As we settle into the beginning of 2011, Thoughts of football are never too far from my mind. Although the seasons beginning is quite a ways off, many are looking to the beginning of this season with anxious anticipation. Before you know it, we will have the USA South coaches poll out, and that will give fans an idea of how strong their favorite USA South team will be.
While I am not ready to make any predictions yet, I have been looking over rosters trying to assess the recruiting needs of each school. Here is what jumps out at me so far:
Christopher Newport University Captains
As the Captains finished 2010 as the conference champions, I think it is only fitting to give them the first review of what they will have and what they will need in 2011.
It would appear that CNU will lose a lot of its offensive line stock, as well as three linebackers from this past seasons roster. Also gone are two senior running backs from 2010. A total of 19 graduating seniors. Look for CNU to be a formidable opponent, who will fill the holes left by departing Seniors, and push to defend their conference title.
North Carolina Wesleyan College Battling Bishops
The Bishops will lose 12 Seniors to graduation. Most notably, RB Teron Bush. It appears that the losses are evenly split 6-6 for both offense and defense. Other losses of note are: WR Laqwan Brodie, LB Antonio Harris, DL Jaren Wilcox, and LB Desmond Joyner.
Look for much of the offensive firepower to return in 2011.
This program will be looking to move forward this year under first year head coach Dave Eavenson. They did not suffer a lot of losses to graduation, and in looking back at their statistics, they seemed to be the most vulnerable on defense. The Monarchs ranked no higher than 4th in any team statistical category in the conference.
There will be plenty of room for improvement, but the fact they they will have a lot of returning players is cause for optimism..Look for this to be a slow process, but don't condemn them to the cellar of the USA South just yet.
Shenandoah University Hornets
This was a team that I thought would have fared better than they did, but the season was not without success. Going from 1-9 to 4-6 showed that the program is headed in the right direction. A big win over Averett also helped solidify their place as a conference contender. It appears that graduation will not affect the Hornets very much this year as they only lose 8 Seniors. Look for this team to continue to improve, and possibly play a role in the championship.
Maryville College Scots
This team did not get the respect it deserved from me this past season. I was shocked that they ended the season with a win over Ferrum, but all in all, they were a fairly solid team. Unfortunately, Their roster from last season is no longer posted on their website, and this makes it difficult to determine how many Seniors they will lose. Wesley Idelette is one of their standout wide receivers that will not return, but their quarterback will be back. I would expect this team to again provide a solid defense, and may well play a roll in who gets the AQ bid for the playoffs.
Averett University Cougars
After a strong start out of the gates, the injury bug caught up with the Cougars, and what started as a promising season ended with three straight losses, and an eventual fifth place finish in the conference. Averett will lose 14 Seniors this year, with the biggest loss being that of Jeremy Dixon. I have to believe that Averett will be looking to prove that the promise of last year will translate into success in 2011.
Greensboro College Pride
Only losing eight Seniors, Greensboro should have plenty of talent returning. this coming season. While statistically they were in the back of the pack in most categories, the Pride did lead the conference in Pass Defense. This is something that should again be a strength in 2011. Look for this young team to improve, but I do not expect them to rise to the top just yet.
Ferrum College Panthers
With a new Head Coach, I look at Ferrum's upcoming campaign with guarded optimism. While I still think Coach Harper will need time to set his system into place, I see the Panthers talent pool to be quite deep...on offense at any rate. The backfield for Ferrum will be very strong, but it will be the offensive line that will cause questions for the Panthers. After having lost Andrew Alwine, and not knowing the status of Michael Walker's injury that kept him out last season, Ferrum will look to Jack McDowell, Zach Bossio, and Cam Bailey to be the anchors of the offensive line. Defense is where Ferrum needs to show the most improvement. I think that this unit will have its work cut out for it as it looses Zach Leonard, Willie Taylor, John Branch, and Chris McCalla. Look for Ferrum to contend if they can show rapid improvement on the defensive side of the ball. Special teams will miss All American punter T. J. Grzseikowski, but I expect that this will be filled with either Wesley Franklin, or possibly an incoming freshman. Ferrum is going to contend, but many questions need to be answered before we know how serious of a contender they will be.