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June 20, 2010

Preseason Top 120 Countdown: Nos. 105-101

Here is the fourth part of Rivals.com's 1-120 countdown for 2010; today, we look at teams ranked 101st through 105th.

We're starting at the bottom, and the first two weeks of rankings will be in groups of five. We'll do a daily countdown from 50th to first, with our No. 1 team to be unveiled Aug. 19 -- two weeks from the beginning of the season.

The team rankings were compiled by football writers Olin Buchanan, Tom Dienhart, David Fox, Mike Huguenin and Steve Megargee. They look forward to your emails.

Top 120 countdown
No. 105 UNLV
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
OFFENSE
QB Omar Clayton (6-1/205, Sr.)
RB C.J. Cox (5-11/205, Jr.)
WR Mark Barefield (6-0/195, Soph.)
WR Michael Johnson (5-8/175, Jr.)
WR Phillip Payne (6-3/205, Jr.)
TE Austin Harrington (6-4/235, Jr.)
T Evan Marchal (6-7/320, Sr.)
T Matt Murphy (6-4/300, Sr.)
G Jason Heath (6-3/280, Soph.)
G Doug Zismann (6-2/295, Soph.)
C John Gianninoto (6-4/295, Sr.)
DEFENSE
E Preston Brooks (6-3/280, Sr.)
T Isaako Aaitui (6-4/315, Sr.)
T Ramsey Feagai (6-2/350, Sr.)
E Daniel Mareko (6-3/245, Sr.)
LB Starr Fuimaono (6-0/220, Sr.)
LB Ronnie Paulo (6-2/235, Sr.)
LB Calvin Randleman (6-0/200, Sr.)
CB Will Chandler (5-11/185, Jr.)
CB Quinton Pointer (5-10/185, Sr.)
FS Mike Grant (5-10/185, Sr.)
SS Alex De Giacomo (6-1/185, Sr.)
SPECIALISTS
K Ben Jaekle (6-1/175, Sr.)
P Nolan Kohorst (6-0/165, Fr.)
KR Deante Purvis (5-11/195, Jr.)
PR Michael Johnson (5-8/175, Jr.)
COACH: Bobby Hauck (first season; 80-17, ninth season overall).
LAST SEASON: 5-7, 3-5 (6th in Mountain West).
FINAL 2009 RIVALS.COM RANKING: 91st
KEEP AN EYE ON: Hauck, who had a lot of success at FCS powerhouse Montana, is the latest coach to try his hand at making UNLV into a winning program. He replaces Mike Sanford, who lasted five years before being fired. Sanford arrived amid great fanfare from Utah, but like almost every coach in school history, he couldn't get it done. While Montana was known for some high-powered offenses, Hauck's first order of business needs to be helping his team develop some toughness, both mental and physical.
STRENGTHS: Four starters return on the offensive line. WR Phillip Payne has all-league talent. Deante Purvis is a threat on kickoff returns.
WEAKNESSES: Improving the rushing attack is a top priority for Hauck. The coaches like junior TB C.J. Cox; he beat out last season's starter, Channing Trotter, during spring ball. QB Omar Clayton must develop some consistency. The Rebels couldn't stop the run last season; they weren't that good against the pass, either. Both projected starting Ts are upward of 315, so there will be some bulk in the middle. The defense could have as many as nine senior starters, but these guys haven't played all that well. The kicking and punting jobs won't be decided until fall drills, and freshman Nolan Kohorst could win both jobs.
BUZZ: The Rebels open with three consecutive games against teams that went to bowls last season. That should get the season off to a poor start -- and it likely will finish poorly, as well. There are way too many questions about the defense for there to be any hope for a winning record this season. Hauck has a winning background, but he won't be the first coach to be worn down by UNLV's lack of football success.

