Sports 56 WHBlog Q

August 14, 2009

C-USA Preview: Cheap Beer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Will Askew @ 2:00 pm

CUSA Eastern–The Less Exciting Division

6.  UAB

On offense:  The team is set at QB.  Senior Joe Webb, while not a great thrower, is a very good runner who is the team’s best offensive weapon.  Other than that, the team lacks playmakers.  They don’t have a good enough running back to be a feature back.  The receivers, while physically gifted (the three top receivers are 6’5, 6’2, and 6’2), are not very productive.  They do have a pretty good o-line, one that has the potential to be one of the best they’ve ever had, led by Matt McCants.  If this team is to win, it will win because it outscores people b/c of Joe Webb’s playmaking ability.

On defense:  Yeesh.  The linemen haven’t been able to generate a push, but sadly, this is probably the strength of the defense.  The linebackers have been decimated by graduation and have very little talent.  While the secondary is a good tackling unit, expect a lot of big plays.  Not good.

Prediction:  The schedule actually sets up pretty well at the beginning, with home games against Rice and SMU–then it’s murder.  2-10 (1-7 C-USA)

Key Player:  The entire defense.  Stop somebody.

Comparison:  Red Dog.  Seriously, even for cheap beer, why the hell are you drinking this?

5.  UCF

On offense:  UCF was last in the nation in offense last year, and it had a lot to do with the QB.  Rob Calabrese was supposed to be the future of the program, but really struggled last year as a freshman.  Brynn Harvey leads a promising young backfield that’s still struggling to replace Kevin Smith.  The receivers have some upside, but drops were a big problem last year.  Much like the rest of the offense, the line is young and unproven, but lost an all-league left tackle.  There’s hope, but this year could be bad.

On defense:  If this team is to win some games, it will be because of their front seven.  The line gets a lot of pressure, with junior Bruce Miller a devastating force.  They’re loaded by C-USA standards at linebacker, but have a durability problem.  In the secondary, however, it’s an adventure.  The Knights are replacing four starters in the defensive backfield.

Prediction:  4-8, 3-5 C-USA

Key Player:  QB.  If Calabrese and the offense can get going, this team could be dangerous in C-USA.

Comparison:  Busch Light.  This is made by Anheuser Busch…why doesn’t it taste better?

4.  Marshall
On offense:  Mark Cann is the leader in the QB controversy, but this is a wide open competition.  The passing game was almost non-existent last year.  The offense is bolstered by the return of Darius Marshall, who should help the offense be somewhat productive.  While the receivers don’t blow anyone away, the tight ends may be among the ten best groups in the country, with cody Slate and Lee Smith.  Even with an immobile QB, the oline was very good in pass protection last year.

On defense:  Albert McClellan, former CUSA defensive player of the year, returns from an ACL tear that kept him out last year.  Michael Janac is also very solid on the other end.  At LB, senior Mario Harvey, the team’s leading tackler, returns.  They should, however, be vulnerable in the passing game, as the corners struggled to cover last year.

Prediction:  6-6, 4-4 CUSA

Key Player:  QB.  Again, if they can get any production from the QB, they’ll be extremely solid.

Comparison:  Heileman’s Old Style.  Popular in certain places, but generally, you wake up with a terrible taste in your mouth the next day and there’s lots of regret.

3.  Memphis

On offense:  You know the deal…good skill players like Duke Calhoun, Carlos Singleton, and Curtis Steele, a decent QB in Arkelon Hall.  The offensive line, though, is a major question mark.  Rick Mallory is a very good coach, but is forced into replacing four starters on a good unit.  If this team is to fulfill its potential on offense, Hall must play more consistently and the o-line has to grow up quickly.

On offense:  Clinton McDonald is gone, so there’s a huge question as to where the pass rush is coming from.  Justin Thompson should be a starter before long on the line.  The linebackers are the strength of the defense, with Greg Jackson the defense’s top player, and Derrick Odom and Jamon Hughes ready to make an impact.  Alton Starr and Deron Furr should be good safeties, but at corner, they’re very suspect.  Special teams, as it has been since Gostkowski left, is going to be an adventure.

