It’s time to meet Louisiana-Monroe. Here’s an introduction from Bill Connelly:
Berry’s 2015 squad should be competitive again simply because of the defense. It was one of the best in the mid-major universe last year, and it returns two of its top four linemen (along with a load of exciting underclassmen), its top three linebackers, and four of its top five defensive backs. There will once again be plenty of play-making potential from this speedy, confusing 3-3-5.
But there’s nothing guaranteeing the offense will rebound, and if it doesn’t, ULM will again be more a tough out than a Sun Belt contender.
At times last season that was indeed a very salty defense, holding Texas A&M fourteen points under its scoring average and Georgia Southern seventeen points under its. And most of that group comes back.
It’s the offense that’s the big question. It was downright anemic in 2014. And as Bill notes, ULM has to replace its starting quarterback, starting running back, leading receiver, and three multi-year starters on the line. The new starting quarterback is a redshirt freshman.
To shake things up on that side of the ball, Todd Berry is putting the band back together, so to speak.
The #FUNROE offense in 2012 averaged 33.8 points-per-game, 432.8 yards of total offense and converted fourth downs at a clip of 68 percent — good enough to finish among the top-20 in the country. The reward at the end of the year was the winning season and bowl appearance that had eluded the program since making the jump to FBS 18 years prior.
But something changed after 2012. ULM went from freewheeling to cautious the next year in order to keep a battered Kolton Browning — the indispensable cog of the operation at quarterback — upright and off the sideline. #FUNROE was dead by the midpoint of last season. Senior transfer Pete Thomas, a pocket passer diametrically opposed to the mobile Browning, led the Sun Belt in passing, but the Warhawks fielded the conference’s worst scoring offense.
Making matters worse were stale play calling and a conservative mentality that Berry said “tore him up inside.”
The first thing Berry did after taking over the offense was dust of the 2012 playbook — much to the excitement of the roster — and add a few of his own personal touches…
While the offense itself looks about the same formation-wise, Berry has made a few tweaks and added some option football and passing concepts from the run and shoot, a four-wide receiver attack made famous by the University of Houston in the 1980s that’s among Berry’s favorites.
“Coach Berry taught us how to read coverages when we all got here so him adding that is no big problem,” senior wide receiver Rashon Ceaser said. “We’re going to take it and run with it and make it work.”
It’s a good mindset to take into a game in which, as a big underdog, you’ve really got nothing to lose by being aggressive.
Meanwhile, if you’re interested in how the Warhawks are preparing on defense for what Schottenheimer will throw at them, take a look here.
UPDATE: From Jake Rowe, five more things to know.