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1. Hard jobs remain hard
Todd Berry did something that hadn't been done before. Six other coaches had led UL-Monroe into battle at the FBS/I-A level, and none had ever taken the Warhawks to a bowl game. But in 2012, he did just that, and in 2013, he almost did as well. They won 14 games in those two seasons; in only one other two-year span had they ever won even 12 (1980-81).
Berry was in a lot of ways the mid-major version of Jim Grobe at Wake Forest. Both took on nearly impossible jobs at schools with minimal histories. Both dealt with worse budgets, facilities, support, etc., than their conference brethren. Both took unorthodox tactical approaches. And both managed to win games for a bit. Granted, Grobe sustained his success for a longer period of time (28 wins from 2006-08, five bowls overall), the similarities between both the programs and the coaches are obvious. And for both, eventually the bag of tricks ran out.
At ULM, it happened like it does in a lot of places. Your collection of diamonds-in-the-rough runs out of eligibility, and the next set of diamonds aren't diamonds at all. Berry couldn't find a quarterback that fit his system as well as Kolton Browning had in 2012-13. He couldn't find a trio of receivers as effective and durable as Brent Leonard, Je'Ron Hamm, and Tavarese Maye were. He couldn't put together another linebacking corps like the 2012 collection of Ray Stovall, DaCorris Ford, and R.J. Young (34.5 tackles for loss in 2012).
In the end, Berry's tenure fizzled out pretty quickly. From eight wins in 2012, ULM fell to six, then four, then two. Berry was fired after a 1-9 start, and while the Warhawks rallied in his honor (they lost by only two at Hawaii, then beat NMSU), there was justice in the firing. As well as he had done in building hope in Monroe, he was out of answers.
Hard jobs remain hard at all times, and with the state of Louisiana going through pretty hardcore budget issues at the moment, the ULM job might be harder than ever at the moment. But after expressing interest in some younger up-and-comers -- Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, WKU offensive coordinator Tyson Helton, Grambling head coach Broderick Fobbs -- the school replaced Berry with someone who has pretty specific hard-job-in-Louisiana experience. After 10 seasons at McNeese State, 200 miles away in Lake Charles, Matt Viator was hired in mid-December.
Viator was a steady winner at McNeese. His Cowboys went to the FCS playoffs five times and won at least 10 games three times. He won shares of four Southland Conference titles, and McNeese State actually finished ahead of ULM in the Sagarin ratings in two of the last three years. And again, he knows what it's like to recruit and guide a program in this tricky, unique state.
This was the exact opposite of a sexy hire, but winning in Monroe isn't about sexy. Viator is a successful FCS head coach, and he's brought in some successful FCS coordinators. It's going to take them a while to make something out of a pretty limited collection of talent, but at the least the sophomore class appears promising, and the expectations bar will be pretty low for a while. And they actually wanted the job. That's a plus, too.
2015 Schedule & Results
|Record: 2-11 | Adj. Record: 1-12 | Final F/+ Rk: 121 | Final S&P+ Rk: 122|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|19-Nov||at Texas State||116||3-16||L||6%||2%||-4.8||-6.5|
|5-Dec||New Mexico State||118||42-35||W||40%||73%||+10.0||+7.0|
|Points Per Game||21.0||111||36.5||113|
2. Never a chance
Out of sheer necessity, ULM takes on payout games like few at the FBS level. In the 22 seasons since rejoining FBS, the Warhawks have played 12 of 14 current SEC teams at least once (everyone but South Carolina and Vanderbilt), along with seven Big 12 teams, five Pac-12 teams, four ACC teams, and two Big Ten teams. They've taken on Arkansas 10 times and Auburn nine times. And while that opens up the opportunity for monumental upsets -- they beat Alabama in 2007 and Arkansas in 2012 and have come close quite a few other times -- most of the time it just means blowout losses.
ULM was desperate for traction after a 4-8 campaign in 2014, but the schedule simply wouldn't allow it. The Warhawks played four top-50 opponents in the first six games and lost those four games by an average score of 49-15. Then, following that gauntlet, they played three straight conference road games. Decent performances -- a 10-point loss at Tulsa, a six-point loss at rival UL-Lafayette -- were swallowed up by blowouts, and the Berry era ended with a 16-3 loss at Texas State.