Prediction:  6-6, 4-4 CUSA

Key Player:  O-line.

Comparison:  Southpaw.  Lots of hops, but always disappoints you in the end.  Gives you a terrible headache.

2.  Southern Miss

On offense:  Explosive.  A lot hinges on the return of stud WR DeAndre Brown, who shouldn’t be in this league.  Damion Fletcher may be the a big numbers guy, because he’s not.  What he is is a good decision maker who never gets most underrated back in the country, and Austin Davis is a good, solid QB.  The problems could be on the offensive line, where they struggled in pass protection last year.  Altogether, an extremely skilled unit.

On defense:  Anthony Gray is a great DT, but the ends finished 93rd in the nation in sacks last year.  At LB, Korey Williams is the best player, but they have to replace a current NFLer and a three year starter.  In the secondary, they could be the league’s best pass defense and are very good at not giving up big plays.

Prediction:  9-3, 6-2 CUSA

Key Player:  DeAndre Brown.  The key to their season is his health.

Comparison:  PBR.  One of the best cheap beers out there.  A good value for the price.

1.  East Carolina

On offense:  Getting Patrick Pinckney back is huge.  Not that Pinkney is rattled.  The top three rushers from last season either left the program, graduated, or are suspended.  However, Brandon Jackson has a really good set of tools.  At receiver, they’re loaded.  Jamar Bryant is great after returning from suspension.  Dwayne Harris makes plays as well.  The Pirates also have one of the league’s best o-lines.

On defense:  CJ Wilson leads a group of linemen that could play in the ACC.  Best d-line in CUSA.  The linebackers are an extremely mobile group that should thrive behind the d-line, and the secondary, along with Southern Miss, is the best in CUSA.

Prediction:  9-3, 7-1 CUSA

Key Player:  Running back.

Comparison:  Miller High Life.  Clearly the Champagne of Beers.

CUSA West-May Not Be Great, but It Will Be Exciting

If nothing else, the C-USA West should be really fun to watch (except for Tulane), with sort of a Big 12 South-Lite thing working.  Explosive offenses should be the norm in this division.

6.  Tulane

On offense:  At QB, there’s no clear leader.  Joe Kemp is the leader at this point, but Kevin Moore is the incumbent, though he struggled last year.  Andre Anderson is a really solid back who would have been among the nation’s leading rushers if not for a shoulder injury.  Jeremy Williams is a stud wideout, but is also coming off a season-ending injury.  The o-line, though, is replacing its two best players and is weak in the interior.

On defense:  Tulane didn’t stop the run very well last year, but should be more disruptive this fall.  The linebackers are active, but lack size.  Chinonso Echebelem leads the secondary, which is pretty good as not giving up big plays.  However, they play extremely soft coverage, which leads to third down and red zone struggles.  There’s a reason that Bob Toledo has had three DCs in three years.

Prediction:  2-10, 1-7 CUSA

Key Player:  QB.  Must get some production.

Comparison:  Milwaukee’s Best Ice…seriously.  What the hell?  Why?

5.  Rice

On offense:  They have to replace Chase Clement and Jerrett Dillard, one of the best QB-WR combos in the history of college football.  JT Shepard, Bama transfer Nick Fanuzzi, and freshman Ryan Lewis all have a shot at replacing Clement.  The running backs are almost a non factor in this passing offense.  Toren Dixon returns at wideout from last year, but they lost two NFLers.  And on the o-line, they have to replace three starters.  Rebuilding is the word that comes to mind.

On defense:  Scott Solomon leads a very solid defensive line, especially at the end position.  Terrane Garmon is an athletic, undersized LB who should make plays.  And in the secondary, a lot of experience returns, but that may be a negative after the Owls finished 110th nationally in yds allowed last year.

Prediction:  2-10, 2-6 CUSA

Key player:  The replacements for Clement and Dillard.

Comparison:  Icehouse.  Went through a little flare in popularity for a minute there, but is now back to being where it belongs.  Not in your refrigerator.

