Monday, August 15, 2011

Southern Conference 2011 Preview

Appalachian State Mountaineers
2010 Record: 10-3
The Mountaineers were dominant in 2010 once again, but not as dominant as before, and they slid just a bit last fall, finishing with 3 losses. The rest of the SoCon is starting to catch up a bit, so ASU needs a return to the old ways in 2011.
Senior DeAndre Pressley will do his best to keep the Mountaineers on top, as he passed for 2631 yards and 21 TDs last fall. Pressley also dominated on the ground by rushing for 1039 yards and another 13 TDs, so he is the man to beat, and is a viable Walter Payton award finalist. Travaris Cadet will give him plenty of support at RB, but he is a complimentary piece to what Pressley does.  Brian Quick is a big play threat at WR, but ASU loses depth at the receiver position. TE Ben Jorden will likely take on a bigger role in the passing attack in 2011.
The loss of Lb DJ Smith will be huge, and it will be up to junior Justin Wray, the second leading tackler last fall, to take up the slack. John Rizor will try to replace Jabari Fletcher up front as the primary pass rusher, but he has a ways to go before catching up to those numbers. Wray finished with 14.5 TFLs last fall, so he will have many roles this fall. Ed Gainey and Troy Saunders are a solid one-two punch in the secondary, as they combined for 16 defended passes in 2010. Dominique McDuffie joins them after picking off 4 passes last fall.
There are some questions up front, but the secondary is deep on defense. The offense is fine as long as Pressley stays healthy, as he can carry a huge load on his shoulders. Another SoCon title is likely, but Wofford will have something to say about it.
2011 Opener: 9/3 @ Virginia Tech

Chattanooga Mocs
2010 Record: 6-5
The Mocs were a turn around story in 2010, and they are looking for more this fall. BJ Coleman returns as one of the best QBs in FCS football, after passing for 2996 yards and 26 TDs last fall. He is a pure passer, and will be placed in a high octane offense this fall, giving the Mocs the ability to become a surprise threat. Sophomore Keon Williams will get a chance to shine after backing up last fall as a freshman. Joel Bradford, a converted DB, took the league receiving title last fall (81-1284-8) and returns along with Brian Sutherland to give the Mocs a stellar receiving duo. They do lose depth behind them, however.
Ryan Consigilo became the star of the defense at LB last fall after collecting 110 tackles on the year, and will once again anchor an improving defense. The Mocs also return 4 linemen who all recorded sacks last fall, led by Chris Donald, who collected 7.5 on the season. Donald also led the team with 13.5 TFLs last fall. Kadeem Wise was a major factor in the secondary as a freshman last fall, and he will join with Chris Lewis-Harris as the best play makers in the secondary. Wise picked off 6 passes last fall, and scored twice. Jordan Tippett also returns after picking off 3 passes, returning one for a TD.
Chattanooga will be a player in this league, but they have to win some close games. Losses were all to power players last fall, so if the Mocs can just take two more wins this fall, they can consider themselves playoff bound.
Season Opener: 9/3 @ Nebraska

Citadel Bulldogs
2010 Record: 3-8
Citadel is an annual doormat, and last fall was no different. The QB job is once again wide open, as they started 3 freshmen at various times last fall, and none of the action was wonderful. Sam Martin will likely get the nod. Terrell Dallas returns at RB, but only rushed for 665 yards and 6 scores in an option offense. Not good. The receivers are basically stage props for the option.
Tolu Akindele returns at LB to lead the defense, as he collected 80 tackles last fall, but he has little help up front. Derek Douglas and Chris Billingslea will try to become the major pass rush specialists up front, but they have a huge job to make up for the loss of Erik Clanton. Expect Quinton Turner to be very active as well.Joseph Boateng and Jamal Allen will anchor the secondary, but neither are what you would consider huge disruptor to your passing attack. Brandon McCladdie joins them after picking off 2 passes last fall.
The Bulldogs are what they are, and they'll be hard pressed to stay out of the SoCon basement in 2011.
Season Opener: 9/3 Jacksonville

Elon Phoenix
2010 Record: 6-5
Elon finished strong last fall with a 4 game winning streak, but the competition was less than stellar for most of it. That being said, Elon loses head coach Pete Lembo to Ball State, and they lose a dynamic talent in QB Scott Riddle.
Chris Shafto will likely get the nod at QB, but he has very little game experience. AJ Harris shared time at RB last fall, and will now be asked to be the front man in the run game. Depth is not there behind him. Aaron Mellette is a huge star at WR, and Jeremy Peterson is likely to be stepping into the number two role after the loss of Sean Jeffcoat, who had a huge season in Mellette's shadow.
Josh Jones will return at LB after collecting 74 tackles, most of which were assists. Jones loses a ton of help around him, so he has some stepping up to do. The Phoenix had absolutely no pass rush, and were just awful in getting into the backfield to stop the run last fall, so they have some issues. Sophomore Ronnie Hardison is the most experienced play maker returning on defense, but Blake Thompson stepped up to pick off 4 passes. They could form a decent pass defense duo. Chandler Wrightenberry is a developing talent as well.
Elon is resetting this fall as Jason Swepson takes over at Head Coach with lots of areas of need. I expect a slip.
Season Opener: 9/3 @ Vanderbilt