It's a new coaching era now, but the scheduling remains the same. After opening the season with Southern, ULM will mix a pretty rough conference road slate (which includes visits to each of the Sun Belt's top three teams) with trips to Oklahoma, Auburn, and a New Mexico team coming off of its best season in nearly a decade. The good news is that all five home games come against teams projected 106th or worse. The bad news is that post-blowout morale could continue to be an issue.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||34.2%||123||Succ. Rt. +||79.3||122|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||35.7||127||Def. FP+||35.8||126|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.4||70||Redzone S&P+||92.7||103|
|Q1 Rk||111||1st Down Rk||127|
|Q2 Rk||115||2nd Down Rk||115|
|Q3 Rk||109||3rd Down Rk||118|
3. A Matt Kubik offense
Viator's 2015 offense at McNeese State was built around former Kansas State quarterback Daniel Sams, who threw for 1,666 yards and rushed for 934. It was a run-heavy attack -- 27 pass attempts and 45 rush attempts per game -- and it chewed up clock for a defense that faced only 64 plays per game.
New offensive coordinator Matt Kubik's Stephen F. Austin offense, meanwhile? A little bit different. The Lumberjacks attempted 38 passes and 35 rushes per game, leaning on more of an efficiency-based passing game and fewer QB rushes (about 10 per game). Five players caught between 21 and 44 passes in 11 games. And whereas the McNeese offense created a power-heavy 69 percent in terms of solo tackles (the higher the ratio of solo tackles, the more spread-ish your offense is), SFA's was a bit more spread-out 74 percent. McNeese averaged about 2.15 snaps per minute; SFA averaged 2.45.
These aren't night-and-day differences, but with a limited attack it will be interesting to see if Viator, who ran the McNeese offense but is handing play-calling duties to Kubik, tries to get Kubik to slow things down a bit. And it will also be interesting to see how much Kubik tries to air things out. Before spending two years as SFA's offensive coordinator, he spent three years as receivers coach for pass-happy Central Arkansas.
ULM will probably not be attempting any sort of high-octane, run- or pass-heavy attack in 2016. Kubik inherits a sophomore quarterback who took some lumps last year (and showed decent mobility), an experienced (but not particularly effective) receiving corps of mostly small guys, a pair of interesting running backs, and a line full of experience and size and no track record of success.
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Garrett Smith||6'0, 211||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7886||191||333||2033||17||11||57.4%||23||6.5%||5.5|
|Brian Williams||6'4, 213||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7000||5||10||101||3||1||50.0%||0||0.0%||10.1|
|Chandler Eiland||5'11, 197||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8019|
|Will Collins||6'11, 211||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7919|
|Kaylon Watson||RB||6'0, 218||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7685||96||331||0||3.4||3.9||28.1%||3||3|
|Ben Luckett||RB||5'11, 214||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7652||94||509||2||5.4||5.8||38.3%||1||0|
|Garrett Smith||QB||6'0, 211||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7886||85||332||2||3.9||3.8||31.8%||8||3|
|Brian Williams||QB||6'4, 213||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7000||6||8||0||1.3||4.0||16.7%||0||0|
|Thomas Koufie||RB||5'11, 220||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7583|
|Kayin White||RB||5'11, 222||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7400|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Ajalen Holley||WR||5'10, 193||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7600||114||60||709||52.6%||25.3%||6.2||49.1%||37.7%||1.58|
|Marcus Green||WR||5'8, 190||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7433||106||63||698||59.4%||23.5%||6.6||62.3%||44.3%||1.39|
|Tyler Cain (2014)||WR||5'8, 185||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7000||59||45||273||76.3%||11.8%||4.6||50.8%||N/A||N/A|
|Jared Mapps||WR||6'2, 200||Sr.||NR||NR||49||26||236||53.1%||10.9%||4.8||46.9%||36.7%||1.17|
|Kaylon Watson||RB||6'0, 218||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7685||29||20||183||69.0%||6.4%||6.3||72.4%||31.0%||2.06|
|Xavier Brown||WR||6'0, 186||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7400||16||8||69||50.0%||3.5%||4.3||68.8%||43.8%||0.87|
|D'Marius Gillespie||WR||6'0, 210||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7726||16||6||39||37.5%||3.5%||2.4||62.5%||18.8%||1.21|
|Stoney Hawkins||TE||6'2, 224||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7533||10||5||43||50.0%||2.2%||4.3||40.0%||30.0%||1.25|
|Ben Luckett||RB||5'11, 214||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7652||8||4||26||50.0%||1.8%||3.3||50.0%||37.5%||0.92|
|Tre' Perrier||WR||5'8, 179||Sr.||NR||NR||7||5||36||71.4%||1.6%||5.1||42.9%||57.1%||0.65|
|De'Vonte Haggerty||WR||5'11, 189||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7500||5||2||17||40.0%||1.1%||3.4||60.0%||20.0%||1.47|
|Markis McCray||WR||5'10, 165||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8044||4||1||4||25.0%||0.9%||1.0||50.0%||0.0%||0.00|
|Alec Osborne||TE||6'3, 234||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7894|
|Brennen Bradley||WR||6'4, 201||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7000|
|Josh Pederson||TE||6'4, 210||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7893|
4. Hope in the sophomore class
There wasn't much to like about the 2015 ULM offense. The Warhawks were pass-happy, in part because they couldn't run, and they didn't rank in the top 100 in any of the opponent-adjusted offensive stats above.
Kubik's got his work cut out for him, but if you don't have any proven quality, you at least want to see some youth, some guys you might be able to develop into something interesting over time. And if you look at the individual stats above, you find that sophomores provided the most interesting glimpses.
- Quarterback Garrett Smith completed 57 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns despite minimal run threat, and despite missing the last three games of the year with injury. He had a predictably miserable time against Alabama (17-for-37 for 74 yards and two picks), but his passer rating hit 137 or higher on three occasions, and he went 23-for-29 against Georgia. He has efficiency potential, and he can scramble a bit.
- Running back Ben Luckett was up and down all year, but he rushed a combined 26 times for 214 yards against SBC heavyweights Appalachian State and Arkansas State, and his advanced stats -- 38 percent opportunity rate, 5.8 highlight yards per opportunity -- were decent. Junior counterpart Kaylon Watson will get a run, too, but Luckett flashed more upside in 2015.
- Receiver Marcus Green caught 63 passes as a redshirt freshman, and among 2015 ULM wideouts (not including Tyler Cain, who missed the entire season), he had the highest catch rate, success rate, and average yards per target. He had 12 catches for 149 against Troy and 12 for 103 against Hawaii. He could develop into a strong possession option.
The receiving corps is small, and aside from maybe Luckett, we don't know if there's a big-play threat on the roster. But you could see the components of a nice efficiency offense developing over the next year or two.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Frank Sutton, Jr.||LG||6'3, 302||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7000||12||19|
|Chase Regian||RT||6'3, 297||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7759||7||19|
|Rey Baltazar||LT||6'5, 300||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7433||13||13|
|Jeff Savage||RG||6'2, 297||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7985||13||13|
|Keaton Baggs||RT||6'5, 297||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7652||5||5|
|Brady Willcutt||LT||6'1, 280||So.||NR||NR||0||0|
|Brian Thlang||C||6'1, 299||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7683||0||0|
|Jake Snyder||RG||6'2, 291||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7000||0||0|
|Brandon Bridgers||LT||6'4, 299||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7300||0||0|
|T.J. Fiailoa||OL||6'4, 340||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8167|
|Samuel Williams||OL||6'7, 275||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8254|
5. Size and experience up front, at least
From a preview perspective, you're basically gauging a line by looking at last year's stats, returning starts, and general size and recruiting rankings. ULM checks two of the four boxes ... but probably the two least important. They return five players who have started 69 career games. Good! The 11 players listed above average 6'3, 298. Good enough!
The two other boxes, however, remain unchecked. While ULM was pretty good in short yardage situations and not completely awful at keeping defenders out of the backfield, they couldn't create opportunities for their (admittedly shaky) running backs. And while two incoming freshmen (TJ Tiailoa and Samuel Williams) were each three-star recruits per the 247Sports Composite, they're freshmen. It's hard to imagine an incredible amount of upside here.
