2013 ULM football's 10 things to know: How high can you fly?

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In Todd Berry's third year in charge, ULM leaped to eight wins, an upset of Arkansas, and its first ever bowl appearance. With an incredibly experienced squad returning, what might the Warhawks have for an encore?

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. ...and the fourth year?

One of my favorite blurbs from last year's college football season preview series came from the ULM preview:

"The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, the third year it leaps."

That's ULM head coach Todd Berry talking about his program's progression entering his third year on the job. Through two years, I had been pretty enamored of Berry's efforts to win at a place where, historically, you just don't win.

He seemed to have internalized every lesson he learned in four tough years at Army -- his Black Knights went 5-42 in four seasons from 2000-03 -- and realized from the first day that you can't win games at ULM simply trying to out-talent or out-work the other team. You also have to bring something a little unorthodox to the table. In his first year in Monroe, Berry's Warhawks went 5-7, missing out on bowl eligibility by the skin of a 23-22 loss to rival UL-Lafayette. In an injury-plagued 2011 season, ULM sank to 4-8, replete with an 0-3 record in one-possession games. But in 2012, ULM most certainly leaped -- to a shocking, season-opening win over Arkansas (and nearly follow-up wins over Auburn and Baylor), to its first eight-win season at the FBS level, and to its first ever bowl appearance.

In the third year, we saw Berry's vision of ULM Funk, the combination of efficiency, resilience, pace, smack-you-in-the-mouth defense and unorthodox, well, everything that he envisioned during both the sleeping year and the creeping year.

Now what can we expect in his fourth year in charge? A steeper leap? A small peep? A crumbling heap?

2. ULM's offense returns five multi-year starters

Quarterback Kolton Browning has attempted 751 passes and rushed 460 times in his career. Despite missing five games last year, running back Jyruss Edwards has rushed 326 times, caught 57 passes and returned 47 kickoffs. Receivers Je'Ron Hamm, Tavarese Maye and Colby Harper have caught 292 career passes. Center Josh Allen, a second-team all-conference lineman in 2012, has started 30 career games. Tackle Joseph Treadwell has started 25.

There's experience, and there's experience. ULM's offense has the latter. When you've got a uniquely talented, multi-year starter at quarterback, a seasoned hand at running back, and 87 career starts on the offensive line, you can probably expect to improve from one year to the next.

Throw in a defense that returns every defensive lineman and almost every defensive back, and you've got overall depth that a Sun Belt program probably isn't supposed to have.

3. Never forget

This, also from around last year's preview, is too wonderful for words. You've raised the bar high for your 2013 entry video, ULM.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 8-5 | Adj. Record: 7-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 75
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
8-Sep at Arkansas 34-31 W 24.5 - 26.7 L
15-Sep at Auburn 28-31 L 17.8 - 43.6 L
21-Sep Baylor 42-47 L 32.9 - 27.2 W
29-Sep at Tulane 63-10 W 37.2 - 7.3 W
6-Oct at Middle Tennessee 31-17 W 23.8 - 32.4 L
13-Oct Florida Atlantic 35-14 W 26.5 - 20.8 W
20-Oct at Western Kentucky 43-42 W 34.5 - 25.7 W
27-Oct South Alabama 38-24 W 30.5 - 30.2 W
3-Nov UL-Lafayette 24-40 L 33.4 - 32.9 W
8-Nov at Arkansas State 23-45 L 29.7 - 36.1 L
17-Nov North Texas 42-16 W 36.5 - 36.3 W
24-Nov at Florida International 23-17 W 13.3 - 23.7 L
28-Dec vs. Ohio 14-45 L 20.7 - 47.5 L
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 33.8 32 29.2 72
Adj. Points Per Game 27.8 68 30.0 82

4. Ups, downs, ups and downs

The end result of ULM's 2012 season was certainly a net positive, but the fall contained a seemingly infinite number of twists and turns. The Warhawks' most noteworthy results (the first three, basically) did not actually coincide with when ULM was at its best -- the offense kind of scraped by with timeliness (instead of down-to-down proficiency) against Arkansas, and in hindsight, even a decent team should have beaten Auburn; you get no credit for coming close against the Tigers in 2012. ULM plowed through most of its next five games, playing at a wonderfully high level. But Jyruss Edwards was lost for the season with five games remaining, and both the offense and defense limped home down the stretch.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 3 games): Opponent 32.5, ULM 25.1 (minus-7.4)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 6 games): ULM 31.0, Opponent 24.9 (plus-6.1)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 4 games): Opponent 35.9, ULM 25.1 (minus-10.8)

