Looking at this years pending schedule, Ferrum has to get down to business right away to make this a successful season. While it may appear that the biggest change will be a two game non conference schedule instead of three, and the order in which Ferrum faces their opponents, the fact is that the USA South is a conference with much improved teams. The competition has improved significantly and last year, Ferrum was struggling to keep up to say the least.
Teams that really surprised me were North Carolina Wesleyan, and Methodist. I felt that these two teams made significant strides and proved to be solid competitors in the USA South. Maryville, and CNU were expected to do well, but it has gotten to the point that the USA South has reached a high level of parity.
Huntingdon and LaGrange were both solid this past season, and were in the mix throughout the season. NCW, who ended the season with just two wins....one of them over Ferrum, was far better than their record indicates. Look for them to be more competitive this year.
As for Ferrum, and the 2014 season, I believe that first and foremost, the defense has to get better by leaps and bounds. Offensively, there is reason for guarded optimism as Ferrum should be strong at many of the "skilled positions" Tim Reynolds returns for his senior season, and must re capture the consistency of his sophomore year to be a driving force for the offense. I look for both Tae Gilbert, and Dominique Leseine to be in the backfield, and with the speed of Reynolds, the backfield will be strong. I am expecting Wide Receivers, Matthew Kennell and B.J. Jennings to be very valuable to the offensive scheme. On offense, it is the line that concerns me. Ferrum will have all new faces from tackle to tackle, and the limited experience could be an issue. Time will tell.
On defense, I think it is any one's guess as to how Ferrum performs. Six defensive Seniors are slated to graduate. The most notable losses are Lynwood Pickett, and DeRon Dillard, along with Chris Ham. I look for the defensive scheme to be more solid as time goes on, but there may be a learning curve for the players as they acclimate to the new DC.
The success of Ferrum will also be affected by the loss of K/P Wesley Franklin. A true talent, Franklin provided a strong, consistent performance during his time at Ferrum, and his departure will have the coaching staff hunting for a quality replacement.
From my perspective, I look at the 2014 season to again have question marks, but many can be answered by high quality play of the offensive and defensive lines. There is a lot on the lines for this season, but look for Ferrum to show consistent improvement as time goes on.