The big 2014 ULM football preview: There's always another hurdle

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

ULM struggled to get rolling in 2013. The offense cratered, in part because of injuries, and the defense couldn't pick up the slack. The Warhawks have one of the country's most experienced two-deeps in 2014 but must replace their long-time starting quarterback. Can they rebound?

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. Hey, coach

From September 2012 to August 2013, I spent a lot of time talking about UL-Monroe. From the amazing intro video to the underdog masterpiece to the two-quarterback formation to the first bowl bid in school history, Todd Berry's Warhawks did plenty to generate attention for themselves, considering their status as the most low-budget, no-history team in FBS.

"We don’t play up the underdog thing very much. We have a sign that players see every day; it says ‘I didn’t come here to play, I came here to win.’ A lot of players in programs like this, they think that going into a game as the underdog means it’s a win if we play it close. You don’t play to your potential like that.

It’s hard to break out of the norm as a coach – if you’re outside of the norm, you get fired if it doesn’t work. I wasn’t as risky at Army as I was here. [...] Here’s the one thing I learned from Army: Go win the games. Don’t worry about what the general’s going to say. I’m not worried about my job anymore – I’m just trying to win the game."

That's what Berry told me last year in an interview for my book, Study Hall. In four years in Monroe, Berry has tried to install a favorite's mindset while using whatever underdog tactics he can find to even the playing field. Because of academic standards, money, history, facilities, etc., recruiting is pretty difficult.

But in his third year, he engineered one of the most fun, memorable 8-5 seasons on record. ULM returned quite a few key pieces in 2013, and I was convinced the Warhawks were ready to compete for a conference title.

But injuries led to a drastic downturn in the passing game, the run game couldn't pick up enough slack, and the offense cratered. ULM needed a late upset win to get back to .500, and after an Independence Bowl bid in 2012, no bid awaited in 2013.

Must Reads

2. Clear one hurdle, approach another

One of my go-to sayings is "Improvement isn't linear." Just because you improved one year doesn't mean you're guaranteed to do it again, even if you've got experience on your side. You're just a couple of bad breaks away from losing your momentum, and even a positive long-term trend is not without setbacks.

ULM lost quite a bit of its momentum last fall, and while a .500 record is nothing to scoff at in Monroe -- the Warhawks have been .500 or better in just four of 20 seasons since their move to FBS in 1994 -- it wasn't quite what the program had in mind.

The 2014 Warhawks are wonderfully experienced once again, which could point to another step forward. But the progress of a new offensive backfield, not to mention another daunting non-conference schedule, could limit growth to about seven wins or so.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 6-6 | Adj. Record: 3-9 | Final F/+ Rk: 109
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
31-Aug at Oklahoma 20 0-34 L 3.0 - 26.3 L
7-Sep Grambling State N/A 48-10 W 31.4 - 24.7 W
14-Sep at Wake Forest 81 21-19 W 23.1 - 33.5 L
21-Sep at Baylor 7 7-70 L 15.4 - 35.5 L
28-Sep Tulane 70 14-31 L 20.2 - 30.3 L -11.5
3-Oct Western Kentucky 77 10-31 L 24.0 - 32.2 L -8.4
12-Oct at Texas State 107 21-14 W 8.2 - 25.5 L -13.2
26-Oct Georgia State 121 38-10 W 30.6 - 18.7 W -8.7
31-Oct at Troy 105 49-37 W 27.8 - 28.1 L -4.8
9-Nov Arkansas State 90 14-42 L 19.3 - 29.5 L -4.8
23-Nov at South Alabama 68 14-36 L 16.6 - 29.3 L -5.7
30-Nov at UL-Lafayette 86 31-28 W 30.2 - 28.2 W -1.9
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ -11.2% 104 -6.9% 90 -5.3% 121
Points Per Game 22.3 101 30.2 84
Adj. Points Per Game 20.8 114 28.5 71

3. Too little, too late

First, the offense was disappointing. Then, in the absence of quarterback Kolton Browning, it was devastated.

In the Warhawks' first four games against FBS competition, they averaged just 295 yards and 11 points per game. A year after upsetting Arkansas and nearly doing the same to Baylor, they were beaten by Oklahoma and Baylor by a combined 104-7 margin. They did go to Wake Forest and knock off the Demon Deacons, but the results just weren't there overall. And against Tulane, Browning suffered a torn quadricep. At first, it was assumed that he was lost for the season, but he was back after missing just two games.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 5 games): Opponent 30.1, ULM 18.6 (minus-11.5)
Adj. Points Per Game (two games without Browning): Opponent 28.9, ULM 16.1 (minus-12.8)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 5 games): Opponent 26.8, ULM 24.9 (minus-1.9)

ULM was able to beat Texas State without Browning despite almost no offense whatsoever (192 total yards), but while the results were still a bit scattershot when he returned, the Warhawks showed at least a little bit more promise. But things never really came together as expected despite a defense that improved a bit as the year progressed. ULM couldn't find a possession weapon to replace departed Brent Leonard, and without Browning carrying as much of the load, the running game struggled.

Basically all of the important pieces besides Browning return in 2014. We'll see if that's for better or for worse.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.17 49 IsoPPP+ 97.2 80
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 37.0% 112 Succ. Rt. + 85.9 110
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 31.3 94 Def. FP+ 99.4 66
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.9 97 Redzone S&P+ 93.4 87
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 18.4 ACTUAL 23 +4.6
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 99 109 111 100
RUSHING 107 112 113 108
PASSING 60 108 91 81
Standard Downs 117 115 119
Passing Downs 73 70 31
Q1 Rk 95 1st Down Rk 122
Q2 Rk 103 2nd Down Rk 108
Q3 Rk 84 3rd Down Rk 59
Q4 Rk 125

4. The big plays were big enough

Offense can basically be broken down into two pieces: How frequently are you generating solid gains, and how big are those solid gains?

For ULM in 2013, the latter wasn't a problem. Four different Warhawks had at least one carry of at least 50 yards, and five caught a pass of at least 40. When players got into the open field, they took full advantage. The problem was that their opportunities were minimal. Browning completed just 57 percent of his passes (down from 64 percent in 2012), and backup Brayle Brown completed just 52 percent; plus, the ULM running game ranked just 113th in Success Rate+.

In 2014, three of the four explosive running backs (Centarius Donald, DeVontae McNeal, and Nathan Meadors, Jr.) return, as do four of the five with long catches (Rashon Ceaser, Kenzee Jackson, Ajalen Holley, and Cortney Davis). The magnitude of the big plays probably won't be an issue. What remains to be seen is whether the frequency will improve.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Kolton Browning


200 352 2179 21 8 56.8% 24 6.4% 5.4
Brayle Brown 6'2, 195 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 61 117 645 1 6 52.1% 3 2.5% 5.2
Brian Williams 6'3, 215 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2)








Anthony Monken 6'4, 200 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)








5. The answer: Trey Revell

The question: Who was ULM's last leading passer not named Kolton Browning?

In 2009, Revell threw for 1,739 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions for Charlie Weatherbie's final Warhawk squad. Berry took over the next year, put Browning into the lineup, and only looked elsewhere when Browning was banged up. In four years, Browning threw for 10,264 yards and 81 touchdowns and rushed for 1,545 yards and 18 scores. He was the centerpiece for whatever funkiness Berry and offensive coordinator Steve Farmer dreamed up, and in his absence, Brayle Brown didn't exactly light the world afire last season.

If Brown doesn't seize control of the starting job in the spring, the race could become a free-for-all in the fall. Redshirt freshman Brian Williams is the only other scholarship quarterback returning, and the duo will be joined by a trio of freshmen: Isaac Jackson, Garrett Smith, and the most highly touted of the three, Anthony Monken.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Jyruss Edwards RB


98 430 2 4.4 5.4 27.6%
Centarius Donald RB 6'1, 221 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 87 433 4 5.0 6.4 29.9%
Kolton Browning QB


74 360 2 4.9 4.0 44.6%
DeVontae McNeal RB 5'10, 209 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 29 205 2 7.1 15.2 31.0%
Brayle Brown QB 6'2, 195 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 20 77 0 3.9 2.8 40.0%
Monterrell Washington RB


20 74 0 3.7 5.4 25.0%
Nathan Meadors, Jr. RB 5'7, 170 So. NR 13 76 0 5.8 9.5 38.5%
Cortney Davis WR 5'9, 181 Jr. NR 7 4 0 0.6 N/A 0.0%

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Rashon Ceaser WR 6'0, 183 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 96 65 964 67.7% 21.8% 55.8% 10.0 196 10.8 106.6
Tavarese Maye WR


