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ULM coach Todd Berry is relatively familiar with Florida State, having served as quarterbacks coach at Miami in 2006.
John Crist: Tell me more about ULM coach Todd Berry. I know his offense tends to feature a lot of pre-snap motion, and then defensively the Warhawks have done a pretty good job stopping the run the last two years. Which side of the ball tends to better reflect Berry's personality?
Matt Vines: Todd Berry can be described as an offensive mind, but with a defensive mentality. He has an offensive background as a coordinator and head coach much of his career, including a stint as QBs coach at Miami in 2006, but he has the swagger of a defensive guy. Here's a quote: "I've always told the players, and I'm going to be really unapologetic about this: We're going to go out and try to win games." It sounds simple enough, but you really feel that this guy has permeated his attitude through the program, and, for what it's worth, the Warhawks are picked in a three-way tie atop the Sun Belt.
JC: ULM has shown no fear going up against big-time competition in the past, having opened 2008-10 against Auburn, Texas and Arkansas, respectively. Is this simply a way to get paid by superior competition, or do the Warhawks truly want to face the best of the best?
MV: To quote one of Nelly's more catchy songs, "Hey, must be the money!" I'm sure the Warhawks relish the opportunity to go play these teams, but ULM is 3-51 against schools currently in a BCS conference since the move up to then-Division I-A in 1994. This is about getting paid to make up for being one of the poorest FBS schools.
JC: Offensively, sophomore quarterback Kolton Browning was rather productive a season ago, when he was named a Freshman All-American by College Football News. Is he the typical crafty lefty that throws a lot of short passes, or does he have enough arm to beat you deep?
MV: The offense is based mostly on shorter passes, but Berry said he thinks he has the horses to run with anybody, including Florida State. ULM has the weapons to go downfield, but not having seen Browning play, I can't say for sure whether he throws an accurate deep ball. Receivers Luther Ambrose -- he is also a talented sprinter --and Tavarese Maye are the team's deep threats.
JC: As for the defense, as referenced earlier, ULM has been tough to run against each of the past two years. However, the base alignment for the Warhawks is a 3-3-5, meaning there is an extra defensive back on the field. How are they able to fill gaps consistently?
MV: I had the same question when I found out that ULM ran a 3-3-5 but were also the best in the Sun Belt against the run. Being here only a week, I haven't found an answer to that question just yet. I do know that ULM has a pair of tremendous defensive ends in Kenneth Dorsey and Troy Evans, but I would imagine the nickel backs and safeties would need to be able to run blitz into the gaps.
JC: Similar to Florida State, ULM returns its long snapper, holder, kicker and punter this season. While the Seminoles could have some of the better special teams in the entire country, are the Warhawks capable of neutralizing what should be an advantage for FSU this year?
MV: I don't think so. ULM's senior kicker is battling leg injuries and hasn't been the steadiest of guys. The team's punter is from Pace, Florida, about three hours from Tallahassee, and before he started in 2010, he hadn't punted since the eighth grade. ULM could potentially match FSU in speed at the return positions, but a true freshman will field punts Saturday.
To read Part II of this Behind Enemy Lines series, where John answers five questions from Matt, Click Here.
John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com. Matt Vines is the ULM beat writer for The News Star.
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