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July 10, 2012In cooperation with the other Sun Belt Conference sites on Rivals.com, we take a look at five questions facing each team as preseason practice approaches.
At this point in time, only three Sun Belt Conference team sites have active publishers on the Rivals.com network. Those teams will be represented in this feature.
Second in the series is a report on the ULM Warhawks from WarhawkReport's Dusty Thibodeaux.
1. Why will the Warhawks be better or worse than the preview magazines predict?
Most of the preseason publications have the third season of Head Coach Todd Berry marked down as one in the lower part of the Sun Belt Conference Standings.? In his first season, Berry managed to shock some teams as he ended 2010 with a 5-7 mark, and just a blocked PAT away from a probable bowl birth.? The 2011 season was more of the same, but dropped a few contests on late break downs due to a young team being forced to grow up on the fly.? Adding to the woes of last season were a string of injuries that marred the season as ULM slid backwards to a 4-8 record.
The key to success or failure in 2012 will depend on how the Warhawk's health is after running the early gauntlet of games against Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, and Tulane.? If ULM can keep injuries to a minimum in their non-conference schedule, the Sun Belt portion should be worried about the Warhawks soaring to the top of the standings.? Injuries, in particular to the offensive line, could result in another 4-8 season and ULM fans starting to look for firewood to put under Berry's seat.
2. Which player(s) will ULM miss the most from last season?
The experience of defensive ends Ken Dorsey and Troy Evans will be missed, but their replacements of Joey Gautney and KT Caldwell could end their careers in three and two years, respectively, with better numbers.?? One of the biggest departures that will be missed is Hawk Darius Prelow.? He was a four year starter and was a key member of the secondary forcing opponents to adjust their game plans according to his location on the field.
3. Which newcomers will make the biggest impact this season?
Without a doubt the defensive side of the ball will be stronger with transfers Gerrand Johnson and Austin Moss.? Johnson, a Missouri transfer, will be a force at the defensive tackle position and will be one to look for post season on the all-conference list.? Moss, an Arkansas transfer by way of Navarro Junior College, complements the already strong linebacker group that includes senior Cameron Blakes.
4. What is the biggest question mark heading into preseason practice?
The depth on the lines is the biggest question.? The offensive front that includes Josh Allen, Jon Fisher, Jonathan Gill, and Joe Treadwell are a solid group, but their back-ups are young and inexperienced in game situations.? Should any of these guys go down to an injury, holes could be exposed in the line.
The defensive front faces the same situation as the offensive line; depth.? As stated earlier, Caldwell, Gautney, and Johnson are all solid players, but all behind them on the depth chart are all young and unproven players.
5. How does the schedule set up for ULM?
A bye week and then 12 straight weeks of football sounds great for fans, however for the Warhawks, it's going to be a tough season. Back-to-back games on the road against Arkansas and Auburn are chances to see where the team has its strengths and weaknesses before playing a nationally televised game in Malone Stadium against Baylor.? ULM closes out its non-conference slate with a trip to the Big Easy for what they hope is an easy win.
Road conference games at Middle Tennessee, WKU, Arkansas State, and FIU are spaced out enough to not be too much of a factor.? The game at Arkansas State is on a Thursday and is a must win for the Warhawks, as they have not beaten the Red Wolves in Jonesboro since 2001.
In the friendly confines of Malone Stadium, ULM will host FAU, South Alabama, Louisiana-Lafayette, and North Texas.?? The Battle on the Bayou has gone to the Ragin Cajuns the past four years, but the games have been decided by an average of four points; making this a must win at home for the season to be a success.
Bonus question. What is the best-case scenario (and/or worse-case scenario) for ULM this season?
Worst-case: The Warhawks suffer though an injury filled season and find themselves with a lowly three win season.
Best case: ULM can keep healthy and show the nation and the rest of the Sun Belt Conference that the Warhawks are ready to spread their wings and fly....on to a bowl game.
For additional ULM coverage, visit