63 42 370 66.7% 14.3% 55.8% 5.9 -130 6.1 40.9
Tony Cook WR 6'4, 185 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 50 15 181 30.0% 11.3% 38.7% 3.6 -106 2.9 20.0
Kenzee Jackson WR 5'10, 185 Sr. NR 42 25 271 59.5% 9.5% 38.2% 6.5 -44 5.6 30.0
Je'Ron Hamm WR


37 24 304 64.9% 8.4% 67.7% 8.2 14 9.8 33.6
Ajalen Holley WR 5'10, 193 So. 2 stars (5.3) 35 21 266 60.0% 7.9% 66.7% 7.6 2 7.7 29.4
Harley Scioneaux TE 6'5, 247 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 29 18 125 62.1% 6.6% 66.7% 4.3 -97 3.8 13.8
Jyruss Edwards RB


27 11 38 40.7% 6.1% 55.6% 1.4 -134 1.4 4.2
Centarius Donald RB 6'1, 221 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 18 14 52 77.8% 4.1% 68.8% 2.9 -103 2.4 5.8
Cortney Davis WR 5'9, 181 Jr. NR 14 8 150 57.1% 3.2% 36.4% 10.7 47 7.3 16.6
Tre' Perrier WR 5'8, 174 So. NR 10 5 79 50.0% 2.3% 75.0% 7.9 10 11.1 8.7
DeVontae McNeal RB 5'10, 209 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 7 5 19 71.4% 1.6% 42.9% 2.7 -39 2.3 2.1
Monterrell Washington RB


7 6 21 85.7% 1.6% 75.0% 3.0 -43 3.7 2.3
Alec Osborne TE 6'3, 228 So. 2 stars (5.4) 4 1 4 25.0% 0.9% N/A 1.0 -18 0.0 0.4
D'marius Gillespie WR 6'1, 180 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)








6. Don't wait until second-and-long

Young starters aren't known for efficiency, but the task for whoever wins the job will be figuring out how not to immediately fall behind schedule. ULM was downright solid on passing downs, ranking 73rd in Passing Downs S&P+; the problem was that the Warhawks just faced too many passing downs to succeed. They ranked 122nd in First Down S&P+, egregiously low, and were doomed to second-and-long on seemingly every set of downs. All of the big-play threats listed above served as bailout options at times, but the running game simply wasn't reliable enough, and the receiving corps didn't have any reliable complements to Rashon Ceaser.

Just about everybody in the skill position units return. Jyruss Edwards is gone, but while he was long a mainstay in the two-deep, his production was replaceable. No. 2 receiver Tavarese Maye is gone, but a lot of No. 2s can average 5.9 yards per target.

Lots of explosive options are back, but it's up to a new quarterback to find them consistently, and it's up to an experienced line with three multi-year starters to improve on last year's iffy blocking showcase. Second-and-long is deadly with a new quarterback. Can the Warhawks avoid it?

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 84.8 2.61 2.47 32.6% 88.0% 21.3% 100.0 6.3% 4.5%
Rank 114 111 119 122 1 97 69 106 33
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Josh Allen C


42 1st All-SBC
Joseph Treadwell LT 6'5, 316 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 37
Jon Fisher LG


26
Demiere Burkett RT 6'2, 315 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 25
Ben Risenhoover RG 6'2, 293 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 17
Jeremy Burton LT 6'2, 310 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0
Jimmy Chung LG 6'1, 290 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0
Colby Mitchell C 6'1, 283 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0
Trey Martin RG 6'2, 285 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0
Brandon Bridgers RT 6'4, 290 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0
Chase Regian OL 6'2, 285 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0
Matthew Oubre OL 6'1, 290 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.18 79 IsoPPP+ 93.5 98
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 43.5% 81 Succ. Rt. + 91.5 97
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 25.6 122 Off. FP+ 92.6 118
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.4 84 Redzone S&P+ 85.9 97
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 19.8 ACTUAL 19.0 -0.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 91 96 97 92
RUSHING 88 108 108 90
PASSING 75 68 57 91
Standard Downs 87 85 60
Passing Downs 111 103 123
Q1 Rk 78 1st Down Rk 53
Q2 Rk 86 2nd Down Rk 107
Q3 Rk 108 3rd Down Rk 93
Q4 Rk 24

