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Saturday, July 31, 2010

2010 opponent preview: Louisiana-Monroe

The previews keep coming. If you've missed any of the first four, you can access them by clicking on the links on the top right of the blog's page.

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Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks
  • Head coach: Todd Berry (1st season at ULM; 9th overall, 29-60 at Illinois State and Army)
  • 2009 record: 6-6 (5-3 Sun Belt, t-3rd)
  • Returning starters: 10 (6 offense, 4 defense)
  • Total offense: 392.3 ypg (5th Sun Belt, 48th nationally)
  • Total defense: 340.5 ypg (2nd Sun Belt, 44th nationally)
  • Series: Auburn leads 7-0
  • Last meeting: Auburn won 34-0 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2008
  • Consensus prediction: Fifth in the Sun Belt
Five-week schedule glimpse
  • Sept. 18: at Arkansas State
  • Sept. 25: Southeastern Louisiana
  • Oct. 2: at Auburn
  • Oct. 9: Florida Atlantic
  • Oct. 16: at Western Kentucky
After a tough stretch that includes a game in Starkville against Mississippi State and home games against Palmetto State foes Clemson and South Carolina, the Tigers get a relative break against Louisiana-Monroe, a team they've never lost to. Although ULM tied a school FBS high with six wins last year, it wasn't enough fro seven-year coach Charlie Weatherbie to keep his job. Enter Todd Berry, who will try to get the Warhawks over the hump and in a position where they can compete with Troy, the conference's current marquee team.

Admittedly, I don't know much about Louisiana-Monroe. Here's a little knowledge: the school is named after the city, which is named after fifth president James Monroe, who was one of the negotiators of the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803. Football-wise, though, I don't know anything about this team. So I contacted Tabby Soignier, ULM beat writer for The News-Star in Monroe, La. You can read her articles here or visit her blog here. Here's what she had to say in a short Q&A:

AB: After seven years and a 31-51 record, Charlie Weatherbie is out as the Warhawks' head coach. What kind of change to the program does new coach Todd Berry bring after successful stints as an offensive coordinator at Monroe and UNLV? Is there hope that he can do better than his first FBS coaching gig, when he went 5-36 in four years at Army from 2000-03?
TS: It is unfair to assess Berry’s success by his stint at Army. It is difficult to win there for any coach, but there is still some skepticism about what he can do now that he is back in a head coaching role. In the short time, however, you can see a vast increase in intensity with the players and a sense of urgency that did not happen with Weatherbie at the helm.
AB: Berry made a surprising move in the spring by handing the No. 1 quarterback spot to redshirt freshman quarterback Kolton Browning instead of incumbent Trey Revell, who threw for 1,739 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior. What's been the team's reaction to the move and what can be reasonably expected of Browning if he indeed holds on to the starting spot this fall?
TS: The spread offense that Berry brings in is the type of offense that Kolton thrives in. He is a left-handed slinger that is smart with the football. Do not count out Revell, though. He has experience and proved he can play under pressure with his first official start at Texas. Kolton is definitely the future, but I think the depth chart is a mind game for Revell to prove himself to the coaching staff. He has yet to do that.
AB: Frank Goodin, who ran for 1,126 yards and 13 touchdowns last year, returns at running back, but who else could be a threat on offense? Does Berry have enough offensive weapons at his disposal to make an impact in his first year?
TS: The receiving corps is just as impressive. Junior Luther Ambrose, who finished third in the nation in the 100-meter, will be the prime target to get the ball to. Anthony McCall put up some big numbers as a freshman when he stepped in for the academically ineligible LaGregory Sapp. Sapp returned last year for his senior season limiting McCall’s touches, but he is already taking advantage of getting back into the starting role with an impressive spring.
AB: The defense lost a number of starters, including linebacker Cardia Jackson, the Sun Belt's career tackles leader, and safety Greg James, a first-team all-conference pick who had 17 career interceptions. What's left on defense and will it be enough that the Warhawks won't have to try to simply out-score everyone they play this season?
TS: It will be difficult to rebuild right off the bat, especially with depth being an issue. However, the players that are returning have taken the responsibility of leading the newcomers. Cornerback Nate Brown is a very smart player as well as Theo Smith, the only returning linebacker that started last season. The most intriguing part of the defense, however, is the line. Troy Evans was the only player chosen as a preseason all-conference player and will take over where All-Sun Belt and current Jacksonville Jaguar Aaron Morgan left off. Ken Dorsey has been moved to hold down the other side of the line after spending most of his career at linebacker.
AB: Louisiana-Monroe has not played in a bowl game since transitioning from I-AA to I-A in 1994. Is there hope this year hat the Warhawks can finish as one of the top two teams in the Sun Belt and perhaps earn a bowl bid?
TS: Middle Tennessee and Troy are very impressive and have a history of success. ULM has to learn how to play with that same swagger before it can climb the standings and make history.
There you have it. I can't imagine this game being close for Auburn, but crazier things have happened. As it stands, the game serves as a nice break of what would have otherwise been seven straight games against BCS-conference schools.

Up next: Back to the SEC for a road game against Kentucky, a team the Tigers no doubt would like to serve with some payback after last year's disappointing loss at Jordan-Hare.


SteveFC said...

I will be very pleased if we are undefeated when we get to this game. That MSU, Clempson, South Carolina stretch will be tough.

Andy Bitter said...

I think it probably rivals Kentucky-Arkansas-LSU or Arkansas-LSU-Ole Miss as the toughest three-game stretch on the schedule.