Louisiana Monroe is a program which enjoys an occasional moment in the sun, but has trouble sustaining quality from year to year. The Warhawks are a reasonably competitive program, but their situation is best expressed by the idea that they didn’t get over the hump. The program comes close to doing something noteworthy, but falls short more often than not. Can this team cross the divide and sand on the other, more prosperous side? That’s the larger thematic question for the coming season. Details on the roster will follow.
How Did They End 2016
The Warhawks were 2-4 at the midpoint of their season, not doing as well as they had hoped but certainly not out of the running for a bowl bid. They hoped that they could regroup, but in games seven and eight of their season, the wheels fell off. They suffered two losses of more than 40 points, giving up over 50 points in each game, and fell to 2-6. They had to win their four remaining games to have any slight hope of a bowl bid, but when they lost by 25 points in Game 11, they fell to 4-7 and were essentially eliminated. In retrospect, while the final two games of the season were both decisive losses, the critical losses – the games that were winnable but got away – happened earlier in the journey.
A 23-21 loss to Georgia Southern in Week 3 and a 34-31 setback to Idaho in Week 6 represent the games which, had they gone the other way, could have catapulted the Warhawks to a 6-6 record and consideration for a bowl bid. The other six losses in a 4-8 season all came by a minimum of 25 points.
Second-year coach Matt Viator is scrambling to try to adjust the talent level at his generally under-resourced program, searching for the players who can put the team over the top, which is defined as hitting .500 and making a bowl game. Incoming lineman Trace Ellison comes from Texas Tech, a pass-blocking offensive line. Louisiana Monroe has a run-based offense, so Ellison will be challenged to adjust to a different kind of blocking in a different kind of offense. The program also brought in multiple walk-ons from Alabama, including running back Derrick Gore. The Louisiana Monroe Warhawks and Viator also welcomed several JUCO signees, including in the secondary. This team will be very young and have a very new look.
Opponents averaged roughly 260 rushing yards per game against ULM last season. The Louisiana Monroe Warhawks were massively undersized on their defensive line. They weren’t big enough, and they weren’t wide enough. The team needs someone such as Howard Houston, Jr., one of the very few defensive tackles on the team who weighs close to 300 pounds, to step forward and unload with a big-time season. Any run-stuffing competence from this team will greatly increase the chances of a good season, which would mean six wins or at least five.
What To Expect From The Louisiana Monroe Warhawks This Year
The run defense is in dire straits. There is just no depth. Even though the offense could be a lot better than last year, when starting quarterback Garrett Smith got injured and missed games, it won’t matter if the defense is helpless against the run. The ceiling is not that high with this team for that reason. The flip side is that even modest improvement in run defense will show up and make a difference in the results.
Record Last 5 Seasons
Schedule and Outlook
The Louisiana Monroe Warhawks play Memphis, Auburn, Florida State, and Southern Mississippi out of conference. That’s four losses. The team has to have a winning record in the Sun Belt to have a decent season, but that’s very hard to see, given the weakness up front on defense and no proven solution at quarterback.
In conference play, they’ll go to Louisiana, Texas State, South Alabama and Idaho, and host Coastal Carolina, Georgia State, Appalachian State and Arkansas State. Four wins is a stretch of this side, so go under.
Regular Season Win Prediction: Under 3.5
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