With tight losses to both Auburn and Baylor, the late fade, and a general egg in the Independence Bowl versus Ohio, there was plenty of room for disappointment last fall. Still, 8-5 is still 8-5. And again, ULM was still quite young.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 42 98 91 102
RUSHING 87 95 103 86
PASSING 27 101 79 106
Standard Downs 107 115 100
Passing Downs 77 47 92
Redzone 57 54 55
Q1 Rk 89 1st Down Rk 102
Q2 Rk 98 2nd Down Rk 92
Q3 Rk 103 3rd Down Rk 56
Q4 Rk 41

5. How far can efficiency take you?

Between pace and the fact that ULM didn't face many good defenses, the Warhawks put up pretty gaudy per-game yardage numbers, even with the late fade. But when you adjust for opponent, ULM was better at one thing than any other: efficient passing. ULM's success rates were lovely, especially when it came to passing on passing downs. Quarterbacks tend to receive a lot of the credit for making plays on such downs, which means that Kolton Browning's return in 2013 could lead to another fall of rabbits getting pulled out of hats. But still, a few more big plays wouldn't hurt. Big plays give you margin for error, and when Jyruss Edwards went down, ULM lost all of the margin it had.

Perhaps the best thing for ULM this spring could be the figurative move of Je'Ron Hamm to the No. 1 receiver spot and the further emergence of sophomore running back DeVontae McNeal. Hamm averaged nearly 15 yards per catch while complementing possession options like Brent Leonard, Tavarese Maye and Colby Harper (combined: 10.3 yards per catch), while McNeal, the rare three-star signee for Berry, tantalized in minimal opportunities. He rushed 10 times for 114 yards in garbage time against Tulane, and he broke off a 54-yard score in his lone carry versus North Texas. Efficiency is good, but if these players (or anybody else, of course) can add a little bit more explosiveness to ULM's offense, the Warhawks could be devastating.

(By the way, we can see the potential benefit to efficiency and the simple ability to stay on the field longer in ULM's fourth-quarter numbers. The Warhawks' offense was easily at its best late in games, and the defense was at its best in the first and fourth quarters. ULM had a winning record in one-possession games, and one could pretty easily correlate that success to solid fourth-quarter play and the Warhawks' ability to keep their defense fresh while wearing opponents out.)

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Kolton Browning 6'1, 203 Sr. ** (5.2) 273 428 3,049 63.8% 29 10 23 5.1% 6.4
Cody Wells


66 103 700 64.1% 4 4 4 3.7% 6.3
Brayle Brown 6'2, 195 So. ** (5.3) 2 5 12 40.0% 0 1 0 0.0% 2.4
Bivins Caraway 6'0, 200 Fr. ** (5.4)








Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Kolton Browning QB 6'1, 203 Sr. ** (5.2) 123 632 5.1 4.5 0 +4.2
Jyruss Edwards RB 5'11, 191 Sr. ** (5.3) 99 438 4.4 4.7 0 -5.1
Monterrell Washington RB 5'10, 197 Sr. ** (5.2) 81 354 4.4 6.2 0 -2.1
Mitchell Bailey RB 32 156 4.9 6.4 0 +0.5
Centarius Donald RB 6'1, 220 Sr. ** (5.2) 26 135 5.2 6.5 0 +0.4
DeVontae McNeal RB 5'10, 209 So. *** (5.6) 19 198 10.4 13.5 0 +9.7
Cody Wells QB 8 30 3.8 3.1 0 -0.7
Tavarese Maye WR 6'0, 181 Sr. ** (5.0) 6 45 7.5 5.8 0 +0.6
Brayle Brown QB 6'2, 195 So. ** (5.3) 5 21 4.2 3.7 0 -0.8

