Thank you for reading along, but the time has come to finalize our position preview series. As you see in the table below, we have every team listed and where we have each group ranked among their Sun Belt peers. There were defintley some results that were expected, but also some surprises.
Sun Belt Position Rankings
|New Mexico State||8||5||8||5||9||5||8||8|
- Appalachian State has the best roster in the conference. The Mountaineers were the only program to rank in the top four in all positional categories and grabbed the number one spot at QB and offensive line. As well as having the league’s second best running back group and defensive line, the Mountaineers are the clear favorites in 2017.
- It’s going to be a long year in Conway. Joe Moglia’s squad ranked in the double-digits in all positions and their lone bright spot is the eighth best RB group. Add in a brutal first year schedule and wins will be hard to come by for the Chants in 2017.
- Troy easily has the best WR room. The Trojans return all of their production from 2016 and they could lap the rest of the league in catches and yards this fall. If that offensive line can protect Silvers, this passing game is going to carve up nearly every Sun Belt passing defense it faces.
- The line of scrimmage will be ugly in San Marcos. The rebuild is going slowly for Everett Withers’ group on both sides of the line as the Bobcats come in at the bottom of the pile in the trenches. There are some bright spots here, most notably center Aaron Brewer, but a talent influx is still needed and one great recruiting class won’t solve these problems.
- Shawn Elliott must get some running backs to Atlanta fast. It didn’t take a football genius to realize that Georgia State was brutal at running back last fall and it doesn’t seem like they’ll have any answer this year. The Panthers have all the tools to succeed everywhere else on offense, but this group will hold them back if they can’t establish a legit running game. However, with all of the production from 2016 returning, maybe new offensive coordinator Travis Trickett can provide some magic.
- UL-Lafayette beats out Arkansas State as the best defensive line in the Sun Belt. Going into this, I was almost 100% positive that the Red Wolves would have the best group behind possible All-American candidate Ja’Von Rolland-Jones. However, I was mistaken as Joe Dillon is the second best pass rusher in the league and the depth is really impressive for the Ragin’ Cajuns. Add in that most of these guys are juniors/seniors and I like where things are in the front four in Lafayette.
- Texas State linebackers are solid. It caught me off guard to see the Bobcats rank so high here, but they’ve got some dudes in the middle of that defense. Bryan London and Gabe Loyd were both spectacular in their first year at Texas State and this may be the best duo in the Sun Belt. However, they won’t get much help.
- Matt Viator is slowing putting the roster together in Monroe. We’ve had a lot of talk lately about strange things happening at ULM, but currently that depth chart is getting better. The Warhawks ranked in the top seven at five positions and I really did not expect to see that when I began this series. You should see a much improved product in Malone Stadium.
- The New Mexico State defense has a chance to be competitive. Last year the Aggies were one of the worst defenses in all of football, but they have the chance to be in the middle of the pack in the Sun Belt this fall. In total, NMSU returns 11 of their top 12 tacklers from last season and nearly all of those players have starting experience. This squad will be better at each level and defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani finally has some tools to play with.
- The Idaho Vandals are loaded at linebacker. I still can’t believe I’m typing that, but it is true. Tony Lashley is a straight up thumper at middle linebacker while Kaden Elliss is a jack-of-all-trades and could be in the running for Sun Belt defensive player of the year. Meanwhile, Ed Hall is no slouch either on the outside. This group will be making plays all over the field in the program’s final year in FBS.
Here how the teams would rank based on the ratings system we featured in our C-USA Reviews:
1.) Appalachian State
2.) Arkansas State
4.) Georgia State
4.) South Alabama
7.) New Mexico State
9.) Georgia Southern
11.) Texas State
12.) Coastal Carolina