2011 Record: (4-8, 3-5 in Sun Belt)
Head Coach: Todd Berry (9-15 at ULM, 7-9 in Sun Belt games)
Paying the Bills: 9/8 vs Arkansas (in Little Rock); 9/15 at Auburn
Revenge: 10/20 at WKU, 11/3 vs Louisiana, 11/8 at Arkansas St, 11/17 vs North Texas, 11/24 at FIU
Stat to Cheer: allowed 7 points per game less in 2011 than in 2010
Stat to Fear: led the Sun Belt in sacks allowed (2.92 per game; 3.88 per game in losses)
Phil Steele's Returning Starters (Offense: 8; Defense: 5; Specialists: 2)
Key Defensive Returnees: CB Vincent Eddie (63 tackles, 2 INT), S Isaiah Newsome (62 tackles, 3 INT)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Kolton Browning (13 TD, 8 INT), RB Jyruss Edwards (667 yds rushing, 11 TD), WR Brent Leonard (69 rec), WR Tavarese Maye (50 rec)
Inside Scoop with Dusty Thibodeaux from WarhawkReport.com:
CFBZ: The last winning season for ULM was in 1993, what needs to change this year to make that streak go away?
WarhawkReport.com: I think the Warhawks are a play or player away from getting over the hump and going over the .500 mark and into the college football post season. The bad news though is that been that way since 1994, their first in FBS. Now though I think the junior heavy team can be the first bowl bound team as long as they remain healthy and have a little extra luck this season. Both will be tough though, as they begin the season at a pair of SEC teams before playing rebuilding Tulane and Baylor.
CFBZ: On offense, the Warhawks have a lot of youth. Who are some guys that need to step up this year?
WarhawkReport.com: After a series of injuries to running backs Centarius Donald and Jyruss Edwards, the duo will need to remain healthy for the ULM offense to thrive. Another area of note is receiver where Jeron Hamm, Brent Leonard, and Colby Harper will all look to add to their receptions and fill the shoes of the graduated Anthony McCall.
CFBZ: On defense, the Warhawks lose their top two sackers and top two tacklers. Who will replace this production?
WarhawkReport.com: While the departure of all-conference performers Ken Dorsey and Troy Evans provide big shoes to fill, the Warhawks have solid replacements. Kentarius Caldwell and Joey Gautney are both seasoned vets at the end position and are sure to land conference honors before their time at ULM is done.
CFBZ: What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2012 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
WarhawkReport.com: I think the Warhawks will finish the 2012 season with a minimum 6-6 season, but have a great chance at going over the .500 mark with a 7-5. Again I think the biggest key to their success will be their health. Last season quarterback Kolton Browning, Jyruss Edwards, and Centarius Donald were all slowed due to injury, and while the back-ups are good players, there is a noticeable drop off in game playing experience.
ULM is young on offense but they have returning experience. QB Kolton Browning is a junior with two years of playing experience. On paper his freshman year was a slight bit better than his sophomore one. He will need to step up for ULM to take the next step this season. ULM also returns two junior RBs (Jyruss Edwards and Centarius Donald) that combined to go over 1,000 yards last season. Finally, the Warhawks return their top four leaders in receptions. ULM looks to be set at the skill positions. One area where ULM has to improve is on the offensive line. The "stat to fear" that we called out at the beginning of the preview was that the Warhawks led the Sun Belt in sacks allowed. The depth chart on Warhawk Report looks thin on the OL.
On defense, ULM made good improvement from 2010 to 2011 in Todd Berry's second season. Their rushing defense was the best in the Sun Belt in terms of yards allowed as they held opponents to 60 less yards than they did the previous year. Despite losing a bunch of starters on defense, the defense will be a veteran squad and I would expect them to at least play at a level comparable to 2011.
2012 Prediction: 6-6
Previous 2012 Previews: