With spring football about to kick in, how do each of the teams look? What are the first impressions? These are the first thoughts that can and will change over the next several months before diving deep into the team-by-team previews. Please, give us your thoughts and questions – be pleasant – hitting us at @ColFootballNews.
- The best and the brightest teams going into spring football.
- Crank up the realistic playoff expectations if everything breaks right.
- They'll all be in the mix for a conference title, with a little luck.
- Probably a bit low - all could challenge for big things.
- Some new high-risers - there's promise and potential.
- Likely bowl teams - or at least that's the expectation.
- Low-end Power 5 teams, but there's surprise potential.
- Possible bowl teams and some star Group of 5ers.
- Some bottom Power 5s and top Group of 5ers as the rankings roll on.
- Teams that have several major question marks, or are missing top talent.
- They need to replace too many key parts, but there's hope.
- They're not quite at the bottom, but they need a whole bunch of work.
- As spring ball is rolling, which teams come into the year looking up?
The Bottom Ten
89. South Florida
Biggest Positive: Star RB Marlon Mack is a big-time producer, and everyone else who finished with a positive rushing yards is back, too. Linebackers Nigel Harris and Auggie Sanchez should once again be two of the team’s top tacklers, and leading hitter Jamie Byrd is back after making 95 tackles.
Biggest Negative: Does USF have a quarterback who can produce? They’re all back, but someone has to be the main man. Only two starters are back on the offensive front, and top WR Andre Davis is gone.
90. Ball State
Biggest Positive: Ozzie Mann and Jack Milas are back to choose from at quarterback, and most of the top targets return – Ball State should have one of the MAC’s best receiving corps. All five starters are back up front to make the O go.
Biggest Negative: It’s going to be hard to replace Jahwan Edwards, a three year 1,000-yard back who handled the ground game. The secondary loses stalwarts Brian Jones and Eric Patterson, and even though they missed time late, they were good ones. Losing PK Scott Secor is a big deal after losing 25-of-30 field goals.
Biggest Positive: Ten starters are back on an offense that can’t help but be far better. New head coach Philip Montgomery wants to kick the O into high gear, and he has a good QB in Dane Evans and a great WR in Keevan Lucas. The D has playmakers in S Michael Mudoh and DE Derrick Alexander.
Biggest Negative: The defense has to be night-and-day better, and it loses S DeMarco Nelson and LB Jake Sizelove. PK Carl Salazar is gone after connecting on 12-of-18 field goal attempts.
Biggest Positive: The top 11 tacklers return and everyone returns in the defensive back seven including linebackers Marquise Vann and Graham Stewart. The offensive line should be a strength with four starters back paving the way for promising RBs Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson.
Biggest Negative: The offense still has a long way to go before it becomes decent. The top two receivers are gone, and the quarterback play has to be far better – if Tim Boyle is the man, he has to become a playmaker.
93. Appalachian State
Biggest Positive: The offensive backfield has a superstar in RB Marcus Cox to work around and with QB Taylor Lamb back to make the offense work. Ten starters are back on a defense that welcomes back 11 of the top 12 tacklers.
Biggest Negative: Four starters are back on the offensive front, but OT Kendall Lamm is done. Overall, the team needs to be a bit sharper and has to be better in turnover margin – all the skill stars have to hold on to the ball.
94. Middle Tennessee
Biggest Positive: Almost everyone is back on an explosive offense with QB Austin Grammer leading a talented group. Only three starters are gone off a defense that needs a new defensive end, middle linebacker and corner, but should be stronger.
Biggest Negative: Yeah, almost everyone is back on defense, but top pass rusher Shubert Bastien will be badly missed at end, and top sacker Leighton Gasque is also done. Top WR Marcus Henry is gone off the offense and key RT Isaiah Anderson is finished.
Biggest Positive: QB Driphus Jackson returns along with Zach Wright and Dennis Parks to throw to. Counting Jackson, everyone who gained a rushing yard in 2014 is expected to be back. The defense is a concern, but there’s hope up front with Brian Nordstrom back.
Biggest Negative: The Owls lose three starters on the offensive line and the top two receivers are gone. The D has to replace the top four tacklers, and four starters are gone in the secondary for the 4-2-5 defense.
96. Western Michigan
Biggest Positive: Jarvion Franklin should be one of the nation’s best statistical backs and the passing game could be explosive. QB Zach Terrell returns along with Corey Davis, Daniel Braverman and every receiver or tight end who caught a pass.
Biggest Negative: The top three tacklers are gone from a secondary that needs to be almost totally rebuilt. The defensive front comes back solid, but NT Richard Ash is literally a big loss and will be missed. The O should be fine, but two key starters have to be replaced up front.
97. Georgia Southern
Biggest Positive: The offensive machine should keep on rolling with QB Kevin Ellison back in the unstoppable rushing system with the talent to beat anyone on the right day. Four of the top five tacklers are back on defense.
Biggest Negative: Four of the five starters have to be replaced on the offensive front. While GSU knows how to reload, it’s still going to take a while to get the timing down. The D should be better, but leading tackler and key LB Edwin Jackson is gone.
98. Central Michigan
Biggest Positive: Saylor Lavallii, Martez Walker and Devon Spalding can handle the work in the backfield. Three starters return up front, and QB Cooper Rush should be a statistical machine. The line will be the strength of the D with Joe Ostman and Blake Serpa two solid ends.
Biggest Negative: There’s too much work to be done on both sides of the ball with Dan Enos leaving and John Bonemego coming in. The secondary is gutted, and WR Titus Davis and RB Thomas Rawls were key parts of the offensive puzzle.
2015 Pre-Preseason Rankings: No. 89-98
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