Warhawks Poised To Be Sun Belt Contenders
By Zackary DuFour
At the beginning of last season, Louisana-Monroe was an afterthought. Widely regarded as a lower tier team in a mid-major conference, the Warhawks didn’t have much in terms of success.
Then, with an explosive performance from Kolton Browning and a seemingly impossible win against Arkansas, the Warhawks were on the map.
Of course there were those that called the game a fluke, likening it to Tyson’s defeat at the hands of Buster Douglas. When the Warhawks came out and played well against teams like Auburn and Baylor, though, it was clear that Todd Berry had a serious team on his hands.
Perhaps the most integral part of the Warhawks' potential success next season is their experience. To put it plainly, the Warhawks have the most experienced team in the Sun Belt this season. Under the helm of returning quarterback Kolton Browning, the Warhawks' offense boasts the experience of players like Jyruss Edwards and Je’Ron Hamm. On the offensive line, Josh Allen has 30 career starts.
On the defensive side of the ball, every lineman and almost every defensive back returns for the Warhawks.
There may be more talented teams in the Sun Belt in 2013, but there certainly isn’t a team that is more used to the rigor of college football.
Last year, Louisiana-Monroe boasted some of the most efficient passing in the Sun Belt. With the return of Kolton Browning and a slew of emerging talents like DeVontae McNeal, hopefully the Warhawks can add a bit of explosiveness to their offense.
Defensively, the Warhawks will have to work on their ability to stop big plays. Although the Warhawks' defense did a great job last year of swarming the ball and stopping the run, there weren’t enough playmakers on the team that could reach the quarterback without sacrificing a game-changing play.
Luckily, the Warhawks are poised to have a good defensive line next season. Every lineman that made a tackle last season returns. Still, the Warhawks will have to find a way to make up for the absence of DaCorris Ford and R.J. Young at linebacker. There are plenty of exciting options that coach Todd Berry can choose from. Cameron Blakes and Hunter Kissinger both showed promise last season. If the linebacker corps can hold steady for 2013, the Warhawks should see an appreciable defensive improvement.
Even with their bowl loss to Ohio, Louisiana-Monroe’s 2012 season must be considered a success. At the beginning of the season, 8-5 seemed like a pipe dream. Now, along with Louisiana-Lafayette and Western Kentucky, the Warhawks are contenders in the truest sense of the word. Berry seems determined not to make the same mistakes he did during his tenure at Army. So far he is doing a good job.