We only have one month before actual football practices start and that means a lot of speaking engagements and marketing opportunities for each Sun Belt program. None of these events are more popular than each league’s media days and the Sun Belt will be hosting their own in New Orleans on July 23rd and 24th. Here we’ll a quick preview of what to expect from each program when their head coach heads to the podium.
Appalachian State: Anniversary
It has now been a decade since the Mountaineers shocking upset of Michigan in the Big House and I’m almost certain head coach Scott Satterfield will get plenty of questions about that game. Satterfield, who was on the staff as the QB coach during that upset, will almost assuredly get questions on if the Mountaineers can pull another upset on opening day. App State travels to Athens, 250 miles southeast of Boone, to take on a Georgia team that will be the likely favorite to win the SEC East. A win here could actually be the best win in program history as then it would give App a legit shot to run the table and receive the G5 New Years Six bid.
Arkansas State: Ja’Von Rolland-Jones
The Red Wolves return the conference player of the year from 2016 and I would expect for head coach Blake Anderson to bring him to New Orleans. The senior from Mesquite, Texas has a legit shot at All-America honors this fall if he once again makes an improvement on his numbers. In 2016, he recorded 21.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. JRJ needs 13.5 sacks in his senior season to tie former Arizona State Sun Devil Terrell Suggs for the NCAA all-time sack record. Expect Anderson to field many questions on how the Red Wolves will be building their defense around the superior edge rusher.
Coastal Carolina: Life In FBS
In 2017, Joe Moglia’s club will make the move from FCS to FBS and the former Wall Street broker is a master behind the mic. Moglia was wonderful last year at the event and expectations for juicy quotes will be high when he gets to the podium. Expect the 68-year-old to get many questions about how his team will adjust to the competition level in the FBS. I wouldn’t be surprised if Moglia takes a shot at the schedule as the Chants have, perhaps, the roughest slate in the league. After a bye in week two, Coastal goes 10 straight weeks where they play seven league games and have a road trip to Arkansas.
Georgia Southern: Back to the Option
In the offseason, Tyson Summers made an offensive coordinator change as he brought in Georgia Tech assistant Bryan Cook. Cook spent the last four years in Atlanta under former Georgia Southern head coach Paul Johnson and will bring an option attack back to Statesboro that Southern has had plenty of success with. Expect Summers to field questions on how this transition is going and who seems to be the favorite at QB heading into fall camp.
Georgia State: First Year
Shawn Elliott enters his first media days as a head coach as he’ll make the journey from Atlanta to New Orleans. With the new stadium starting to take shape, I’d assume Elliott will get multiple questions about it as well as how he’s adjusting to life as the head man in chart. It will be critical for Travis Trickett’s offense to get a run game going so things can open up for Conner Manning, Penny Hart, and the rest of that Panther air attack.
Idaho: Back-to-Back Bowl Berths?
Paul Petrino and the Vandals were the surprise of the conference last year as they ripped of six Sun Belt wins on their way to a 9-4 season. Now the Vandals will see if they can make it back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time in program history. Idaho will be heading to FCS next season, so expect some conversation to center around that. With QB Matt Lineman returning, Idaho will have one of the most exciting offenses in the league.
UL-Lafayette: New QB and RB
Last season Mark Hudspeth brought LSU transfer Anthony Jennings to run his offense and returned do it all RB Elijah McGuire. Both of these players have now moved on and it seems to be rebuild time in Lafayette. The Cajuns ranked last at QB and second to last at RB in our Sun Belt preview series. Offensive coordinator Will Hall will have a solid offensive line to lean on, but the Cajuns must find answers at the skill positions. We’ll see if Hudspeth gives us any insight on how those positions are coming along.
New Mexico State: Can Larry Rose III Stay Healthy?
Doug Martin enters his fifth season in Las Cruces with the most talented team NMSU has had in quite some time. The biggest reason for that is the feature back. Larry Rose III is one of the best backs in the country when healthy and for NMSU to get to the postseason, they’ll need him for all 12 games. Rose missed the first three contests flast season and really never looked himself all year. If fresh and healthy, NMSU could be the surprise of the conference in 2017. Expect Martin to receive plenty of questions about his star tailback and Rose should be one of the Aggies making the trip to NOLA.
South Alabama: Do the Jags Have Any Receivers?
Tight end Gerald Everett was one of the best players in the Sun Belt last fall and was taken off the board early in the NFL Draft. In addition to him, USA also lost leading receivers Josh Magee, Kevin Kutchera, and Tyrone Williams. The WR position is the weakness of the team and if USA can get this situation figured out it is very likely that the Jags will be going bowling for consecutive seasons. Hopefully we get some tidbits from Joey Jones on how the development of this position is going this offseason.
Texas State: Improvement
Just getting better should be Texas State’s goal moving forward and we’ll get to hear how that process is going when Everett Withers takes the stand. The Bobcats still rank near the bottom of the league in multiple positions so expect many young guys to see the field this year for the Bobcats. I’m sure we’ll hear Withers bring up his recruiting class and grad transfer QB Damian Williams multiple times.
Troy: Offensive Explosion
Neal Brown is entering his third season as the leader of the program and in 2017 he has the offense all Trojans fans expected when he was hired. Troy is loaded at the skill positions and I’d suspect that you’ll hear Brown discuss the high expectations he and his staff have for this unit. We should get some insight in how Troy will fill the hole left by tackle Antonio Garcia.
ULM: Improved Rushing Attack
With the addition of Alabama transfer Derrick Gore and the return of all ball carriers from last season, the ULM run game should be much improved. Add in the fact that the Warhawks return some promising offensive linemen in Devin Jackson, Frank Sutton, and Eastwood Thomas and this group could have Matt Viator and offensive coordinator Matt Kubik giddy. Thomas Koufie, Ben Luckett, and Gore have a chance to be one of the conference’s best RB rotations. Expect Viator to bring up this group’s potential.