On Saturday at 6pm, the waiting is over and the season will kickoff with the ULM Warhawks visiting Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. In ULM, the Longhorns will face a team with 17 starters returning from a year ago. While the Warhawks were just 4-8 last season and lost their top player, quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster and his near 2,700 yards of production, there is optimism due to the return of many veterans.
On Monday at 11am, Warhawks head coach Charlie Weatherbie spoke to the media via a conference call to talk about the opener. Weatherbie, entering his seventh season at ULM, says his team understands they are taking on a top ranked Texas team, but like most teams, are ready to hit someone other than themselves in the practice setting.
"We open up with a great football team in Texas," said Weatherbie. "We understand this will be quite a challenge for our team. The players are excited that they will be playing in front of 110,00 fans in a great setting. We are looking forward to playing a great football team."
ULM, like many college teams, is running the spread offense. Last season behind the legs of Lancaster, the Warhawks ran a lot of zone read in addition to putting the ball in the air. This season, the passing game will be more of a focus at quarterback with junior Trey Revell taking over.
Pass protection will be key in 2009 and especially against a fast and athletic Texas team says Weatherbie.
"Texas is a hard team to block. They don't stay blocked a long time," Weatherbie said.
One of the moves along the offensive front this season will be tight end Mitch Doyle making the move to left tackle. Doyle will bring athleticism to the line despite weighing only 265 pounds.
"He's a really athletic guy that is a good football player. He's very intelligent and could move back to tight end and not miss a beat," Weatherbie said.
Doyle will be opening holes for junior running back Frank Goodin. Goodin, a West Monroe native, rushed for 783 yards in 2008.
ULM features one of the fastest players in college football in sophomore Luther Ambrose. Ambrose, 5-10 and 170 pounds, was second in the Sun Belt in the 100-meters last year with a time of 10.44 as well as running a 10.38 in NCAA Midwest Regionals. Ambrose, who beat USC running back Joe McKnight in the Louisiana 2007 2A state meet in the 100-meters, returned a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown against Arkansas State last year and averaged 18.1 yards per touch on the season.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Warhawks are under the direction of first year defensive coordinator Trey Reffett. Reffett, who coached the previous five seasons at New Mexico, brings a 3-3-5 base defensive scheme to the ULM program. At New Mexico, his teams blitzed more than 75% of the time.
Back are eight of the top nine tacklers from last season that includes three starters up front and the entire secondary. Middle linebacker Cardia Jackson tallied 127 stops, four sacks and two interceptions as a junior earning second team Sun Belt honors.
As expected, the Longhorns will have a decided advantage in size on the offensive line versus the Warhawks defense.
A look at head coach Charlie Weatherbie
Weatherbie is entering his seventh season as the head coach at ULM. In six seasons, the former Oklahoma State quarterback has a 25-45 record. Overall, Weatherbie is 70-109 in 16 seasons as a head coach. He coached at Utah State from 1992-94 (15-19 record) and Navy from 1995-2001 (30-45 record).
Weatherbie's teams are 1-1 in bowl games losing in the Las Vegas bowl in 1993 at Utah State and winning the Aloha Bowl in 1996 at Navy.
Coach Weatherbie has two conference titles on his resume. His first came as Co-champions of the Big West in 1993. His second was two years ago as Co-Champions of the Sun Belt. The 2007 season featured an upset win of Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
ULM 2008 season
ULM went 4-8 in 2008, including 3-4 in Sun Belt Conference play
ULM 2009 schedule
ULM against ranked opponents
The Warhawks are 0-19 versus ranked teams since 1994. ULM is also 0-10 against Big 12 opponents.
ULM is 0-15 in road openers, including five shut out losses.
Notable Sports Alumni
Ben Sheets - MLB pitcher with the Milwaukee Brewers and four time All-Star selection.
Tim Brando - CBS Sports and talk radio