Viator did land a pretty seasoned offensive line coach, however. Rob Sale was Georgia's OL coach last year after spending three years with Viator at McNeese State. He might be able to mold something pretty interesting there within a year or two.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||40.3%||59||Succ. Rt. +||97.5||73|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||28.6||101||Off. FP+||27.8||104|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.4||66||Redzone S&P+||93.1||98|
|Q1 Rk||93||1st Down Rk||74|
|Q2 Rk||91||2nd Down Rk||73|
|Q3 Rk||65||3rd Down Rk||79|
6. A Mike Collins defense
New defensive coordinator Mike Collins spent the last three seasons as Sam Houston State's DC after serving as a Viator assistant from 2008-12. At SHSU, he had the pieces to attack, and he did so. The Bearkats recorded 122 tackles for loss with a havoc rate of 19.7 percent, which would have ranked 12th at the FBS level. SHSU stuffed the run, created a lot of third-and-longs, and attempted to render opponents one-dimensional. They took risks, got burned a few times, and made a lot of stops.
In its better moments, ULM was similar. Looking at unadjusted numbers above, the Warhawks ranked 59th in success rate but 94th in IsoPPP; they allowed 25 passes of 30-plus yards (105th in FBS), but when they forced a third down, it was a long one (average distance to go: 7.4, 47th in FBS).
Of course, that was last year's personnel. Not only is Collins going to attempt to transition from Berry's unique 3-3-5 attack, but he's going to do so without four of last year's top five linemen and all three starting linebackers.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Colton Moorehead||DE||6'3, 257||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7867||13||13.5||1.7%||1.5||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Derion Ford||DT||6'0, 290||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7719||7||3.5||0.4%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|David Elias, Jr.||DT||6'2, 274||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7859||5||3.0||0.4%||2.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jacob Tyson||DE||6'1, 273||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7519|
|Donald Louis, Jr.||DE||6'2, 271||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8017|
|Sam Miller||DE||6'3, 219||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8082|
|Jaylen Veasley||DT||6'2, 278||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7948|
|Shaquille Warren||DE||6'2, 246||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7659|
|Howard Houston, Jr.||DT||6'1, 300||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7000|
|Tyler Johnson||DT||6'3, 283||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7600|
|Ty Shelby||DE||6'5, 225||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8194|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|David Griffith||LB||6'0, 211||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7719||13||30.0||3.8%||6.0||2.0||0||0||1||0|
|Braxton Moore||LB||5'11, 221||Sr.||NR||NR||10||18.5||2.3%||1.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Caleb Tucker||LB||6'2, 231||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8306||13||18.0||2.3%||5.0||2.5||0||1||0||0|
|Tevyn Cagins||LB||6'2, 225||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7100||13||15.5||1.9%||2.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jarred Dunn||LB||6'0, 219||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7500||11||6.5||0.8%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Cody McGuire||LB||6'2, 231||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7494||13||3.0||0.4%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Sterling Doss||LB||6'0, 225||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7700|
|Chase Day||LB||6'1, 216||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7759|
|Kyle Nevels||LB||6'3, 235||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7859|
7. Playing time available!
The good news: The few returnees who actually saw the field in 2015 flashed some play-making potential. End Colton Moorehead made a couple of plays, tackle David Elias Jr. made 2.5 of his three tackles behind the line, linebackers David Griffith and Caleb Tucker combined for 11 tackles for loss in occasional action, etc.
