is the best that the Wildcats have, and so they make do. Johnson only completed 54.7% of his passes, but tossed 13 TDs to just six INTs on the season. As long as he can limit the mistakes and manage the game, he is enough to get this program by, for now.
Benjamin Snell, Jr. is back at RB, and will be the prime back this season after rushing for 1091 yards and 13 scores. He averaged 5.87 yards per carry, and is a big play threat out of the backfield.
Three seniors return as starters on the line for Kentucky in LT Cole Mosier, RG Nick Haynes, and RT Kyle Meadows.
Austin MacGinnis is back at PK after hitting 16/19 FG attempts last season.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The most concerning area of the offense is receiver, where not one WR finished with as many as 40 receptions last fall. Garrett Johnson was the leader with 39 receptions last fall, and only three receivers on the team last fall finished with 20 or more receivers.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
All four starters return at LB, and it is a fairly active group. Courtney Love and Josh Allen return on one side, and combined for 138 tackles last fall. Jordan Jones is the star, as he led the team with 109 tackles, and pairs with Denzil Ware, who wrapped last season with 70 tackles. Expect this unit to be the heart and soul of this defense.
Both CBs return in Chris Westry and Derrick Baitey. Baity finished with seven PBUs last fall, while Westry needs some work after knocking away just three passes last fall. Both are juniors this season, and should show some signs of development. Mike Edwards is back at Safety, and he finished with eight PBUs and finished with 100 tackles. He is an NFL caliber prospect.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The defensive line lacked any kind of real aggressiveness last fall, and only one starter returns in DT Adrian Middleton. Naquez Pringle is projected to start at NT, while Alvonte Bell is projected to start at DE.
Punter Grant McKinnis is back at Punter, but was barely average last fall after averaging just 39.19 yards per punt.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 at Southern Mississippi, 9/9 Eastern Kentucky, 9/16 at South Carolina, 9/23 Florida, 9/30 Eastern Michigan, 10/7 Missouri, 10/21 at Mississippi State, 10/28 Tennessee, 11/4 Ole Miss, 11/11 at Vanderbilt, 11/18 at Georgia, 11/25 Louisville
Final Overview
Have no doubt that Mark Stoops is still very much on the hot seat in 2017. His overall record at Kentucky is still just 18-30 despite making the bowl last fall, and the program still has miles to go. The opportunity is there to win another six or seven games this season right off of the top, but there is no wiggle room, and some of those games are very much a trap. If Kentucky slides backwards, there could be a change in staff. They cannot afford to go back, as the SEC East has never been more vulnerable. It's time to make a charge.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: South Carolina Gamecocks

South Carolina Gamecocks
The Will Muschamp era began in Columbia last fall to mixed reviews after the team finished 6-7 after a loss to USF in the Birmingham Bowl. In 2017, the story could be all about the offense, and the return of Skai Moore on defense. Can South Carolina build on getting to a bowl last season, and push the top three in the SEC East, or will they stay stuck in the middle?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Jake Bentley emerged as the QB of the future in 2016, as he averaged 202.9 yards passing in seven games. He will be the starter from the word go this season. He completed 65.8% of his passes last fall, and could be a major breakout performer in the conference this fall.
The RB group could be a committee in 2017. Rico Dowdle returns after averaging 5.74 yards per carry last fall. He will be joined by North Carolina transfer Ty'Son Williams, who had a solid spring game, and AJ Turner. All three will be sophomores this season.
The receiving corps returns basically intact this season, which is a huge gain for the program. Deebo Samuel is the leader at WR, as he caught 59 passes for 783 yards last season. Bryan Edwards and KC Crosby are also back after they combined for 67 catches last fall. Hayden Hurst is also back at TE, and was the second leading receiver last fall with 48 receptions for 616 yards.
The line looks like they have the opportunity to improve massively over last season this fall with four returning starters in LT Malik Young, C Alan Knott, RG Cory Helms, and RT Zack Bailey all return.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
In what should be a banner season for the offense is marred only by the fact that the Gamecocks will be looking for a new PK. Elliott Fry is gone. The job will be handed over to freshman Alexander Wosnick in fall camp.
Even with the experience coming back on the line, the Gamecocks had the worst line in the SEC last season. That group should improve in a major way this fall, but cannot afford to slide backwards, or else what should be a great year on offense could break down.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Bryson Allen-Williams is back at one LB spot after finishing second on the team in tackles last fall with 75. He added 8.5 TFLs on the season, and should be a leader at a very important position. Even bigger news comes with the return of Skai Moore, who lost last season to injury. He is a three time tackling leader for the Gamecocks and returns an athletic element to the defense that the team was missing last fall.