Furman Paladins
2010 Record: 5-6
Furman is starting over in many ways as well, as they are now trying to find a new QB. Bruce Fowler, the new head man, also lost three other players to drug offenses during the off season, so things are not getting off to a rousing start. Jerodis Williams will return at RB, but he was not a solid presence in the offense last fall. TE Colin Anderson is the leading returning receiver, and he will be joined in the passing game by WR Sederrick Cunningham. They combined for 34 receptions last fall, so I am not excited.
LB Kadarron Anderson returns this fall, and is a major piece to the defense. Anderson collected 121 tackles last fall, and will be joined at LB Chris Wiley as the primary play makers in the middle of the field. Ricky Lang is the leading pass rusher on the line, however he only collected 2.5 sacks last fall, so that's not good. Josh Lynn, a DE, is adept at making plays behind the line, as he collected 10 TFLs last fall. Ryan Steed returns in the secondary after defending 9 passes, Steed also picked off 4 passes. Nathan Wade was suspended indefinitely due to the drug sting. Most of the players lost to the suspensions were not major factors, so that, at least, is a relief. Maybe had they not been on pot, they could have been decent players...
The offense is a mess, although the defense is decent. Usually, that's a bad combo. Furman will wind up in the lower half again.
Season Opener: 9/3 @ Coastal Carolina

Georgia Southern Eagles
2010 Record: 10-5
GSU made a strong run at the end of the season after a terrible start, and made an improbable run deep into the playoffs before falling to Delaware to end the season.
GSU is vying to make another push this season, and it very well could play out. Jaybo Shaw returns at QB to run the option, and he is a good one. Shaw passed for 1233 yards last fall, while rushing for 514 yards and 16 TDs. The Eagles are loaded at RB, led by freshman of the year RB Raymond Brown, who ran for 999 yards and 7 TDs. JJ Wilcox and Darreion Robinson add solid depth and play making skills behind Brown.
LB Josh Rowe is the solid leader of the defense at LB after collecting 104 tackles as a sophomore last fall, and Derek Heyden is a solid tackler out of the secondary. Brent Russell provided major edge rush ability as he recorded 8 sacks last fall at DE. Russell and DE Roderick Tinsley combined for 34 TFLs last fall, so getting passed the line of scrimmage is a nightmare for most backs. Heyden and Laron Scott are major play makers in the secondary, as they combined for 15 defended passes in 2010. Scott picked off 6 passes on the season.
With a solid defense, and a grinding offense led by Shaw and Brown, the Eagles could make this their year to return to glory not seen since the days of Tracy Ham. GSU is very dangerous.
Season Opener: 9/3 @ Samford

Samford Bulldogs
2010 Record: 4-7
The Bulldogs have to be wondering why they ever left the Ohio Valley Conference at this point. This league has been a meat grinder for Samford, and the likelihood of pushing into the top tier in 2011 is doubtful at best. Dustin Taliafaro returns at QB, but he brought nothing to the table in 2010, and he recorded a 5/9 ratio as a junior. Chris Evans is gone at RB, and that is huge. Fabian Truss leads the way to replace him, but that's a huge job. Quin Roberson and Kelsey Pope, both sophomores, are slated to start at WR.
The Bulldogs lose their best two tacklers from a very unproductive defense, so huge problems exist that are being addressed in camp. DE Alex Davis does return up front, and he brings 7 sacks with him from his 2010 season. LB Darion Sutton collected 4.5 sacks on the season. Sutton was good for 11 TFLs on the season, while Davis added 10.5. Corey White was a solid pass defender, as he defended 7 passes on the season, however, very little talent around him comes back from last season, leaving him as the only real threat in the back four.
Samford has some nice pieces, but not nearly enough, and they will get overrun quickly by the big boys.
Season Opener: 9/3 Georgia Southern

Western Carolina Catamounts
2010 Record: 2-9
The Catamounts have hit a low point in the history of the program, and there is little hope in an instant revival. It's going to take some serious developmental time to get this program back on track and playing at a level that we know they can.
Zac Brindise is back at QB, but with a 7/9 ratio and only 1405 yards passing to his credit last season, that's hardly fantastic news. Michael Johnson and Nate Harris also return to the RB position, but again, neither stood out as potential game breakers for the Cats last fall. The good news is that solid depth returns at receiver in Deja Alexander, Jaciby Mitchell, and Josh Cockrell.
Rocky Williams and Ricky Schwarz return at LB for WCU, giving the Cats a solid building block in the middle. Trey Selby will be back up front on the line, as he finished last fall with 3.5 sacks. The cats are hoping for major development from him this fall, and are hoping that a major increase in his sack totals comes with the ride. Roland Johnson will lead the charge against the run, as he finished with 8 TFLs last fall.

Wofford Terriers
2010 Record: 10-3
The Terriers took their program to a new level in 2010, and they are looking to make even better strides this season behind bulldozing fullback Eric Breitenstein, who rushed for 1639 yards and 22 TDs on the season out of the option. Breitenstein averaged over 6 yards per carry, and rushed for 126.08 yards per game, good for 5th in the nation. Mitch Allen returns at QB, as he rushed for 681 yards and 4 scores, while passing for 8 TDs. Donovan Johnson will be back as the top halfback out of the triple option. Brenton Bursin gives the Terriers a deep threat when they break out and throw the football.
Amett Pall was a one man show on the line last season, and he brings a fire up front. Pall finished with 12.5 sacks last fall, and was a 1st Team FCS All-Bilo selection. Eric Eberhart will be back on the line as well after complimenting Pall with 5.5 of his own sacks last fall. Pall finished last fall with 22.5 TFLs on the season, making he and Mario Kurn the two most complete DEs in FCS football. Eberhart finished with 10 TFLs to make the Terriers a terror in the trenches. Bake Wylie and Jamar Reaves return in the secondary giving the Terriers two experienced play makers to run the show when anyone dares get by Eberhart and Pall up front. Coleman Hornaday also returns after picking off 3 passes last fall.
Wofford will be right in the mix with GSU, Chattanooga, and App. State this fall, and any of the four could make a play for the SoCon title. Expect a dog fight out of the Terriers this fall.
Season Opener: 9/3 @ Presbyterian

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