-- MIKE HUGUENIN

ROSTER | STATS | SCHEDULE

Top 120 countdown
No. 104 Florida International
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
OFFENSE
QB Wesley Carroll (6-1/202, Jr.)
RB Jeremiah Harden (5-11/190, Soph.)
WR Greg Ellingson (6-3/200, Sr.)
WR T.Y. Hilton (5-10/180, Jr.)
WR Junior Mertile (6-0/195, Soph.)
TE Jonathan Faucher (6-3/235, Jr.)
T Dave Istanich (6-6/305, Soph.)
T James Wiggins (6-4/270, Jr.)
G Giancarlo Revilla (6-2/275, Soph.)
G Cedric Mack (6-4/320, Sr.)
C Brad Serini (6-3/300, Sr.)
DEFENSE
E James Jones (6-1/250, Jr.)
E Tourek Williams (6-4/255, Soph.)
T Joshua Forney (6-4/265, Soph.)
T Kasey Smith (6-3/275, Soph.)
LB Kenny Dillard (6-0, 215, Soph.)
LB Winston Fraser (6-2/230, Soph.)
LB Toronto Smith (5-11/225, Sr.)
CB Anthony Gaitor (5-10/178, Sr.)
CB Dezeriah Johnson (6-1/178, Sr.)
FS Jonathan Cyprien (6-0/185, Soph.)
SS Ashlyn Parker (6-0/207, Sr.)
SPECIALISTS
K Jack Griffin (5-10/180, Soph.)
P Josh Brisk (5-0/190, Soph.)
KR T.Y. Hilton (5-10/180, Jr.)
PR Jason Frierson (5-9/175, Sr.)
COACH: Mario Cristobal (9-27, fourth season).
LAST SEASON: 3-9, 3-5 (T-6th in Sun Belt)
FINAL 2009 RIVALS.COM RANKING: 106th
KEEP AN EYE ON: After a one-win season in Cristobal's first season in 2007, FIU improved to five wins in '08 and there actually were expectations last season. Alas, the Golden Panthers managed just three wins, mainly because the defense couldn't stop anybody. Thus, there is a feeling of angst around the program this season. FIU needs to show some improvement, but a lot is going to depend on the quarterback.
STRENGTHS: FIU might have the best group of receivers in the league, led by T.Y. Hilton. Hilton is a big-time talent and is one of the best return men in the nation; he needs at least 10 touches a game on offense. Syracuse transfer Jeremiah Harden should boost the rushing attack. The offensive line should be fine. The secondary was ravaged by injuries last season, but it could be the best in the conference this season. CB Anthony Gaitor has all-league talent. Backup WR Jason Frierson is a good punt returner. The kickoff- and punt-coverage units were good last season.
WEAKNESSES: The offense could be good -- if the quarterback plays well. But that's a big "if." Mississippi State transfer Wesley Carroll and incumbent Wayne Younger are vying for the job. That Carroll didn't win the job outright in spring drills does not bode well. The front seven on defense is small and unproductive. The run defense was pitiful last season. Sophomore E Tourek Williams must provide a pass rush. The kicker and the punter will be new.
BUZZ: If FIU receives competent quarterback play, it could finish in the upper half of the Sun Belt. The schedules provides no favors; five of the first seven games are on the road, and each of the first four opponents is a Big Six conference school. The good news is that the first two conference games are eminently winnable. But will the Golden Panthers be too beat up by then?

