Most people you talk to would say that the Sun Belt Conference is a weak one. I beg to differ. This new season will bring some of the best college football the Sun Belt has seen in years. With newcomer Troy State, look for North Texas to be looking over its shoulder. There should be some high-scoring affairs and last-second plays that will play a huge role on how this conference will unfold.
Here is my 2004 Sun Belt Preseason All-Conference Team...
The best of the best in the Sun Belt...
As you can see, North Texas rules my Sun Belt All-America Team, but will they own the conference?
1.) North Texas
Defense- The Mean Green pass defense was weak last year. Don't look for a repeat. With Jonas Buckles at FS, and Walter Priestly at CB, this secondary should step up big time. Their run stopping ability will be top notch, with two great defensive ends, Adrian Awasom, and Tommy Harrison. The weakest spot will be the linebacker core. A lack of senior leadership at LB is quite visible. That is what is keeping this defense from putting up a couple of goose eggs .
Special Teams- With punter Brad Kadlubar averaging over 40 yards per punt last year, look for that to go up a few digits. Kicker Nick Bazaldua only missed two field goals last year, and had the best PAT percentage in the Sun Belt conference in '03.
Big Game-Sept. 4th at Texas.
2.) Troy State
Offense- RB DeWhitt Betterson will shine like the sun this year. Watch out Patrick Cobbs, there is a new tailback in town, and he is gonna challenge you for the best player in the Sun Belt. Aaron Leak isn't much to talk about. Jason Samples will have to step up at wideout if they want to compete.
Defense- In the last 10 games of the '03 season, the Trojans only gave up 18.3 points a game. Seven starters are back from last year. Look for this defense to stay around the 17 points per game average. Derrick Ansley at FS will play a huge roll, and will be a great NFL draft pick if he keeps his stats up.
Special teams- Thomas Olmstead punted near 43 yards per punt, and kicked field goals last year. Freshman Greg Whibbs will give him little break on field goals.
Big Game- Sept. 11 at LSU
3.) Utah State
Offense- Travis Cox won't have a lot of help this year. This 6'2 QB loses a lot of his star players on the offensive side of the ball. Sophomore Travis Davis will get a lot of carries at Tailback, but I don't see greatness quite yet.
Defense- The Aggies moved to a 3-4 defense in the 2003 season, and it paid off. They were third in the conference in defense. Robert Watts at MLB will be the lead the defense. If they could beat Alabama or Clemson, this team can have a 7 win record.
Special Teams- Ben Chaet averaged 40.3 yards last year while sophomore Justin Hamblin will take over the kicking duty.
Big Game- Sept 18th vs. Utah.
4.) New Mexico State
Offense- Pierce set a school record for completion percentage last year, yet he will still share time with running QB, Junior Paul Dombrowski. Other than those two players, there are only two starters coming back on offense. Young Tony Joseph will get the ball handed to him more this year.
Defense- The New Mexico State defense gets 10 starters back, and 9 should start on Defense. Richard Glover, a LB, is the soul of this team, with over 150 tackles last year. Watch out for Chris Sneed too, he is going to be a stud.
Special Teams- Steven Smith is a solid punter, and will do well. The kicker will be Ryan Guardia, a redshirt Freshman. This could bring lots of woes for the Aggies.
Big Game- Oct. 23 at North Texas
5.) Middle Tennessee State
Offense- This explosive O is led by Junior Josh Harris, who will be dishing the ball to Pedro Holiday and Kerry Wright, a Sun Belt Matt All-American, this coming season. Right Guard Germayle Franklin is a returning starter, but is only a sophomore...but look for big things from the sophomore.
Defense- The Defense is led by stud linebackers Dennis Burke, Alvin Fite, and Johnathan Bonner. Their secondary will be weak, but that is why new defensive coordinator Bradley Peveto is there.
Special Teams- Paul Wheeler will kickoff, but punter Colby Smith may punt and kick field goals. That is what camp is to decide.
Big Game- Nov. 20 at Troy State
Offense- Steven Jyles, the junior QB, and sophomore RB Kevin Payne won't have a lot of help, so they will need to do it all. LT Bruce Hampton will play a huge roll on the line with C Hayden Wadsworth. Look for this offense to be very streaky.
Defense- La-Monroe's defense gave up 64 touchdowns last year. That was the most by any team in the Sun Belt. Chris Harris, the Sr. FS, got 4 INTs last year, along with 86 tackles. He will need to step up big time!
Special Teams- La-Monroe has one of the best punters in NCAA in Joel Stelly, but the freshman Cole Wilson will have a load of trouble with the FG duties.
Big Game- Sept 18th at Arkansas
7.) Arkansas State
Offense - The Indians' offense was the worst in the Sun Belt in '03. With injuries to their two top tailbacks, Elliot Jacobs will have to learn to fly to keep this consistent. They do have 7 starters back, which is a plus.
Defense- This young defense will be a tremendous piece to this mixed up puzzle. Steven Tookes is an amazing player who got 90 tackles in limited playing time. Courtney Todd on the End will team up with Chavis to stop the run and get some pressure on the opposing QB.
Special teams- Jarod Little is a fine punter, but Eric Neihouse didn't make a FG over 27 yards...WOW!
Big Game- Sept 18th vs. Memphis
Offense- This team won their last 4 conference games of the season. If sophomore Jerry Babb can keep it up, huge props. Sr. Bill Sampy will be catching most balls from Babbs, with very soft hands.
Defense- This defense is horrendous after giving up over 425 yards per game last year, and having a bunch of new faces, I see little upside. They will be better than last year, yes, but not much.
Special teams- Sean Comiskey is a great Jr. place kicker, as he made 12 of 15 last year. Freshman David Schexnayder will punt the ball, but I doubt too far.
Big Game- Sept 18th at Kansas State
Offense- Sorry to have you last Idaho, but it's got to be someone. Their passing offense is stellar. New starting QB Michael Harrington will need to step up. Guard Tony Kiel will be the only senoir starring on the o-line, which could be fatal.
Defense- Idaho's defense is turning it self around with returning all-stars like DE Mike Anderson and other DE Brandon Kania. Nate Nichols can be a star at LB if given a chance.
Special Teams- Mike Barrow is a good kicker, and might be the punter as well. He made his last 4 field goals last season.
Big Game- Nov. 20 at Hawaii
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