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Brent Leonard WR 141 104 1118 73.8% 7.9 27.5% 61.0% 7.9 114.1
Je'Ron Hamm WR 6'3, 220 Sr. ** (5.3) 101 62 915 61.4% 9.1 19.7% 60.4% 9.1 93.4
Tavarese Maye WR 6'0, 178 Sr. ** (5.0) 87 56 612 64.4% 7.0 17.0% 57.5% 7.0 62.5
Colby Harper WR 6'0, 177 Jr. ** (5.3) 49 29 303 59.2% 6.2 9.6% 55.1% 6.1 30.9
Rashon Ceaser WR 6'0, 182 So. NR 31 20 262 64.5% 8.5 6.0% 51.6% 8.3 26.7
Keavon Milton TE 27 14 146 51.9% 5.4 5.3% 81.5% 5.3 14.9
Jyruss Edwards RB 5'11, 191 Sr. ** (5.3) 19 12 157 63.2% 8.3 3.7% 78.9% 6.4 16.0
Cortney Davis RB 5'9, 181 So. NR 14 12 92 85.7% 6.6 2.7% 64.3% 6.6 9.4
Tony Cook WR 6'4, 185 So. ** (5.3) 9 5 29 55.6% 3.2 1.8% 44.4% 3.2 3.0
Monterrell Washington RB 8 6 56 75.0% 7.0 1.6% 62.5% 7.2 5.7
Mitchell Bailey RB 8 7 21 87.5% 2.6 1.6% 62.5% 2.6 2.1
Kevin Steed TE 6'2, 228 Sr. ** (5.1) 6 6 14 100.0% 2.3 1.2% 100.0% 1.4 1.4
Harley Scioneaux TE 6'5, 247 So. ** (5.4) 4 4 16 100.0% 4.0 0.8% 75.0% 5.0 1.6
Kenzee Jackson WR 5'9, 180 Jr. NR








Alec Osborne WR 6'2, 221 RSFr. ** (5.4)








Ajalen Holley WR 5'9, 180 RSFr. ** (5.3)








Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 93.3 2.78 3.07 35.5% 69.8% 20.3% 105.0 4.3% 5.2%
Rank 99 89 75 101 55 86 61 54 42
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Jonathan Gill RG 47 career starts; 2012 2nd All-Sun Belt
Josh Allen C 6'3, 302 Sr. *** (5.7) 30 career starts; 2012 2nd All-Sun Belt
Joseph Treadwell LT 6'5, 308 Jr. ** (5.2) 25 career starts
Jon Fisher LG 6'3, 296 Jr. ** (5.3) 14 career starts
Demiere Burkett RT 6'2, 294 Jr. ** (5.2) 13 career starts
Ben Risenhoover RG 6'2, 277 Jr. ** (5.3) 5 career starts
Colby Mitchell C 6'1, 263 So. ** (5.4)
Jeremy Burton RG 6'2, 285 Jr. *** (5.5)
Elliot Hilliard RG 6'3, 266 Jr. ** (5.2)
Jamal Danley LT 6'2, 294 RSFr. ** (5.3)
Jimmy Chung LG 6'1, 277 RSFr. ** (5.3)
Jack Mervin RT 6'4, 278 RSFr. ** (5.3)
Chase Regian OL 6'3, 274 Fr. ** (5.4)
Michael Oubre OL 6'1, 283 Fr. ** (5.4)

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 42 80 85 79
RUSHING 87 69 77 65
PASSING 27 75 87 73
Standard Downs 43 63 34
Passing Downs 114 109 117
Redzone 102 80 113
Q1 Rk 58 1st Down Rk 60
Q2 Rk 102 2nd Down Rk 83
Q3 Rk 88 3rd Down Rk 98
Q4 Rk 62

6. Form a cloud

ULM's offense wasn't amazingly explosive, but the Warhawks and coordinator Troy Reffett's 3-3-5 defense made sure that opponents weren't either. ULM suffered all sorts of glitches on passing downs, in terms of both allowing opponents to move the chains and leaking a few too many big plays, but they were confusing and efficient early in downs. The 3-3-5 certainly allows you the speed to form a cloud in front of a given play and swarm to the ball, and ULM had the depth to pull this off in 2012.

Unfortunately, the numbers below suggest that the aggressiveness the Warhawks brought to the table on passing downs was rather misguided. ULM ranked 14th in the country in Adj. Line Yards on standard downs -- a tremendous ranking considering the size of the players involved -- but ranked an egregious 113th on passing downs, which suggests that they were too pre-occupied with getting to the quarterback and left open some large running lanes on draw plays.