-- MIKE HUGUENIN

ROSTER | STATS | SCHEDULE

Top 120 countdown
No. 103 Utah State
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
OFFENSE
QB Diondre Borel (6-0/190, Sr.)
RB Michael Smith (5-8/195, Sr.)
WR Matt Austin (6-2/198, Jr.)
WR Eric Moats (5-11/182, Jr.)
WR Stanley Morrison (5-9/160, Jr.)
TE Kellen Bartlett (6-2/242, Jr.)
T Spencer Johnson (6-7/294, Sr.)
T Tanner Richins (6-5/295, Jr.)
G Philip Gapelu (6-2/298, Jr.)
G Tariq Polley (6-4/296, Sr.)
C Tyler Larsen (6-4/298, R-Fr.)
DEFENSE
E Quinn Garner (6-3/250, Jr.)
T Sean Enesi (5-11/286, Sr.)
T Daniel Gurrola (6-1/282, Sr.)
E Levi Koskan (6-4/238, Jr.)
LB Kyle Gallagher (6-0/214, Jr.)
LB Junior Keiaho (6-3/243, Jr.)
LB Bobby Wagner (6-1/230, Jr.)
CB Curtis Marsh (6-1/193, Sr.)
CB Chris Randle (5-11/187, Sr.)
FS Rajric Coleman (6-1/194, Sr.)
SS Walter McClenton (5-11/193, Jr.)
SPECIALISTS
K Peter Caldwell (6-4/228, Sr.)
P Peter Caldwell (6-4/228, Sr.)
KR Kerwynn Williams (5-9/185, Soph.)
PR Stanley Morrison (5-9/160, Jr.)
COACH: Gary Andersen (4-8, second season).
LAST SEASON: 4-8, 3-5 (T-5th in WAC)
FINAL 2009 RIVALS.COM RANKING: 100th
KEEP AN EYE ON: Andersen took over a program that appeared to be on a slight uptick and guided it to four wins last season. Andersen had been Utah's defensive coordinator, but it was Utah State's offense that led the way. The offense has potential again, but Andersen and his staff have a ton of work to do on defense before the Aggies can challenge for an upper-division finish in the WAC.
STRENGTHS: The Aggies were 12th nationally in total offense last season and eight starters return. Diondre Borel is a solid dual-threat quarterback. The offensive line is a good one. LB Bobby Wagner is the defensive headliner. One positive is that each of the 11 projected defensive starters is an upperclassman, and coaches hope that experience pays off. P Peter Caldwell is solid, and he's expected to double as the Aggies' kicker. Backup WR Kerwynn Williams is an excellent kick returner.
WEAKNESSES: RB Robert Turbin, who ran for 1,296 yards last season, suffered a knee injury during spring ball and is expected to miss at least one-third of the season. Michael Smith, who had 46 carries last season, will start in Turbin's stead. The Aggies were 113th nationally in total defense and were especially bad against the run last season. The lack of a pass rush (just 17 sacks) hurt.
BUZZ: Managing without Turbin will be tough. Borel is talented, but it sure helped him having Turbin in the same backfield. Opening at Oklahoma isn't good, but three of the next four will be at home. The schedule is such that after Sept. 18, the Aggies don't have any more back-to-back home games. But there are no back-to-back road games at all this season.

-- MIKE HUGUENIN

ROSTER | STATS | SCHEDULE

Top 120 countdown
No. 102 North Texas
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
OFFENSE
QB Nathan Tune (6-4/206, Sr.)
RB Lance Dunbar (5-9/202, Jr.)
WR Darius Carey (5-10/188, Soph.)
WR B.J. Lewis (6-1/197, Jr.)
WR Jamaal Jackson (5-10/165, Sr.)
WR Tyler Stradford (6-2/190, Jr.)
T Victor Gill (6-4/261 Sr.)
T Esteban Santiago (6-3/296, Sr.)
G Coleman Feeley (6-4/305, Soph.)
G Kelvin Drake (6-2/280, Sr.)
C J.J. Johnson (6-3/283, Jr.)
DEFENSE
E Brandon Akpunku (6-1/226, Jr.)
T Shavod Atkinson (6-2/307, Sr.)
T Kelvin Jackson (6-2/309, Sr.)
E K.C. Obi (6-2/214, Soph.)
LB A.J. Penson (6-1/225, Sr.)
LB Jeremy Phillips (6-3/198, Soph.)
LB Craig Robertson (6-1/221, Sr.)
CB DeLeon McCord (6-1/176, Jr.)
CB Chris Neal (5-9/170, Sr.)
FS DaWaylon Cook (6-1/196, Jr.)
SS Ira Smith (5-11/183, Sr.)
SPECIALISTS
K Jose Serrano (5-11/199 R-Fr.)
P Will Atterberry (5-11/187, Soph.)
KR Jamaal Jackson (5-10/165, Sr.)
PR Darius Carey (5-10/188, Soph.)
COACH: Todd Dodge (5-31, fourth season).
LAST SEASON: 2-10, 1-7 (8th in Sun Belt)
FINAL 2009 RIVALS.COM RANKING: 115th
KEEP AN EYE ON: Dodge was an ultra-successful coach at Southlake Carroll High in the Dallas suburbs, but he has been a flop at North Texas, and there is a school of thought that he is coaching for his job this season. The offense looks as if it is coming around, but defensive coordinator Gary DeLoach needs to work some magic on his side of the ball this season. It's possible that if the defense is just mediocre, North Texas can stay in the Sun Belt race until the end.
STRENGTHS: RB Lance Dunbar ran for 1,378 yards last season, and he'll run behind a line that returns four starters; the line should be one of the best -- if not the best -- in the Sun Belt. The receiving corps is solid. LB Craig Robertson could be an all-league guy, but he's the only real defensive standout. WR Jamaal Jackson is a dangerous kick returner.
WEAKNESSES: The quarterback will be either senior Nathan Tune or sophomore Derek Thompson. Tune hadn't really played until midway through last season, but he's a good fit for the offense. The Mean Green were rancid against the run, a big reason coaches signed eight junior college defenders. Four enrolled early, and one, CB DeLeon McCord, should start. The Mean Green had just 13 sacks and seven picks last season. There will be a new kicker. Punt coverage was a huge problem.
BUZZ: The Mean Green have won just five games in three seasons, but there is hope this season because of the offense. Well, there is hope as long as North Texas can find a consistent quarterback. The defense is going to have problems again, so it's up to the offense to make sure UNT wins its share of shootouts. UNT is going to lose the opener at Clemson, but the rest of the non-conference schedule isn't that daunting and the majority of the tough league games are at home.

