Monday, August 15, 2011
Southland Conference 2011 Preview
Central Arkansas Bears
2010 Record: 7-4
The Bears finished strong in 2010 by winning 4 of their final 5 tilts, but fell just short of a playoff birth. This season, the quest begins again to get UCA into their first FCS postseason, and the job on offense falls to Nathan Dick, their senior QB. Dick Passed for 2589 yards last fall, but was limited to just 12 TDs against 7 picks. If UCA is to push it to another level, Dick will have to be a more viable option through the air in the red zone. The Bears went with a young duo at RB last fall, and both backs return in Terrence Bobo and Jackie Hinton. They combined to rush for only 785 yards on the season, so clearly, this scenario is not working well. Dominique Croom returns to start at WR, and Isaiah Jackson should step into the spot vacated by Kenneth Robey.
Frank Newsome and Lamar Moore return at LB for 2011, and Newsome finished with 100 tackles on the season. Justin Heard will take up the third LB spot after having a solid season as a freshman last fall. The Bears return plenty of talent up front as Jermaine Lett and Markeith Gaines both return on the line. That being said, replacing Markell Carter will be a very tough proposition. Newsome and Heard are the best options at getting defenders into the backfield to stop running plays cold. Desmond Wilcox brings a solid play maker to the secondary, as he knocked away 7 passes on the season. Jestin Love led the Southland with 6 picks last fall, and Seth Allison combined for 10 picks last fall, and Radarius Winston and Dominique Brown added 3 more to the mix.
UCA will have an imposing defense this fall, but the offense must get more active behind Nathan Dick. If a run game can produce, the offense may come to where they need to be. The Bears are that close to getting to the postseason.
Season Opener: 9/1 Henderson State
2010 Record: 5-6
Andre Bevil returns at QB after passing for 2013 yards and 14 TDs, but he also tossed 14 picks on the season, and that will have to change for the Cardinals to move above .500 this season. The Cardinals have virtually no run game, so the play of Bevil will be extremely important. JJ Hayes (52-745-6) and Josh Powdrill return this fall to give Bevil two solid targets.
The Cardinals will return their top three tacklers from last fall, so they have some solid blocks to build upon. Asim Hicks returns after collecting 102 tackles last fall at LB, and is joined by LB Jonathon Ekpe and DB Tim Hayter as top tacklers returning. That being said, the Cardinals lose the next 4 tacklers on the list. Hicks and DE Darby Jackson led the team in sacks, while Hicks and Epke led the team in TFLs. The secondary is very thin, so the Cardinals will be vulnerable against the pass.
Lamar is only in their third year of reviving their program, so the fact that they won 5 games last year is pretty outstanding. They won't finish anywhere above last in the Southland, but they have still made very solid progress.
Season Opener: 9/3 Texas College
McNeese State Cowboys
2010 Record: 6-5
The Cowboys will be starting over at QB, making a move up the charts a bit difficult to conceive. Andre Anderson is back at RB after rushing for 855 yards and 5 scores, but with a new QB being broken in, he'll be a very important piece to the plan. Champlain Babin will return as well to serve some depth to the position. Damian Dixon and Wes Briscoe will be starting at WR, but Briscoe is still young. The offense could be in trouble.
DB Darell Jenkins led the Cowboys in tackles last fall with 68, and he returns to the secondary. The Cowboys need support in front of him, and Dustin Lighten (DE) and his 3 sacks will be what he has to rely on. Yikes! Lighten did collect 8.5 TFLs last fall, but there is very little in the way of high power pressure producers around him. Jenkins will be joined by Seth Thomas in the secondary, and the two combined for 10 defended passes last fall. Malcolm Bronson finished with 5 picks last fall, and Jarron Jackson, Kentrell Butler, and Brandon Robinson all picked off passes as well. Butler will be starting at LB.
McNeese will likely hit a slide this season unless someone steps up to explode at QB, and some answers are had at LB. These will be the Achilles heal of the Cowboys 2011 season.
Season Opener: @ Kansas
Nicholls State Colonels
2010 Record: 4-7
The Colonels are trying to make some strides this season, and practice is going well, but there are many issues that need fixing, and the question remains as to how much improvement we can expect to see in 2011. LaQuinton Caston will be back at QB this season, as he passed for just 1095 yards, while posting a not so wonderful 8/9 ratio. Jesse Turner returns at RB as well, and he rushed for 8 scores last season. Turner must increase productivity, as he only rushed for 638 yards. Caston was an aggressive runner, as he rushed for 577 yards and 10 scores. Marcus Washington will provide depth, but only carried 49 times last fall. Kenyad Blair returns as the leading receiver, but only caught 29 passes on the season.
The Colonels fail to return any tacklers who finished in the Southland top 25. Warren Lennix finished with 4 sacks at DE, and Rashar Knight return on the line. The Colonels also struggled to make plays behind the line last fall, and they lack any real play makers up front. Chika Madu returns after posting 12 defended passes last fall. Bobby Felder returns after defending 7 passes, while Brian Lewis added 4. Felder picked off 4 passes as well.
NSU is making some moves, but there are still far too many holes, and there are some serious issues to fix before the season starts. I see no movement.
Season Opener: 9/1 Evangel
Northwestern State Demons
2010 Record: 5-6
The Demons made a major move out of the cellar last fall, as they improved from zero to five wins in one season. Paul Harris returns at QB after passing for 1821 yards and 13 TDs, but he still tossed 10 picks. He will have to keep working on those numbers and improving his accuracy and decision making skills. NSU used three different backs last fall, and nobody stood out. Serling Endsley, Rumeall Morris, and Sidney Riley all return, but someone needs to step up and make some plays. Bradley Brown and TC Henry both return at WR, and TE Justin Aldridge returns as well to bring an added dimension.
