Sun Belt media day preview: Team capsules

Associated Press file photo by Gerald Herbert -- Louisiana-Monroe coach Todd Berry
Associated Press file photo by Gerald Herbert -- Louisiana-Monroe coach Todd Berry

Appalachian State

COACH: Scott Satterfield

PLAYERS: Junior QB Kameron Bryant, senior DE Ronald Blair

EASY TO ANSWER: Bryant completed 71 percent of his passes for 2,713 yards, and RB Marcus Cox ran for 1,250 yards and 15 scores last year, joining five returning offensive line starters.

TOUGH TO SAY: App State’s defense was a work-in-progress last year, a big reason the 4-8 Mountaineers matched their lowest win total in two decades. And that came against a schedule that included only one FBS team; this year, they’ll play 10.

FOLLOW ALONG ON TWITTER: @AppState_sports (Appalachian State sports)

Arkansas State

COACH: Blake Anderson

PLAYERS: Junior WR J.D. McKissic, senior DB Sterling Young

EASY TO ANSWER: The Red Wolves were a field goal away from winning six in a row to end the season, won a bowl game and return eight starters from a defense among the league’s best. McKissic is a big-play threat and a top target for athletic QB Fredi Knighten.

TOUGH TO SAY: A-State has holes to fill on both sides of the ball and will be under its fourth coach in four seasons. The previous three all won conference titles, but will that turnover eventually catch up?

FOLLOW ALONG ON TWITTER: @AStateRedWolves (Arkansas State sports)

Georgia Southern

COACH: Willie Fritz

PLAYERS: Senior OT Garrett Frye, senior LB Edwin Jackson

EASY TO ANSWER: The Eagles won’t be a full-time triple-option team any more with former Sam Houston State coach Fritz taking over, but they’ll still show some elements while featuring QB Kevin Ellison and an offensive front that was among the best in the FCS.

TOUGH TO SAY: Ellison only threw 79 times in 2013, and the defense will be undersized and maybe not deep enough to handle the move to FBS status.

FOLLOW ALONG ON TWITTER: @GSAthletics (Georgia Southern sports)

Georgia State

COACH: Trent Miles

PLAYERS: Sophomore TE Keith Rucker, junior LB Joseph Peterson

EASY TO ANSWER: Ohio transfer Ronnie Bell threw for 2,573 yards in his first season, and Nick Arbuckle was a top junior college talent. The 0-12 Panthers lost three league games by one touchdown or less.

TOUGH TO SAY: Only nine starters return, so a new group that’s heavy on junior-college talent will have to learn quickly.

FOLLOW ALONG ON TWITTER: @GSUPanthers (Georgia State sports)

Idaho

COACH: Paul Petrino

PLAYERS: Senior OL Mike Marboe, senior DE Maxx Forde

EASY TO ANSWER: The Vandals’ second Sun Belt stint should make for an easier schedule than last season’s independent struggles.

TOUGH TO SAY: Where to start? QB Chad Chalich had almost as many interceptions (three) as TDs (five). The defense gave up 40 or more points nine times. And the secondary was so bad that wide receivers had to fill late-season spots. The Vandals are ineligible for bowl games due to low APR scores.

FOLLOW ALONG ON TWITTER: @Idaho_Vandals (Idaho sports)

Louisiana-Lafayette

COACH: Mark Hudspeth

PLAYERS: Senior QB Terrance Broadway, senior RB Alonzo Harris

EASY TO ANSWER: The Cajuns are loaded: Broadway, Harris and dynamic RB Elijah McGuire pace the league’s most potent unit. Seven starters return on a defense that is deeper than last year’s 9-4 team.

TOUGH TO SAY: UL-Lafayette won eight in a row with Broadway healthy and lost its last two with him hurt and sidelined. There are questions at linebacker, and the secondary needs to be more consistent despite leading the league in interceptions.

FOLLOW ALONG ON TWITTER: @ULRaginCajuns (UL-Lafayette sports)

Louisiana-Monroe

COACH: Todd Berry

PLAYERS: Junior WR Rashon Ceaser, senior LB Ray Stovall

EASY TO ANSWER: The defense may be the league’s best with five of the top six linemen and four secondary starters back, along with a deep linebacker corps. Ceaser is a threat as both a receiver and a return specialist, and the offensive front is solid.

TOUGH TO SAY: ULM has no hope of replacing QB and 12,000-yard career passer Kolton Browning, with N.C. State transfer Pete Thomas the best chance. A shaky running game should be better with Tyler Cain returning from injury, but ULM has three SEC teams on its schedule.

FOLLOW ALONG ON TWITTER: @ULM_FB (UL-Monroe football)

New Mexico State

COACH: Doug Martin

PLAYERS: Senior OL Valerian Ume-Ezeoke, senior DB Travaughn Colwell

EASY TO ANSWER: The Aggies have to be better after losing 10 games by an average of 30 points. Jerrel Brown heads a deep receiving corps, and Ume-Ezeoke is a force up front to lead an experienced offensive line.

TOUGH TO SAY: NMSU’s defense was abysmal last year, giving up more rushing yards than anyone in the FBS — which makes new coordinator Larry Coyer’s task a huge one. The QB spot is up for grabs, and the Aggies had a key loss when WR Austin Franklin declared for the NFL draft.

FOLLOW ALONG ON TWITTER: @NMStateAggies (New Mexico State sports)

South Alabama

COACH: Joey Jones

PLAYERS: Junior OL Chris May, senior LB Maleki Harris

EASY TO ANSWER: The Jaguars should have their best offense in program history with their top three backs and top four receivers returning. Harris leads a defense that forced turnovers and is solid in the back seven.

TOUGH TO SAY: The only missing components offensively are at QB, where 6-foot-5 Brandon Bridge takes over, and at center. USA does have to replace half of a defensive front that helped the rest of the Jaguars defense be solid.

FOLLOW ALONG ON TWITTER: @USAJaguarSports (South Alabama sports)

Texas State

COACH: Dennis Franchione

PLAYERS: Senior LB David Mayo, senior LB Michael Orakpo

EASY TO ANSWER: QB Tyler Jones should continue to improve after starting as a freshman, and Robert Lowe was a surprise with 945 rushing yards as a sophomore. Mayo and Orakpo make up the league’s top LB duo and bolster a rush defense that led the Sun Belt.

TOUGH TO SAY: The Bobcats offensive line was woeful at times last year, and the defensive front has to be rebuilt from scratch; TSU signed six junior-college defensive linemen. Jones’ receiving corps needs to establish some playmakers.

FOLLOW ALONG ON TWITTER: @TxStateBobcats (Texas State sports)

Troy

COACH: Offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield; head coach Larry Blakeney will not attend after undergoing minor surgery last week

PLAYERS: Senior OL Terrence Jones, senior LB Wayland Coleman-Dancer

EASY TO ANSWER: The Sun Belt’s top scoring team has weapons at running back and receiver, with Brandon Burks and Jordan Chunn a strong backfield duo and Bryan Holmes a big-play wide receiver threat. Coleman-Dancer leads a solid linebacker corps.

TOUGH TO SAY: With Corey Robinson gone, the QB slot is still a work-in-progress. A bigger concern is the entire defensive unit, which couldn’t get key stops and was the big reason Troy had a third straight non-winning season for the first time in a quarter-century.

FOLLOW ALONG ON TWITTER: @TroyAthletics (Troy sports)