It's time to take a look at this week's match-ups, where we break down which team has an advantage on both sides of the running game, the passing game and in the trenches. Not only do we let you know who has the upper hand in each area, we rate it on a one- to five-star level, with one start being a slight edge and five stars being an overwhelming advantage.
Louisiana Monroe Warhawks
La-Monroe actually has some talent in its secondary, led by senior safety Greg James (6-1, 201). A pre-season first-team all-Sun Belt selection, James team recorded fi ve interceptions last season and was second on the team in tackles. The Warhawks run a base 3-3-5 and will be breaking in two new cornerbacks. James Truxillo and Darius Prelow (2 starts each last year) return to play bandit and rover, respectively. At the corners, the Warhawks gained some experience last year in former junior college transfer Otis Stamps, now a senior, and sophomore Nate Brown.
The Texas passing game played at a level last year that was on par with any program in America, and there's little reason to think things will be different this year with Colt McCoy back leading the charge. Jordan Shipley could challenge the 100-reception mark if he's healthy all season and Texas has tremendous depth thanks to the presence of guys like James Kirkendoll, Brandon Collins, John Chiles and Malcolm Williams. It's not a question of if Texas will be successful through the air, rather how successfull it will be.
The Warhawks return a wealth of talent at linebacker including two seniors who made starts last year in ULM's two-linebacker scheme. Cardia Jackson was a first team all-Sun Belt selection last season after leading the Warhawks in tackles and finishing eighth nationally with 10.6 stops per game. Junior Theo Smith mans the other linebacker spot after picking up action the past two years as a back-up.
As it was last year, the group of Texas running backs is a bit of a mystery. Vondrell McGee enters the opener as the starter, and there are high hopes for him from people within the program. Foswhitt Whittaker is touch and go with a knee injury, opening the door for Cody Johnson and possibly Tre' Newton to get more work. If McGee starts off strong, it will go a long way towards eliminating any concerns about the Texas ground game.
Redshirt sophomore Troy Evans starts opposite senior Aaron Morgan at the defensive end spots. Morgan was an all-conference selection last year after leading ULM with 6 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Evans played in all 13 games last year but made only four starts. Former junior college transfer Aaron Williams is atop the depth chart at defensive tackle after starting eight games in 2008, including the final three. He recorded 29 tackles last year.
The Longhorn line is one of the team's question marks coming into the season, particularly the group's ability to open lanes in the run game. The line was hit or miss last year in its run blocking, and even the coaches aren't sure how the o-line will respond in 2009. Texas appears to be loaded at the top, but there is some concern about the second unit.
Trey Revell returns as a third-year sophomore for the Warhawks
after serving as ULM's number two quarterback last season.
Revell threw three touchdown passes at North Texas and
started under center against Florida International. At 6-5 and 221 pounds, Revell is a big quarterback with a strong arm, but he's never faced the kind of challenge that he'll see from the Texas secondary on Saturday. He does have some weapons, at receiver that gained experience last year. Darrell McNeal is a speedster and LaGregory Sapp, a 2006 all-conference performer, returns after missing last year due to academics. Alvin Jordan is a new starter at the tight end spot.
Statistically, the Longhorns were pretty poor last year in pass defense, but the numbers are very misleading. This is a secondary that may have as much talent as any that Texas has ever had, with a legitimate two deep with which the coaches feel comfortable. Earl Thomas appears poised for a breakout season and cornerbacks Aaron Williams and Chykie Brown are as physically impressive as any tandem in America. The stats won't always be pretty this year because of the spread offenses Texas will face, but this group will be terrific.
The Warhawks return junior all-Sun Belt selection Frank Goodin to the backfield. Goodin rushed for nearly nearly 1400 yards and nine touchdowns over the past two years. He ranked fifth as a freshman in the Sun Belt in all-purpose yards and
is 200 yards from moving up to 10th on ULM's career rushing list. He's backed up by Rodney Lovett, who played at Fort Scott Community College last year.
Texas loses the talents of Sergio Kindle at the linebacker position, but this group is still loaded across the board.
Roddrick Muckelroy put up big numbers last year and should do so again. Jared Norton is back to full strength after missing some practice time rehabbing a shoulder, and the combination of Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho give Texas a lot of athleticism at the strongside spot.
ULM returns two starters along the offensive line and will be moving other guys around as it tries to fill out its front five. Left tackle Mitch Doyle was a two-year starter at TE that moved to tackle in the spring. Left guard Brett Thompson and right tackle Justin Roberts each started several games last year. Roberts played at guard in 2008 but will slide out to tackle this year. Center Emmanuel Lockett and right guard Jonathan Gill are new to the starting line-up.
Punter Scott Love is ULM's top specail teams weapon after earning all-Sun Belt honors in 2007-09. Darrell McNeal is a speedster on punt returns that is capable of taking it to the house if he gets an opening.
Texas is in terrific hands with two place kickers and two punters that can all get the job done. The coaching staff decided to shake up the return game a bit for the opener, giving Shipley a breather for at least the early portion of the game.