LB Derek Rose had a huge sophomore season, as he led the SLC with 121 tackles on the season. Yaser Elqutub will be back to join him at LB, but he was not nearly as active as Rose was. Rose was the only real force the Demons had up front last fall, as he collected 8 TFLs, but he has no support, and there is no pass rush. Jeremy Lane was solid in the secondary last fall, as he defended 9 passes. Cortez Paige, Jamaal White, and Brashard Booker also stepped up big to combine for 16, with White being good for 3 picks on the season.
The Demons have the ability to step up and be a top tier club, but they have to execute, and that is going to tell where NSU can elevate to. The window is still wide open.
Season Opener: 9/1 Delta State
Sam Houston State Bearkats
2010 Record: 6-5
This is a very good program, but they stumbled last fall, and they are in a spot now where they must bounce back because the conference is totally winnable. The Bearkats went very young at QB last fall, as Brian Bell started as a freshman. Bell struggled at times, and passed for 1381 yards, and his ratio of 7/4 was not what you want out of your QB, but he is learning, and he's going to likely get better. Tim Flanders broke out last fall, and he can still get better. Flanders rushed for 948 yards and 13 TDs, but that was good enough to finish 1st in the conference. Converted DB Richard Sincere provides depth behind Flanders, but I am looking for Flanders to blow up in 2011. The Bearkats do return their top 3 receivers in Seth Patterson, Kevin Matthews, and Melvis Pride. The offense should get out to a fast jump with so much returning talent coming back.
Darnell Taylor and Kenneth Jenkins were the top two tacklers a season ago, and both return, which is great news. What's bad is that they are both DBs, meaning that the Kats got no support from the front seven. DE JT Cleveland finished wth 4 sacks, as did LB Will Henry, and LB Eric Fiello picked up 3 sacks. Henry finished with 11.5 TFLs, but where was he on the average plays? Bookie Sneed was our Southland DB of the Year in the SLC, and also made our national team, and was only a freshman. Sneed defended 16 passes on the season and is a guy that you need to throw away from. Jenkins picked off 3 passes, so you don't want to throw in his general direction either.
The offense should break out, and the D line and the secondary are solid. I worry about the LBs and their ability to make the every play tackle. This could be a really nice season for the Kats if they can work out that one detail.
Season Opener: 9/1 Western Illinois
Southeast Louisiana Lions
2010 Record: 2-9
The Lions are a confusing program. They started to show some progress for a time, and now they are a sinking ship. I don't know how to take them anymore. They are virtually starting over again at QB, and there is no clue as to where to go with the opening, as they received very little in experience last fall. Sam Fairly and Zeke Jones shared the load at RB, and while they didn't do a bunch on a yardage basis, and one of them certainly knew how to score, as Jones rushed for 8 scores. Fairly only saw the end zone once. The Lions do, however, possess good depth at WR, as their top three return in Brandon Collins (56-875-4), Simmie Yarbrough (60-709-9), and Kory Theodore (34-622-4).
The Lions are starting over again on defense, as they lose their top 4 tacklers from 2010. Where the Lions will get some strength from is on the D Line, as they return Devan Walker, Devin Boutwell, and Lindsey Leavoy. That group combined for 10 sacks last fall. Leavoy finished with 9.5 TFLs on the season, while Boutwell added another 7.5. Walker added another 8 to the pot, so the line should be all set, barring injuries. The secondary loses their top 4 play makers, so depth is going to be a serious problem.
With the depth issues at LB and DB, this defense could be a real disaster this season. The same could be said for whomever wins the QB job, but at least he will have something to work with, as that receiving corps is solid. The defense will give it away. Another losing season on the horizon.
Season Opener: 9/3 @ Tulane
Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
2010 Record: 9-3
SFA hammered their way through the season ti win the race for a playoff birth, and then squandered it away at home in a humiliating loss to Villanova. Gone is Bilo QB of the Year Jeremy Moses, and the job now turns to either Brady Attaway or Dalton Williams, both of whom will likely get snaps in the opener. Don't count out sophomore Garrett Riley either. Romont Hampton returns to start at RB, and he should see increased activity with the QB situation brewing the way that it is. He is much more important this season. Jeremy Barnes returns as well, and could push for carries. Whomever wins that QB job will have a strong stable of receivers to pass to, including two of the best in the game in Cordell Robinson (61-1011-16) and Gralyn Crawford (74-981-5). Kris Lott and Anthony Foster will help spread the field for the Jacks.
LB Devin Ducote will step into the lead role at LB this season after collecting 114 tackles last fall. Derrick Choice, who finished with 86 tackles, will join him at LB. Josh Aubrey and Caleb Nelson are both solid tacklers out of the secondary as well. Malcolm Mattox will take over as the lead lineman after the Jacks lost their two best sack artists from last fall. Mattox is just a sophomore, but is talented. Ducote finished with 10 TFLs last fall, and will be needed to produce at least as much, as so much skill was lost up front. Aubrey was a solid tackler, but is also a dominant cover guy, as he knocked away 10 passes last fall. Josh Hughey, who started as a freshman last season, knocked away 6.
The defense could run into some slippage with the front line decimated as it is, but there is lots of talent at LB and in the secondary to help it along. The loss of Moses is absolutely gigantic, but the skill players are still there, so success is waiting. Until someone knocks them off, SFA is my SLC favorite.
Season Opener: 9/1 McMurry