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 92 3.07 3.36 42.2% 67.6% 21.7% 67.3 3.8% 3.6%
Rank 95 82 71 98 68 31 112 81 118
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Gerrand Johnson NT 6'0, 283 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 11 40.0 6.2% 11.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Joey Gautney DE 6'1, 255 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 12 25.0 3.9% 6.5 3.0 0 2 2 0
Darius Lively DE 6'3, 254 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 18.5 2.9% 5.0 1.5 0 2 0 0
Malcolm Edmond NT 6'1, 275 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 11 15.5 2.4% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Lorenzo Jackson DE 6'2, 214 Jr. NR 7 7.5 1.2% 2.0 0.5 0 0 0 0
Emanuel Jefferies DE 8 6.5 1.0% 0.5 0.0 0 4 0 0
Diontre Thomas DE 6'1, 222 So. 2 stars (5.3) 1 2.0 0.3% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Everett Anderson DE 6'2, 265 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
David Elias, Jr. DE 6'2, 265 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Shaquille Warren DE 6'3, 230 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)






7. No excuses for the defense

One of ULM's biggest accomplishments in 2012 was winning eight games despite a defense so young it would still be young the next season. Nine starters returned for the Warhawks last year, and if nothing else, the unit held steady. After a shaky start that featured a 70-7 pasting by Baylor (and the Bears really could have scored 90 if they wanted to) and an Adjusted Scoring average of 30.4 points per game in the first half the year, the defense did improve. And now it returns another nine starters in 2014.

Defense was a strength of Barry's first couple of ULM teams; the Warhawks ranked 59th in Def. F/+ in 2010 and 74th in 2011. They fell to 86th and 90th the last two years, but aside from a major bout with injuries -- always a possibility in this sport -- there really is no excuse for this team not to approach 2010-11 numbers again this fall. The top five tacklers return on the line, as do four of five at linebacker and nine of 11 in the secondary. Experience will be a strength here.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Cameron Blakes LB 12 60.5 9.4% 7.5 4.0 0 0 0 0
Hunter Kissinger LB 6'2, 229 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 11 55.0 8.5% 6.5 1.0 3 1 1 0
Ray Stovall LB 6'2, 232 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 40.0 6.2% 11.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Cody Robinson LB 6'0, 216 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 10 26.5 4.1% 5.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Michael Johnson LB 6'1, 221 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 10 21.0 3.3% 2.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Austin Moss LB 8 10.0 1.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Tevyn Cagins LB 6'1, 216 So. 2 stars (5.4) 3 6.0 0.9% 1.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Braxton Moore LB 5'11, 213 So. NR 3 4.0 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jarred Dunn LB 6'0, 200 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)








Cody McGuire LB 6'3, 225 Fr. 2 stars (5.3)







8. Passive aggression

ULM's run defense was all-or-nothing in 2013. The Warhawks were a healthy 31st in Stuff Rate (negative running plays) and featured five players with at least 3.5 non-sack tackles for loss. But they still ranked just 108th in Rushing Success Rate+ and got pushed around quite a bit. And while the run-game aggression paid off at times, the Warhawks had no semblance of a pass rush, especially on passing downs. The goal on passing downs was to form a cloud and swarm, but they weren't successful at it. Not only did they give opponents plenty of room to find options underneath the coverage, but opponents were able to puncture the cloud pretty easily. ULM ranked 87th on standard downs but only 111th on passing downs. Not a good look.

As with the offense, most of the aggressive pieces return. Tackle Gerrand Johnson has been a fun play-maker for a couple of years now, and linebackers Ray Stovall, Hunter Kissinger, and Cody Robinson have all made their share of plays near the line of scrimmage. Safety Mitch Lane has had his ball-hawking moments as well. But this only matters if ULM is able to both create and take advantage of more passing downs.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Cordero Smith S 5'11, 193 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 10 46.5 7.2% 2 0 1 3 1 0
Isaiah Newsome S 12 39.5 6.1% 3 0 4 3 0 0
Mitch Lane S 6'0, 212 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 12 38.0 5.9% 0.5 0 2 4 0 0
Justin Backus CB 6'2, 183 So. 2 stars (5.3) 12 35.5 5.5% 0 0 2 1 0 0
Trey Caldwell CB 5'9, 188 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 32.5 5.0% 0 0 0 3 0 0
Vincent Eddie CB 9 27.5 4.3% 0 0 0 3 0 0
Rob'Donovan Lewis CB 5'10, 178 Sr. NR 9 23.5 3.6% 1 0 0 3 1 0
Lenzy Pipkins S 6'0, 195 So. 3 stars (5.5) 9 18.0 2.8% 3 0 1 3 0 0
Tre' Hunter S 6'0, 183 So. 2 stars (5.4) 6 8.5 1.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Roland Veal S 6'1, 201 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 5 7.0 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Bryce Ray S 6'1, 186 Sr. NR 4 6.0 0.9% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Preston Coleman S 2 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Grant Dotsy CB 5'9, 185 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)








