The battle rolls on for Louisiana-Monroe, which has just one winning season since joining the Sun Belt back in 2001, although has a number of 6-6 campaigns. Matt Viator would like to reach six wins in his second season, but it won’t be easy with a difficult Schedule and improvement needed on both sides of the ball.
Garrett Smith will get the opportunity to be starting quarterback out of the gates, but after completing 57.5% of his passes for 9 TDs and 7 INTs and sitting out the spring, Caleb Evans will push for the job. Evans saw time last year when Smith got hurt and didn’t do much better, but put his foot forward with a solid spring. Either way, this team will try and run the ball as much as possible with Four starters back on the line, not including Texas Tech transfer Trace Ellison. Top running back Ben LUckett (450 yards, 5 TDs) is still there, but Alabama transfer Derrick Gore is getting all of the hype and could turn the ground Game into a strength. Xavier Brown (425 yards, 4 TDs) and Marcus Green (344 yards, 4 TDs) return as the top receivers, both juniors.
While the offense has some potential, the defense is still a major issue after allowing 39.1 points per Game. Nine starters return, but experience isn’t going to turn these guys into an elite unit. The Warhawks added a slew of transfers that should help with depth and push the current starters for time. The entire front six returns in the 4-2-5 scheme, but this is a group that allowed 260 rushing yards per Game. Linebacker David Griffith has the keys to the car and needs to lead this group to improvement.
The problem for ULM is that the Schedule is extremely unkind with zero wins in non-Conference play a likely scenario. Drawing the better teams in the Sun Belt at home doesn’t help much unless the Warhawks can pull off some improbable upsets. The best chances for wins will come in the middle of the year against Coastal Carolina and Georgia State. Otherwise, they’ll have to steal multiple Games on the road to reach last year’s Four wins.
Louisiana-Monroe has +5000 odds to win the Conference (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) so that places them at about the same level as a year ago with an over/under at 3.5 wins. Like other teams in the conference, the Warhawks could be better on both sides of the ball, but due to Schedule, that may not show in the record. The running Game could be good, but unless the quarterback truly takes off, this team will struggle to take down the best in the conference.
2017 Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks Football Schedule
Aug. 31 at Memphis
Sept. 9 at Florida State
Sept. 16 vs. Southern Miss
Sept. 23 at Louisiana LAfayette
Sept. 30 vs. Coastal Carolina
Oct. 7 at Texas State
Oct. 14 vs. Georgia State
Oct. 21 at South Alabama
Oct. 28 at Idaho
Nov. 4 vs. Appalachian State
Nov. 18 at Auburn
Nov. 25 vs. Arkansas State