The secondary returns a ton of experience, as four starters return in the 4-2-5 defensive set. Rashad Fenton, Jamarcus King, and Chris Lemmons all return at CB, and DJ Smith is back at FS. King finished with nine PBUs, Fenton added five, and Lemmons added six more last fall. Smith led the team in tackles with 80 last fall, but provides little in pass coverage. Steven Montac projects to start at SS.
What To be Concerned About: Defense
The line has some serious holes to fill, as two new starters must be found. DT Taylor Stallworth and Ulric Jones are the lone returning starters this fall at DT. Dante Sawyer will start at DE, and DJ Wonnum is projected to replace Darius English at the other DE spot, which is easier said than done.
South Carolina was terrible at creating pressure off the edge overall last season, and that needs to be rectified.
The Gamecocks are also seeking a new Punter in camp this fall, with sophomore Michael Almond projected to be the guy.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 NC State at Charlotte, 9/9 at Missouri, 9/16 Kentucky, 9/23 Louisiana Tech, 9/30 at Texas A&M, 10/7 Arkansas, 10/14 at Tennessee, 10/28 Vanderbilt, 11/4 at Georgia, 11/11 Florida, 11/18 Wofford, 11/25 Clemson
Final Overview
The Gamecocks look like they can make some major strides on offense this fall, but the major issues reside on offense, where South Carolina got hit up for 32 points per game during the second half of the season last year. The offense also only scored just over 20 points per game on the year last season. Look for the roles to flip, but the offense is still mostly young, even with several starters returning. The Gamecocks should have just enough talent to slide into the 4th spot in the SEC East, and I would consider that a sign of development, while the overall record may not change much.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Florida Gators

Florida Gators
Jim McElwain has had the fortunate luck of coaching the Gators through a long term transitional period while the SEC East is a mess. If the Gators were playing in the SEC East, they may finish anywhere from third to fifth. As it is, the Gators measure up just behind Georgia in the East as of this moment, and have a chance to steal the division if the ball bounces the right way. Will the Gators find a QB between Malik Zaire and Feleipe Franks to finally turn this offense around and push closer to an elusive SEC title?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Jordan Scarlett may be the most important piece of the offense returning. If he can get himself over the 1000 yard mark, and get an increased work load in 2017, the QB situation may develop more quickly. He barely missed that mark last season, but with more carries could come more success across the board.
All three starting receivers return from last season in Antonio Callaway, Brandon Powell, and Tyrie Cleveland, and TE DeAndre Goolsby rounds out the talented group of pass catchers. Callaway caught 54 passes last season, and with the right QB, could be in for a major breakout season. Powell added 45 catches, while Goolsby added 38 from his TE spot.
Eddy Piniero is back at PK after a solid 2016 season. He connected on 21/25 FG attempts, and is a consistent source of points for an offense that has struggled to score.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The QB situation became interesting when former Notre Dame player Malik Zaire transferred into the program late in the spring. He will be battling it out with Feleipe Franks for the starting job, with Kyle Trask on the outside edge. One of these guys has to develop and say healthy to give the Gators a shot at winning the SEC East. If that does not happen, forget about competing for the division title, and start worrying about staying alive.
The line is a huge question mark for the Gators. Every starter in 2017 is projected to be a sophomore or a junior, and that rarely works for the best. There will be no senior leadership at all.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The Gators are exceptionally young on the line on defense as well, but several of these young players got major experience and produced last season. Jabari Zuniga was the best of the bunch, finishing with 8.5 TFLs at DE last season, while CeCe Jefferson was right there with him with 6.5 TFLs last fall. They may be one of the best young bookend combos in the league, and maybe the nation. Khairi Davis and Tevan Bryan are solid inside as well, but the ends get all the glory. Jordan Sherit is also back at DE, and will rotate in and out of the game. He adds one more layer to placing pressure on opposing backfields.
The Gators have one of the more talented CBs in the SEC in Duke Johnson, who finished with seven PBUs last fall. He will be the anchor in the secondary in 2017 for this football team. Marcell Harris is back at Safety, and led the team in tackles last season with 73. Nick Washington returns as well after finishing with 45 tackles. Either Chauncey Gardner or CJ Henderson will win the open CB job, but both are sophomores. Gardner has the edge now after a 32 tackle season last fall.