In 2013, the primary task for the defense has to be either developing play-makers who can get to the quarterback without sacrificing run efficiency, or adapting their approach to passing downs. Rarely will you find a dichotomy as stark as ULM's when it comes to standard and passing downs. This simply must improve.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 101.6 2.51 3.82 37.7% 67.2% 20.9% 93.6 4.2% 5.6%
Rank 52 14 113 50 56 38 74 74 78
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Gerrand Johnson NT 6'0, 286 So. *** (5.6) 13 39.0 5.3% 6 4 0 0 2 0
Malcolm Edmond DE 6'1, 268 Jr. ** (5.2) 13 34.0 4.6% 5.5 1.5 0 0 0 0
Joey Gautney DE 6'1, 232 Jr. ** (5.3) 13 30.0 4.0% 5.5 1.5 0 2 0 0
Emanuel Jefferies DE 6'3, 284 Sr. ** (5.1) 13 7.5 1.0% 2.5 1.5 0 1 0 0
Darius Lively DE 6'3, 246 Jr. ** (5.4) 13 7.0 0.9% 1.5 1.5 1 0 1 0
Kentarius Caldwell NT 6'2, 258 Sr. ** (5.2) 5 6.0 0.8% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Jackson Randle DE 6'1, 238 So. ** (5.4) 3 1.5 0.2% 1.5 1.5 0 0 1 0
Lorenzo Jackson DE 6'2, 213 So. NR 3 1.5 0.2% 1 0 0 0 0 0
John Nard NT 6'0, 281 Jr. ** (5.3)
Everett Anderson DE 6'4, 230 Fr. ** (5.4)
David Elias DE 6'2, 257 Fr. ** (5.4)






7. ULM's defensive line could be very, very good

Every lineman who made even 1.0 tackles in 2012 returns. The line -- well, the front six, really -- held up very well against the run when its opponent had to run, and there's no reason to think that won't be the case again in 2013. The star in 2012 was then-freshman Gerrand Johnson, a one-time Missouri signee who led the line in tackling and tackles for loss despite serving as the nose of a three-man line, but he might not even be in line to start with the return of Kentarius Caldwell from injury. The line's pass rush could certainly stand to improve (only Johnson had more than 1.5 sacks), but the experience level here is outstanding.

The question, then, becomes this: How much will ULM miss linebackers R.J. Young and DaCorris Ford? All three of ULM's starting linebackers logged at least 10.5 tackles for loss, but while junior Ray Stovall (13.5 tackles for loss, three sacks) returns, Young and Ford do not. Some exciting options return -- Cameron Blakes was a starter until he was lost for the season after three games, while sophomores Michael Johnson, Hunter Kissinger and Cody Robinson all showed decent playmaking potential in limited opportunities; of their combined 41.0 tackles, eight were behind the line of scrimmage. If the linebacking corps can hold steady, a wonderfully experienced front three and back five (seven of the top eight defensive backs return) should ensure overall defensive improvement in 2013.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
R.J. Young LB 13 71.0 9.6% 11 0 1 2 1 3
Ray Stovall LB 6'2, 224 Jr. ** (5.4) 13 53.0 7.1% 13.5 3 0 1 0 1
DaCorris Ford LB 13 44.0 5.9% 10.5 3 3 2 0 0
Michael Johnson LB 6'1, 213 So. ** (5.4) 13 15.5 2.1% 2.5 0 0 0 0 0
Cameron Blakes LB 6'1, 227 Sr. ** (5.4) 3 15.0 2.0% 2 1 0 0 0 0
Hunter Kissinger LB 6'2, 219 So. ** (5.2) 13 14.5 2.0% 4 2 0 0 0 1
Cody Robinson LB 6'0, 209 So. ** (5.3) 13 11.0 1.5% 1.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Austin Moss LB 6'2, 222 Sr. *** (5.5) 9 3.0 0.4% 0 1 0 0 0 0