-- MIKE HUGUENIN

ROSTER | STATS | SCHEDULE

Top 120 countdown
No. 101 Louisiana Tech
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
OFFENSE
QB Ross Jenkins (6-3/212, Sr.)
RB Lyle Fitte (5-8/185, Soph.)
WR Jacarri Jackson (6-2/185, R-Fr.)
WR Phillip Livas (5-8/175, Sr.)
WR Ahmad Paige (6-1/180, Soph.)
WR R.P. Stuart (6-3/215, Sr.)
T Cudahy Harmon (6-6/310, Sr.)
T Rob McGill (6-6/310, Sr.)
G Kevin Saia (6-2/300, Soph.)
G Stephen Warner (6-0/300, Soph.)
C Lon Roberts (6-3/285, Sr.)
DEFENSE
E Matt Broha (6-4/235, Jr.)
T Mason Hitt (6-1/270, Sr.)
T Ramone Randle (6-2/300, Sr.)
E Christian Lacey (6-1/240, Jr.)
LB Jay Dudley (6-3/225, Jr.)
LB Solomon Randle (5-11/235, Soph.)
LB Dusty Rust (6-3/220, Jr.)
CB Terry Carter (5-10/185, Jr.)
CB Josh Victorian (5-10/185, Sr.)
FS C.J. Broades (6-1/205, Soph.)
SS Tank Calais (5-11/205, Sr.)
SPECIALISTS
K Matt Nelson (5-10/155, Soph.)
P Stuart Scurria (6-0/169, Soph.)
KR Phillip Livas (5-8/175, Sr.)
PR Phillip Livas (5-8/175, Sr.)
COACH: Sonny Dykes (first season).
LAST SEASON: 4-8, 3-5 (T-5th in WAC)
FINAL 2009 RIVALS.COM RANKING: 103rd
KEEP AN EYE ON: Dykes replaces Derek Dooley, who left to coach Tennessee. Dykes was offensive coordinator at Arizona, and the Bulldogs will go from a run-oriented unit to one that throws it all over the place. Dykes is a former Mike Leach assistant, too, but he doesn't look to have a quarterback on the roster who's well-suited for the new offense. But this is a program to watch in the WAC in the next few seasons.
STRENGTHS: Good news for Dykes is that there is a deep group of receivers, headed by Phillip Livas, who has six career return touchdowns. Two Tennessee transfers, WR Ahmad Paige and RB Lennon Creer, could become important. T Rob McGill heads an OK offensive line. DE Matt Broha has all-league potential. K Matt Nelson has a good leg.
WEAKNESSES: Quarterback is a potential weak spot. Can incumbent Ross Jenkins hold off Auburn transfer Steven Ensminger? The Bulldogs have to get better against the run and the new staff knows it; LB Adrien Cole, the leading returning tackler, lost his starting job in spring drills. The safety spots bear watching.
BUZZ: Other than the opener against Grambling, the early season schedule is a bruiser and a 1-3 start looks likely. Game 5, which is at Hawaii, could be the difference between finishing in the upper half of the WAC or finishing near the bottom.

-- MIKE HUGUENIN

ROSTER | STATS | SCHEDULE



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