Johnny Townsend returns as the Punter after an amazing season that saw him average 47.89 yards per punt. He is one of the very best in the nation.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The LB unit is a bit pedestrian compared to the rest of the defense, and that could be a problem against teams that really love to pound the football, which they do in the SEC. Kylan Johnson, David Reese, and Vosean Joseph will all be starting, but are still young, and still trying to find themselves in the system.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Michigan at Arlington, 9/9 Northern Colorado, 9/16 Tennessee, 9/23 at Kentucky, 9/30 Vanderbilt, 10/7 LSU, 10/14 Texas A&M, 10/28 Georgia at Jacksonville, 11/4 at Missouri, 11/11 at South Carolina, 11/18 UAB, 11/25 Florida State
Final Overview
The Gators are in what seems like a constant state of flux dating back to the Muschamp era. McElwain is a definite upgrade at head coach, but the Gators have yet to turn thecorner in so many areas, and just when everything looked like it would they lost Will Grier to the PED suspension and transfer. The Gators are starting over at QB, have a young line, and a run game that is not yet fully developed. They have a young, but talented D line, a group of developing LBs, and a secondary that could be very good. The only area where the Gators are completely buttoned up is in the kicking game. The schedule is rather tough with early games against Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky, LSU, and Texas A&M. Where the Gators get a break is that they have an inordinate number of home games. As of this moment, the Gators could finish second in the SEC East, and push Georgia for the East title, but they are a few injuries away from being purely bad. It could go either way this fall.

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee Volunteers
If they gave out championships and titles for winning the game of life, as Butch Jones likes to point out, the Vols would be truly legendary, but they are not winning it where it counts, which means SEC East titles in a very watered down division. Butch Jones had the window open last season to take the division title and play in the SEC title game, but he fell short, and now the window on the Vols getting to that vaunted place has been slammed shut. With all of the losses that Tennessee suffered, how difficult will it be for them to keep up with Florida and Georgia, and stay ahead of the lower tier programs in the division?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
John Kelly returns at RB for the Vols, and may very well be a central piece of the offense, even though he is not a returning starter. He averaged 6.43 yards per carry last season in limited duty, but is probably the best bet they have for a big play performer.
Jauan Jennings is back at WR, and he will definitely be a major component as the Vols are bringing along an otherwise inexperienced corps of receivers. He caught 40 passes last season and scored seven times. Ethan Wolf caught 21 passes last season at TE, and should be able to help out alongthe way.
Strengths on the line should come in LG Jack Jones, C Jashon Robertson, and RT Chance Hall.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Josh Dobbs is gone after a mostly up and down career, so the Vols will have to hit the rest button. The backup from last season, Quinton Dormady, is expected to startm but will get a major push from Jarret Guarantano, a RS freshman. Dormady attempted al of 17 passes last season.
While Jennings and Wolf bring stability to the receiving corps, the rest of the group is mostly an unknown situation, as a pair of sophomores are stepping up in Tyler Byrd and Marquez Calloway. They combined for all of 16 receptions last fall.
There are a couple of concerns on the line, as the Vols are turning to a sophomore to start at LT in Drew Richmond, and a freshman at RG in Trey Smith.
The kicking game has some ups and downs to deal with as well, as Aaron medley hit just 11/16 FG attempts last season.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Both LBs return in the 4-2-5 defense this fall in Cortez McDowell and Darrin Kirkland, Jr. They combined for 99 tackles last fall.
Trevor Daniel returns at Punter, and is one of the bets in the nation after averaging 44.57 yards per punt last fall.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
With Derek Barnett gone, the Vols lost one of the best defensive players that they have ever had. Replacing him will be most difficult. Darrell Taylor and Jonathon Kongbo will try their best at the DE spots, but they have a ton of work to do to get to where the tandem was last year at DE. Kendal Vickers and Reginald Khalil McKenzie, Jr. will start at DT, but hardly have wrecking ball numbers behind them.
The secondary will be loaded with new or under performing players this fall. Justin Martin and Shaq Wiggins will start at the CB spots, while Rashaan Gauldin, arguably the best of the bunch, starts at NB. Todd Kelly, Jr. and Nigel Warrior will project to start at the Safety spots.
2017 Schedule: 9/4 at Georgia Tech, 9/9 Indiana State, 9/16 at Florida, 9/23 U Mass, 9/30 Georgia, 10/14 South Carolina, 10/21 at Alabama, 10/28 at Kentucky, 11/4 Southern Mississippi, 11/11 at Missouri, 11/18 LSU, 11/25 Vanderbilt
Final Overview
Butch Jones has been a master recruiter, but that recruiting acumen has not turned into much on the field, and championship of life trophies or rings don't cut it in SEC play. He is in a win now situation, because it would seem, as I said earlier, the window on Tennessee getting a foothold on SEC East dominance has closed on them. They've certainly had their chances to get there, they just have not. Don't be surprised of this team either finishes third in the East behind Florida and Georgia, or completely bottoms out and misses a bowl. Either scenario could be likely.