Marquis McCullum S 5'11, 185 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)








Junior Williams DB 5'10, 184 Jr. 2 stars (5.3)







Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Justin Manton 6'2, 194 Sr. 80 45.8 11 16 24 50.0%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Justin Manton 6'2, 194 Sr. 53 61.4 30 0 56.6%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Justin Manton 6'2, 194 Sr. 34-35 5-8 62.5% 0-1 0.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Cortney Davis KR 5'9, 181 Jr. 25 21.1 1
DeVontae McNeal KR 5'10, 209 Jr. 5 10.2 0
Rashon Ceaser PR 6'0, 183 Jr. 12 10.5 1
Kenzee Jackson PR 5'10, 185 Sr. 2 1.5 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 121
Field Goal Efficiency 121
Punt Return Efficiency 120
Kick Return Efficiency 123
Punt Efficiency 62
Kickoff Efficiency 58
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 123

9. Do-It-All Manton

Justin Manton was most of what was good, and a little of what was bad, about ULM's special teams unit in 2013. He bombed punts down the field but occasionally outkicked his coverage. Over half of his kickoffs were touchbacks, but he couldn't always aim his cannon and missed three of eight field goals inside of 40 yards.

In the end, he brought enough good to the table to make him a decent weapon, but his coverage units were sketchy, and in the other aspect of special teams, ULM was unable to find reliable return threats. (Hey, how fast is Manton?) They returned two kicks for touchdowns, but most other returns got nowhere. Everybody of note returns from this unit. As with the offense, we'll see if that's a good thing.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
28-Aug Wake Forest 89
13-Sep at LSU 5
11-Oct at Kentucky 76
1-Nov at Texas A&M 7
TBD Idaho 120
TBD Texas State 114
TBD Troy 111
TBD UL-Lafayette 79
TBD at Appalachian State NR
TBD at Arkansas State 84
TBD at Georgia Southern NR
TBD at New Mexico State 124
Five-Year F/+ Rk -14.7% (102)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 114
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -4 / 1.3
TO Luck/Game -2.2
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 15 (6, 9)

10. Expectations are still a pretty new thing in Monroe

Whether you are predisposed to assume that 2012 was a one-time thing or that 2014 will represent a nice bounce back after frustration in 2013, you have quite a bit of evidence to cite.

Optimists can pretty easily point to the heft of experience and play-making ability on the two-deep. ULM wants to play aggressive football and has both the experience and ability to do so.

Pessimists can pretty easily assert that aggression without safety valves is stupidity. Making plays is great, but ULM couldn't keep from falling behind schedule on offense and couldn't keep from giving up more big plays than it made on defense. And while experience is nice, these experienced players are the ones who had all the flaws last year.

Right now, I lean slightly toward the former camp. I'm an optimist by nature, so that makes sense, but this really is an experienced group. A new quarterback probably won't help the overall efficiency a ton, but for all his strengths, Browning did set the bar pretty low in that category. The new QB will have experience all around him, not to mention a defense that should be the team's best in at least a couple of years.

I don't think this is a Sun Belt title contender -- not with what Louisiana-Lafayette returns -- but I'm confident the Warhawks can get back to six or seven wins and a top-100 F/+ rating this year. That could be good enough for third in the conference, second with solid injuries luck.

More from SB Nation college football:

How to build a roster for six popular college schemes

Leach, Gundy, Freeze, Rodriguez hate NCAA rule proposal

Mizzou students defend against Westboro Baptist protest

Equanimeous St. Brown, Zach Morris, and the 2015 recruiting All-Name Team

College football news | Bill Connelly’s 128-team countdown has begun

Long CFB reads | How Ryan Perrilloux completely disappeared

In This Article

Teams
Players
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.