The bad news: Wow, is the front seven going to be young this year. Moorehead is a senior, and Elias and Tucker are juniors, but almost everybody else on the two-deep will either be sophomores, redshirt freshmen, or February signees. There is a lack of discipline, a propensity for breakdown, that comes with playing inexperienced personnel, and it will probably handcuff Collins' ability to attack like he wants to.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Tre' Hunter||S||6'0, 188||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7200||12||45.5||5.7%||0.5||0||2||2||1||0|
|Lenzy Pipkins||CB||6'0, 201||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7900||13||41.0||5.1%||1||1||0||2||1||0|
|Wesley Thompson||S||6'1, 193||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7652||13||40.0||5.0%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Roland Jenkins||S||5'11, 198||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7700||13||22.5||2.8%||0.5||0||0||1||0||0|
|Marquis McCullum||S||5'11, 188||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||12||16.5||2.1%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Alex Johnson||S||5'11, 197||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7800||13||16.0||2.0%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Aaron Townsend||S||6'0, 175||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7433||13||15.5||1.9%||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Justin Backus||S||6'2, 184||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7600||4||14.0||1.8%||1||0||0||1||0||0|
|Marcus Hubbard||CB||5'9, 173||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7644||13||11.0||1.4%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Ferrando Joseph||CB||5'10, 190||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||NR||12||7.0||0.9%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Brynden Vance||S||6'0, 195||So.||NR||NR||10||3.5||0.4%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Grant Dotsy||CB||5'10, 184||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7300|
|Cortez Sisco, Jr.||S||5'11, 199||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8377|
|Xavier Dias||S||5'10, 175||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8126|
|Terry Ausborne, Jr.||DB||5'11, 172||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7583|
|Jayrin Wilson||CB||5'11, 165||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7926|
|Logan Latin||CB||5'9, 170||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8006|
8. The lone play-maker is gone
Depth and experience won't, however, be an issue in the secondary. Between playing five DBs in most situations and dealing with quite a few injuries, 12 different ULM defensive backs recorded at least 11 tackles in 2015. That eight of them return is undoubtedly a good thing, even if ULM's pass defense was pretty sketchy. The problem: The one guy who could absolutely make plays -- corner Trey Caldwell -- is one of the three departees. He alone had 5.5 tackles for loss and 11 passes defensed; the aforementioned eight returnees combiend for four and nine, respectively. Yikes.
Berry's parting gift to Viator and Collins might come in handy in the coming years. Per 247, he's leaving behind three-star redshirt freshmen on the line (Donald Louis Jr. and Sam Miller) and in the secondary (Cortez Sisco Jr. and Xavier Dias). Viator added a couple more decent recruits and some JUCOs, and it's not hard to see a 2017 ULM defense combining strong experience with decent athleticism and depth.
But that's 2017. In 2016, Collins will be forced to choose between taking risks that get you burned a lot and playing things rather safe, hoping to prevent big plays, and giving up a lot of long, exhausting drives. Those aren't great options.
|Craig Ford||6'2, 168||So.||56||56.7||6||1||10.7%|
|Craig Ford||6'2, 168||So.||33-33||7-10||70.0%||2-4||50.0%|
|Marcus Green||KR||5'8, 190||So.||10||20.2||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||126|
|Field Goal Efficiency||116|
|Punt Return Success Rate||108|
|Kick Return Success Rate||27|
|Punt Success Rate||118|
|Kickoff Success Rate||117|
9. When rebuilding is a positive
As with the defensive front seven, there will be a lot of new names in ULM's 2016 special teams unit. But in this case, that's not necessarily bad news. Last year ULM returned kickoffs relatively well and did everything else poorly. Return man Marcus Green is back, as is sophomore place-kicker Craig Ford, but at the least, punting and punt returns will be manned by new guys.
2016 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|22-Oct||at New Mexico||102||-11.5||25%|
|TBA||at Appalachian State||59||-23.5||9%|
|TBA||at Arkansas State||89||-16.3||17%|
|TBA||at Georgia Southern||52||-24.3||8%|
|TBA||at Georgia State||105||-10.7||27%|
|Projected wins: 3.7|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-25.1% (105)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||118 / 123|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||-16 / -15.1|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||-0.4|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||65% (78%, 51%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||2.9 (-0.9)|
10. Every home game is winnable
There are indeed two ways to look at ULM's schedule. The first is that a brutal road slate, which features visits to Oklahoma, Auburn, and five other teams that bowled in 2015, will absolutely wipe away any semblance of depth and confidence that Viator is attempting to build.
The other, more optimistic way: Yeah, at least five or six of these seven road games are out of reach, but every home game is winnable. We don't yet know the Sun Belt schedule, so we don't know how the games will be distributed, but if Viator can keep morale up during and after some tough road trips, the Warhawks could threaten to go 4-8 or 5-7. That's not amazing, but for a team that has lost 18 of its last 21 games, that could be markable progress.
In terms of fit, it's hard to imagine a better hire for ULM than Viator. He proved at McNeese State that he could navigate Louisiana waters and put a strong-for-its-level team on the field. Because of the competition, the ULM job is probably harder than that one, but he could be up for the challenge. But if he's going to find success, it will likely be with the players who are currently freshmen and sophomores. There are wins on the table in 2016, but the measuring stick will be how frequently this team shows promise and development, not how frequently it wins.