4.  SMU

On offense:  Expect a lot of improvement.  Soph QB Bo Levi Mitchell was thrust into starting as a true freshman, and responded with good numbers, but a ton of turnovers.  He should improve a lot this year.  Much like Rice, the ground game is an afterthought, with Rice last in the country in rushing with 41 yards a game.  Emmanuel Sanders and Aldrick Robinson lead a talented group of receivers.  On the o-line, there are a lot of freshmen and sophomores.  The Mustangs will put up better numbers, but must cut down on the turnovers.

On defense:  The Mustangs will switch to a 3-4 alignment this year, partially because they’re defensive linemen aren’t very good.  Taylor Thompson, though, does have a nice ceiling.  Youri Yenga is a nice linebacker, moving there from end last year.  And though the Mustangs bring back nine letterwinners in the secondary, but said secondary was one of the worst pass defenses in the country last year.

Prediction:  5-7, 3-5 CUSA

Key Player:  O-line.  They must give Mitchell time to throw to avoid turnovers.

Comparison:  Olde English 800.  Tastes bad, but somehow maintains street cred and is kind of endearing in a way.

3.  UTEP

On offense:  Junior Chase Vittatoe could be the best QB to ever play at UTEP.  He’s one of the more underrated players in America, but after him, there’s nothing at QB.  At runnung back, Donald Buckram and Leilyon Myers are solid, but the Miners averaged only 122 yds/game last year.  Kris Adams and Jeff Moturi could be one of the best WR tandems in America that no one has ever heard of.  Four starters return on the o-line, but the lone loss is all league center Robby Felix, a four year starter.  This unit should put up a lot of points.

On defense:  This is where the Miners will struggle, especially on the defensive line.  Five lettermen are gone on a unit that got manhandled regularly in ’08.  Losing Adam Vincent is really going to hut the linebacking corps, which has no proven players other than Royzell Smith.  The defensive backfield has given up a ton over the years, but returns Braxton Amy from a season ending injury last year and also Da’Mon Cromartie Smith at safety.  At corner, Cornelius Brown returns, an all league performer from last year.

Prediction:  7-5, 5-3 CUSA

Key Player:  Defensive line.  They need to stop getting manhandled and putting pressure on the rest of their defense.

Comparison:  Keystone Light.  Comparatively, not that bad.  Doesn’t give you bitter beer face.

2.  Tulsa

On offense:  Jacob Bower and GJ Kinne are competing for what may be the best QB job in America this side of Texas Tech.  They will have to replace David Johnson, though.  At running back, Jamad Williams returns to replace Tarrion Adams.  Shockingly, Tulsa ran the ball the thirs most in the country last year, even with Gus Malzahn as the coordinator.  Damaris Johnson, Slick Shelley, and Trae Johnson make up one of the conference’s best receiving corps.  At o-line, the team must replace three starters, including an all-league player.  Should still be good, but maybe not as.

On defense:  The line graduated 2/3 of its starters from last season.  Wilson Garrison is a solid nose guard though.  Mike Bryan returns to anchor a good linebacking corps that is the strength of the defense.  James Lockett was an all-CUSA performer at safety last year, but the secondary remains an area where the Hurricane is extremely shaky.

Prediction:  7-5, 5-3 CUSA

Key Player:  QB.  Replacing David Johnson is huge.

Comparison:   Colt .45.  Just sounds cool.  Doesn’t taste that great, but drinking it conveys being Billy dee Williams.

1.  Houston

On offense:  It’s not that big of a stretch to say that QB Case Keenum is a Heisman contender.  He had over 5000 yds and 50 touchdowns last year and fisnihed #9 in the country in pass efficiency.  Bryce Beall ran for over 1000 yards last year in a pass-first offense, so the ground game is on solid footing as well.  Tyrone Carrier and Chaz Rodriguez anchor one of CUSA’s best receiving corps.  The only question mark is on the rebuilt offensive line.

On defense:  This is the group that could prevent them from winning the conference.  The defensive line is in a terrible state, while Marcus McGraw is a solid returning linebacker in a group that could be a strength of the defense.  The secondary, meanwhile, was very shaky last year, but Brandon Brinkley is one of the league’s better cover corners.

Prediction:  9-3, 7-1 CUSA

Key Player:  D-line.  Must remedy this crisis.

Comparison:  MGD.  One step below High Life, but still very drinkable.

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