Friday, July 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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