Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Colonial Athletic Association 2011 Preview

Delaware Blue Hens
2010 Record: 12-3
The Hens had another national title in their grasp, and then fell apart in the second half to allow Eastern Washington to steal it away. The Hens will try to rectify that mistake, but will do it without the services of QB Pat Devlin, who moves on. Trevor Sasek will likely take over for Devlin this season. The real focal point of the offense will go through sophomore RB Andrew Pierce, who led the CAA in rushing as a freshman last fall. Pierce rushed for 1655 yards and 14 scores and will likely have to step up even more to help out Sasek. Nihja White and Matt Schenauer return at WR, but Delaware loses Tommy Crosby and Phil Thaxton, who combined for 83 receptions last fall. Junior Gino Gradkowski is receiving pre-season accolades on the line.
Paul Worrilow and Andrew Harrison both return at LB, and will lead the defensive charge. Worrilow recorded 113 tackles last fall, while Harrison recorded 90 on the season, and Worrilow was good for 9.5 TFLs. DE Mike Atunrase returns up front after recording 9.5 TFLs himself. The Hens will need to find someone who can rush the passer, a weak spot in 2010. The Hens lose serious depth in the secondary, and will need to find someone to step up immediately if they are to repeat their playoff run.
Mike Perry nailed 20 of 26 FGs last fall, and returns for his senior season, but punter Ed Wagner must be replaced.
There are some key questions here that make me think that UD will struggle to get back to the title game this season.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ Navy, 9/10 West Chester, 9/17 Delaware State, 9/24 Old Dominion, 10/1 @ Maine, 10/8 William & Mary, 10/15 UMass, 10/22 @ Rhode Island, 10/29 @ Towson, 11/12 Richmond, 11/19 @ Villanova

James Madison Dukes
2010 Record: 6-5
The Dukes had a monumental upset win of Virginia Tech last fall, but could never buuild on any of that momentum when it carried into CAA play. The Dukes start over at QB, as Drew Dudzik has moved on. Scott Noble will likely step into the starting RB job, but only carried the ball 82 times in 2010. He is a work in progress. The passing game was extremely weak last fall, so star power in the receiving corps is lacking.
LBs Pat Williams and Stephon Robertson both return at LB this fall for the Dukes, and will be a key piece in holding the team together as the offense goes into transition. Both averaged over 9 tackles per game last fall, as Williams collected 101 tackles, and Robertson grabbed 90. Williams added 11 TFLs, while Robertson totalled 9.5. A serious pass rush will be needed. The three best pass defenders return from last fall in Jon Williams, Leavander Jones, and Vidal Nelson. They combined to knock away 22 passes on the season as the Dukes held the opposition to just 160 yards passing per game.
The kicking game was weak last fall on both sides, and the return game registered as just about average.
The Dukes will struggle again this fall, but the defense willkeeop them in games and prevent blowout losses. This season does not look special.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ North Carolina, 9/10 Central Connecticut State, 9/17 @ Liberty, 9/24 @ William & Mary, 10/1 Richmond, 10/8 Maine, 10/15 Villanova, 10/29 @ Old Dominion, 11/5 @ New Hampshire, 11/12 Rhode Island, 11/19 @ UMass

Maine Black Bears
2010 Record: 4-7
The Bears have a ton of work to do if they want to remain competitive in this conference, but rumors are swirling that Maine may be departing from the CAA to join the Northeast Conference sometime in the next 2 years due to financial coonsiderations. In the meantime, the Bears are hoping that QB Warren Smith can turn it around after tossing 10 picks to just 9 scores in 2010. Pushaun Brown also returns at RB, but he too was sorely underproductive as he rushed for just 654 yards and 5 scores. Derek Session grabbed 50 passes last fall, but barely averaged more than 10 yards per catch, so a vertical threat is needed, and it likely won't be in the form of TE Derek Buttles.
The Bears return their top 3 tacklers from 2010, led by LB Donte Dennis and his 108 tackles. He will be joined at LB by the return of Trevor Coston, who recorded 74 tackles on the season. Maine lacks a definitive pressure producer up front, so rushing or passing against them may not be too difficult, as Jerron McMillan is the only bonafide trouble maker in the secondary.
Work is needed in the kicking game, and Trevor Coston is the only threat in the return game on punts.
Looks like another season of scraping the bottom for Maine.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 Bryant, 9/10 @ Pittsburgh, 9/17 @ Albany, 10/1 Delaware, 10/8 @ James Madison, 10/15 Rhode Island, 10/22 @ Richmond, 10/29 @ Villanova, 11/5 Towson, 11/12 UMass, 11/19 @ New Hampshire

