After a season that saw head coach Todd Berry lose his job mid-season, the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks are moving forward quickly under a new coaching staff.
There is so much to break down heading into spring practice, but we will start by looking at the Warhawks offensive skill position players in 2015 and moving forward.
Head coach Matt Viator, formerly of McNeese State, takes over a program that ended the 2015 season with the fewest points scored per game (21.0) in the Sun Belt. The offense was also worst in the conference with only 310.8 yards per game of total offense.
It should be noted that before and during the season, several of the most important receiving options on the team were lost to injury. Many of the injuries were of the season ending variety.
I could go on and on about just how bad the ULM offense was in 2015, but this should settle all doubts.
Starting at quarterback, let's take a basic look at each position group and what is returning in 2016.
Senior: None. Junior: Brian Williams. Sophomore: Garrett Smith. Redshirt Freshman: Will Collins, Chandler Eiland, Frank Maxwell IV. True Freshman: Caleb Evans.
As a freshman in 2015, Garrett Smith came in and started the first ten games of the season. He threw for 2,033 yards and 17 touchdowns in leading an offense that lost many of his top targets throughout the season. An injury ended his season early, but the rising sophomore shows promise moving forward. Junior Brian Williams was the only other quarterback on the roster to see playing time in 2015, going 5-10 for 101 yards. Nearly all of his production came in the season finale versus New Mexico State.
A trio of redshirt freshmen (Chandler Eiland, Will Collins, Frank Maxwell IV) also dot the roster. Eiland was a three-star recruit out of high school and looks to have the highest ceiling of the three. It would be remiss to not mention the sad and sudden passing of Daniel Fitzwater during the 2015 season.
Incoming freshman Caleb Evans would seem to be the quarterback of the future for Viator and company. He has ideal size at 6-4, 195 pounds, but he will need some time to adjust to college football.
Senior: Nathan Meadors Jr. Junior: Kaylon Watson. Sophomore: Ben Luckett, Thomas Koufie. Redshirt Freshman: None. True Freshman: Duke Carter IV, Kayin White.
Any positive production out of the running back position for the Warhawks would be welcome in 2016. The team's two leading rushers in 2015 return, but the duo combined for a paltry 898 yards and two touchdowns. Rising junior Kaylon Watson made 10 starts last fall, while rising sophomore Ben Luckett (5.4 ypc) was the only rusher on the team with a yards per carry over 4.0. Luckett has the ability to fix these rushing issues:
The duo of Watson and Luckett are the only running backs to see any action on offense last season. Nathan Meadors, Jr. did not see any action and only has 19 carries during his entire career.
So, what did Viator do? He brought in a trio of backs ready to bring much needed depth to the backfield. JUCO transfer Thomas Koufie is the most FBS ready of the three after spending the 2015 season at Foothill College.
Duke Carter IV may have the highest upside with the ability to catch passes out of the backfield and carry the ball. His biggest weakness is his size (5-9/185). That is where Kayin White steps in. He is a bigger back at 5-11, 222 pounds and could give the Warhawks a version of thunder and lightning in the future.
Senior: Tyler Cain, Ajalen Holley, Jared Mapps, Tre' Perrier. Junior: De'Vonte Haggerty, Raquan Dobbs. Sophomore: RJ Turner, Marcus Green, Xavier Brown, Markis McCray. Redshirt Freshman: None. True Freshman: Brandius Batiste.
This is a group that must use the offseason to improve so that we do not experience the debacle of 2015. When star receiver Rashon Ceaser was lost to injury, it took a while for anyone other than Ajalen Holley to step up.
Rising junior Marcus Green was able to put things together and lead the team in receptions on the year. Outside of Holley (60 catches) and Green (63 catches), no one on the team had more than 31 catches.
Tyler Cain is also an interesting option after being granted another year of eligibility. He was injured in 2015, but caught 45 passes, rushed 63 times, and was the main kickoff returner for the Warhawks in 2014.
Jared Mapps has the ability to turn into a solid option opposite Holley this fall, but has to work on a catch rate of only 53.1%. Between a healthy Tre' Perrier, D'Marius Gillespie, and Xavier Brown, there is talent in the receiving corps.
Senior: Alec Osborne, Jared Mapps, Tre' Perrier. Junior: Stoney Hawkins. Sophomore: None. Redshirt Freshman: Reagan Heddins. True Freshman: Tyler Lamm, Josh Pederson.
A year that many expected to be a coming out party for Alec Osborne turned into a season of injury. The leading tight end receiver from 2014 did not get to compete in any games in 2015 after a preseason injury. If he is healthy, he will get a chance to shine.
If he is not ready to play, expect Stoney Hawkins, Reagan Heddins, and at least one of the two true freshmen (Tyler Lamm, Josh Pederson) to see action. Viator loves using multiple tight ends.