I thought it would be interesting to look back at the statistics from this past season, and see if any inferences can be drawn. While it will be difficult to know how things will go in 2012, I believe that the finishing order from this past season will give insight as to who will be able to challenge for the 2012 USA South title.
Teams that I believe will have a much improved record will be Methodist, Averett, and N.C. Wesleyan. Lower tier teams will likely be Greensboro and Maryville, but with the Scotts going into this season with a new coach, they are more of an unknown than anything.
Another team that is an unknown will be the LaGrange Panthers. As this will be their first season in the conference, it is difficult to get a read on their ability.
They finished 4-6 on the year, and while there is not a lot known about their opponents, I do know that two of their wins came against Maryville, and North Carolina Wesleyan. I will feature their team as the start of the season gets closer.
What is known for the upcoming season is that Christopher Newport and Ferrum will again be very competitive for the conference championship. In fact, I am of the opinion that whoever wins the conference, has to defeat CNU to win the title. I am also of the opinion that if any team can beat the Captains, Ferrun can.
Last season, Ferrum led the conference in in four categories for team rankings....Rushing Offense, Rushing Defense, Pass Efficiency Defense, and Sacks allowed. This was a marked improvement over the 2010 season, and the Panthers did play for the conference championship, but in that game, it appeared that Christopher Newport dominated the Panthers in two of those four areas.
Ferrum's rushing offense was strong, putting up 208 yards, and 4 rushing touchdowns, but their ability to defend the rush was challenged as the Captains reeled off 241 yards rushing, and had 3 touchdowns on the ground. Through the air, CNU connected for 223 passing yards and 4 touchdowns. Ferrum did not allow a sack.
So what does all of this mean? Well, these numbers to me suggest that while Ferrum made a huge first step in its first year under Coach Harper, to win the conference championship, the defense still has some work ahead of it.
Defense wins championships, and for the Captains to have run 21 more offensive plays, and to have had well over 100 more offensive yards suggests an inability on Ferrums part to shut down the Captains offense. The Captains had 13 third down situations, and converted six of them. They went for it on fourth down 4 times and converted three.
There is no denying that Christopher Newport has a talented team. In the upcoming season, they will lose very few of their core players, so I would expect them to again be very strong.
For Ferrum, their much improved defense has to get even better. This, to me would have to start with their front four. Simply put, to beat Christopher Newport, this unit has to dominate the line of scrimmage. They have to be Bigger, Faster, Stronger, and Smarter. This means dedicating time to an off season workout schedule, and being even better prepared for next season. The front four is a talented group of players, but they have to look at football as a year around endeavor, and work on improving every day.
As for the secondary, this year yeilded huge improvements over the previous years.This is a trend that must continue. The improvement shown in 2011 must be the starting point for where this unit will be in the next few years.
This year, valuable seeds were sown. Ferrum is building a program that will be one of the premier programs not only in the USA South, but in the South Region. I look for the recruiting to continue to be solid, and for this team to take its next step in its continued improvement.