UMass Minutemen
2010 Record: 6-5
The Minutemen begin their transition to FBS football this season, and will be ineligible to win the CAA crown in 2011. The Minutemen join the MAC next fall as that conference's 14th member. The transition begins as UMass searches for a new QB after the deaparture of Kyle Havens. UMass also loses over 1700 yards of rushing experience as Jonathon Hernandez and John Griffin both move on as well. Julian Talley returns at WR, but the Minutemen are thin there as well, as two of the other three leading receivers are gone as well.
Tyler Holmes returns at LB, and is garnering pre-season All-America watches after he collected 109 tackles in 2010. Holmes also logged 11.5 TFLs on the season, and should be a force in the final season in the CAA. Mike Lee and Darren Thellen both return in the secondary, as they combined for 12 passes defended last fall. Holmes also led the team with 5 picks.
Caleb Violette was rocky at best on FGs, and the punting game was a struggle, as was the return game.
This could be a rough season in transition, and UMass will not rank near the top of the league on their way out the door.
2011 Schedule: 9/1 Holy Cross, 9/17 Rhode Island, 9/24 @ Boston College, 10/1 @ Old Dominion, 10/8 Central Connecticut State, 10/15 @ Delaware, 10/22 New Hampshire, 10/29 @ Richmond, 11/5 Villanova, 11/12 @ Maine, 11/19 James Madison

New Hampshire Wildcats
2010 Record: 8-5
The Wildcats made yet another playoff run in 2010, losing in the second round. They have become a solid challenger yearly in the CAA, but yet financial considerations have them considering a departure to the Northeast Conference, joining Maine and Rhode Island, who has announced that they will leave. Losing UNH would be very difficult for the CAA, as the league is seemingly in a constant state of flux as they lose and add teams almost yearly now.
RJ Toman has departed at QB, but Kevin Decker looks to take over right out of the gate. Dontra Peters returns at RB afetr rushing for 707 yards and 7 scores. He will need to do more in 2011 to help the transition to a new QB. Joey Orlando is the top returning WR, but depth is an issue there as well.
Matt Evans led the league in tackles in 2010, recording 156 on the season, and Alan Busbee joins him at LB after recording 86 tackles last season. Brian McNally returns at DE after recording 13.5 sacks last season, and he will garner serious attention from opposing lines. Evans recorded 10.5 TFLs last fall, and is gaining pre-season All-American attention.Kyle Flemings returns in the secondary after defending 8 passes, but the Wildcats lose some solid depth back there. Mike McArthur hit 10 of 13 FGs, and figures to be used more this season, but the punting game was a wreck.
UNH could still challenge in a year in which the traditional powers are all dealing with questions.
2011 Schedule: 9/1 @ Toledo, 9/10 Lehigh, 9/24 @ Richmond, 10/1 Holy Cross, 10/8 Villanova, 10/15 @ William & Mary, 10/22 @ UMass, 10/29 Rhode Island, 11/5 James Madison, 11/12 @ Towson, 11/19 Maine