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Vincent Eddie CB 5'8, 152 Sr. ** (5.4) 13 60.0 8.1% 2 0 1 3 0 0
Cordero Smith S 5'11, 191 Jr. ** (5.2) 13 58.5 7.9% 0 0 1 4 2 0
Rob'Donovan Lewis CB 5'10, 175 Jr. NR 13 58.0 7.8% 0.5 0 2 8 0 2
Henry Mitchell HB 13 54.0 7.3% 3 1 1 2 1 0
Isaiah Newsome S 5'11, 191 Sr. ** (5.1) 13 46.5 6.3% 1.5 0 4 5 0 1
Mitch Lane HB 6'0, 204 So. NR 8 29.0 3.9% 2 1 1 4 0 1
Trey Caldwell CB 5'9, 184 So. NR 13 13.5 1.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Otis Peterson CB 5'11, 161 Sr. ** (5.1) 13 11.0 1.5% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Brandon Hardy S 13 8.5 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Preston Coleman S 5'8, 168 Sr. NR 13 8.0 1.1% 0 0 1 3 0 0
Roland Veal S 6'1, 192 Jr. ** (5.2) 13 6.0 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Alex Johnson HB 5'10, 188 RSFr. ** (5.4)
Lenzy Pipkins S 5'11, 191 RSFr. *** (5.5)
Grant Dotsy DB 5'10, 165 Fr. ** (5.4)
Jarred Dunn DB 6'0, 190 Fr. ** (5.4)
Marquis McCullum DB 6'0, 177 Fr. ** (5.4)

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Justin Manton 6'2, 190 Jr. 48 39.8 3 17 19 75.0%
Conner Fryoux 5'8, 185 Jr. 6 33.7 0 2 3 83.3%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Justin Manton 6'2, 190 Jr. 71 60 22 31.0%
Conner Fryoux 5'8, 185 Jr. 1 48 0 0.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Justin Manton 6'2, 190 Jr. 57-58 4-6 66.7% 1-3 33.3%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Cortney Davis KR 5'9, 181 So. 34 22.0 0
Mitchell Bailey KR 4 19.2 0
Brent Leonard PR 17 8.2 0
Tyler Cain PR 5'8, 183 Jr. 3 1.7 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 78
Net Punting 69
Net Kickoffs 85
Touchback Pct 77
Field Goal Pct 113
Kick Returns Avg 61
Punt Returns Avg 89

8. Field position and finishing drives

ULM was great at finishing drives in 2012; the Warhawks ranked 98th overall in Off. S&P+ but 57th in the red zone. Meanwhile, they ranked a healthy 40th in Field Position Advantage. If you can both create more opportunities than your opponent and take full advantage of them, that's a pretty clear, almost cliched path to victory.

We've already discussed the offense's ridiculous experience; it certainly bears mentioning that the strength of ULM's 2012 special teams unit -- every ULM punt was all but guaranteed to result in a fair catch or a down inside the 20 -- should once again be a strength. The return game may have some work to do, but at worst, the special teams unit should hold steady. And hey, since Berry doesn't really elect to kick field goals (nine field goal attempts, 35 fourth-down conversion attempts; they were the anti-Michigan State, basically), it probably doesn't really matter that the Warhawks weren't very good at it last year.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2012 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug at Oklahoma 7
7-Sep Grambling State NR
14-Sep at Wake Forest 76
21-Sep at Baylor 36
28-Sep Tulane 111
? Arkansas State 64
? Georgia State 125
? South Alabama 119
? Texas State 107
? Troy 102
? UL-Lafayette 78
? Western Kentucky 94
Five-Year F/+ Rk 100
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 116
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* +7 / +5.3
TO Luck/Game +0.6
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 17 (8, 9)
Yds/Pt Margin** -1.6

9. Baylor and ULM should play every year.

Just saying. Art Briles versus Todd Berry was incredibly fun in 2012, and there's no reason to think it wouldn't always be fun. This was, after all, the game in which ULM unveiled its short-lived, and glorious, two-QB formation. Can't wait till he goes with three quarterbacks in Waco this year.

10. Funk '13.

If you ask any coach in the country whether he'd rather be the favorite or the underdog, if he was being honest he would almost certainly say he prefers being the favorite. There is nothing easy to life when you are the perpetual underdog, and for most of its FBS existence, ULM has been just that.

There's no telling what ULM's ceiling might be with Todd Berry in charge, but there are pretty good odds that, whatever that ceiling is, we will see it this year. Berry has built a team with depth (in 2010, 62 players dressed out in the spring; in 2013, it's 92), toughness, and quite a bit of funk. And in a realigned, and slightly diluted, Sun Belt Conference, the perpetual underdog could be the conference favorite in 2013. ULM's spring practice begins today. What have you got for an encore, Coach Berry?

More in College Football:

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