Old Dominion Monarchs
2010 Record: 8-3
The Monarchs are joining the CAA in 2011, and had a solid buildup run to membership last fall. Now comes the real deal. Thomas DeMarco returns to the QB job after posting a very strong 2756 yard effort with 23 TDs in 2010. DeMarco also managed to run for 8 more scores to make him a major threat in an up for grabs CAA. Mario Crawford returns as the starting RB, but he does not bring much to the table, only rushing for 505 yards and 6 scores. Desmond Williams and Colby goodwin could both steal carries. Prentice Gill returns as the top receiver, and Reid Evans will also return to his starting role. Neither brings a huge vertical ability into the passing game, so a deep threat will need to be found. Marquell Thomas and Nick Mayers also return for the Monarchs.
Craig Wilkins returns at LB, and DE Ronnie Cameron comes back as well to give ODU experience up front. TJ Cowart will return in the secondary as well for the young Monarchs, giving ODU solid experience in all three areas of the defense. Cameron was dominant last fall with 19 TFLs on the season. Cowart was a ball hawk last fall, having defended 11 picks, best amongst FCS Independents.
Jarod Brown was solid at PK, having hit 12 of his 16 attempts last fall, but Punter Jonathon Plisco could be a star after averaging 44.3 yards per punt as a sophomore. Monty Smalley is one of the best punt return men in the nation, while Goodwyn finished 3rd in the country on kick returns, averaging 29.83 yards per return.
ODU is in seriously decent shape to make a run at the top tier of the CAA in 2011.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 Campbell, 9/10 @ Georgia State, 9/17 Hampton, 9/24 @ Delaware, 10/1 UMass, 10/8 @ Rhode Island, 10/15 Towson, 10/22 @ Villanova, 10/29 James Madison, 11/5 Richmond, 11/12 @ William & Mary

Rhode Island Rams
2010 Record: 5-6
URI is as tough as nails, but they never can get over the top. Maybe it's their crappy facilities for football, their stadium that some high schools would be ashamed of, or their second class citizen status bestowed upon them by their basketball program. URI has done amazingly well despite the reasons just listed, and the fanbase has really stood by them. I have always found their people welcoming, their staff cooperative and open. This is why I have cheered them on for years, and am happy to hear that they are leaving the CAA to join the Northeast Conference as soon as 2013. URI simply does not have the ability to compete here, talent wise or financially, so this move, rather than the often talked about dropping of the program, makes sense on so many levels. URI will be on the hook for fewer scholarships, and still has access to an FCS playoff bid. It all makes sense, and does not effect the rivalry with Brown, which is paramount.
Steve Probst returns at QB, and he struggled in 2010. Probst tossed 12 picks to just 9 TD passes, but led the team in rushing with 600 yards and 7 TDs. If Probst could get the passing game together, the Rams might actually do some damage. Ayo Isijola returns as the leading rusher, but he has a mile to go to be mentioned as a threat. Travis Hurd could push him for carries. Anthony Baskerville returns at WR and Brandon Johnson-Farrell will come back as the starter opposite. They both need to kick it up a notch to get Probst the chances he needs to rise above.
Losing LB Matt Hanson, the CAA's 3rd leading tackler, will be tough to replace, and his departure leaves DB Chris Edmond as the returning leading tackler with 83. The defense has lost a ton of production, and it's going to be a major rebuilding job at LB. DE Willie McGinnis returns after collecting 11.5 TFLs on the season. Steve Dunbar returns in the secondary joining Edmond, but they will need some help in pass coverage.
The Rams will continue to struggle, and will likely just be watching the clock until it's time to go to the more agreeable NEC.
2011 Schedule: 9/10 @ Syracuse, 9/17 @ UMass, 9/24 Fordham, 10/1 @ Brown, 10/8 Old Dominion, 10/15 @ Maine, 10/22 Delaware, 10/29 @ New Hampshire, 11/5 William & Mary, 11/12 @ James Madison, 11/19 Towson

Richmond Spiders
2010 Record: 6-5
2010 was such a huge disappointment, and the play of Aaron Corp was at the heart of it, as was his injury issue.  The Spiders need him to come back strong this season, or they need to simply find a new guy. They also need to find a frontline RB, and they are hoping that Kendall Gaskins is the guy that can provide that. Jovan Smith will also push for some time. Tre Gray is the primary receiver, but he needs some help, and he needs to step it up as well after onlygrabbing 38 passes last fall.
The Spiders may have more issues on defense this season, as they lose 4 of their top 5 tacklers from 2010. LB Darius McMillan will be depended upon to take over the leadership role as a junior, but he will have many new faces around him. The Spiders also need to find someone to apply pressure up front. Tremayne Graham will be asked to step up his ability in the secondary this fall, but again, not much help around him.
Richmond could step back a bit more in 2011 before picking up the pace in 2012.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ Duke, 9/10 Wagner, 9/17 VMI, 9/24 New Hampshire, 10/1 @ James Madison, 10/8 @ Towson, 10/22 Maine,  10/29 UMass, 11/5 @ Old Dominion, 11/12 @ Delaware, 11/19 William & Mary

Towson Tigers
2010 Record: 1-10
And here we have the conference doormat. Towson is just awful. What's even more awful about them is that they have agreed to play LSU in 2012. What the hell are you thinking? I am just amazed that the Tigers can stay afloat in the CAA, as they would be better suited to the Big South, but hey, to each their own. They do, however, have some of the coolest helmets in FCS football.
We'll make this short and as painless as possible. The QB play is a joke. Gotta find one in camp, but probably won't. Tremayne Dameron returns as the leading rusher from last fall, but he brings nothing to the table. Erron Banks returns as the new number one receiver, but never scored last season, so, another yawn must be stifled.
DB Jordan Dangerfield was a busy guy last fall, and will continue to be so as the leader of this defense once again. He recorded 93 tackles last fall. They Tigers do have a legit player on the line in DE Frank Beltre, who recorded 84 tackles last fall. Matt Morgan also was decent up front last fall, as he recorded 4 sacks, and Beltre added 12 TFLs. Dangerfield will likely get very little help in the secondary.
Expect more flatlining when it comes to the Tigers in 2011.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 Morgan State, 9/10 Villanova, 9/24 Colgate, 10/1 @ Maryland, 10/8 Richmond, 10/15 @ Richmond, 10/22 @ William & Mary, 10/29 Delaware, 11/5 @ Maine, 11/12 New Hampshire, 11/19 Rhode Island

Villanova Wildcats
2010 Record: 9-5
It was a bumpy ride in getting there at times, but the Wildcats made another deep playoff run, and nearly got back to the title game. The ability to get there this season will be riding on a rebuilding effort on the offensive side of the football. Chris Whitney is gone at QB, and it looks as if Marlon Cabri may have the inside track on the job. The Wildcats have lost all of their depth in the backfield, and must start from scratch at RB. Norman White does return at WR after grabbing 11 TDs last fall, so whomever wins the QB job will have a top flight receiver to get the ball to. Dorian Wells and Mikey Reynolds also return to give the Wildcats solid depth at receiver.
The Cats do have some talent returning, but they lack a certain consistency in the front seven. There is a solid depth in the secondary, starting with James Pitts, who defended 11 passes last fall. One redeeming quality up front is the ability of Rakim cox to knock passes down at the point of attack, as he knocked away 7 balls last season.
Villanova could really struggle this season, but if Andy Talley can find some hidden diamonds on offense, they couild surprise. Villanova is a huge enigma in 2011.
2011 Schedule: 9/1 @ Temple, 9/10 @ Towson, 9/17 Monmouth, 9/24 Penn, 10/1 William & Mary, 10/8 @ New Hampshire, 10/15 @ James Madison, 10/22 Old Dominion, 10/29 Maine, 11/5 @ UMass, 11/19 Delaware

William & Mary Tribe
2010 Record: 8-4
The Tribe had a very nice run last fall, but they fell short to open the playoffs, and their trip, which should have been the deepest in the CAA, ended up being very shortlived. Mike Paulus is the likely starter at QB for the Tribe. Jonathon Grimes is a very good back with a ton of skill, and returns to drive the backfield after rushing for 887 yards and 8 TDs. Ryan Moody will return as the top receiver, and TE Alex Gottlieb will return to benefit Grimes as a blocker, and Paulus as a receiver. Both Gottlieb and Grimes are receiving All-American attention.
LB Dante Cook is a solid young star at LB, and finished 2010 with 111 tackles, good for 4th in the CAA. The issue is finding players that can consistently tackle around him.Cook added 4 sacks last fall, but Marcus Hyde collected 5.5 sacks to lead the team, and had 12.5 TFLs overall. The secondary will be in rebuilding mode.
The Tribe will have some issues on defense this season, but the offense should be highly productive. If they can get points on the board, it could be a good season. They are not, however, a title contender.
2011 Schedule: 9/3 @ Virginia, 9/10 @ VMI, 9/17 New Haven, 9/24 James Madison, 10/1 @ Villanova, 10/8 @ Delaware, 10/15 New Hampshire, 10/22 Towson, 11/5 @ Rhode Island, 11/12 Old Dominion, 11/19 @ Richmond

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