We hit the conference schedule, now we're working backwards and hitting the NonCon. Today, McNeese State and after last year I'm certainly not going to make light of any opponent.
Head Coach | Matt Viator
2010 Record | 6-5 (5-2 Southland Conference Record)
Returning Starters | The Cowboys return four starters on offense and four starters on defense but they do have some players with starting experience in the mix at some of the positions. This is a team that lost 25 letterman and 14 starters so it's a similar story to Kansas in that they are a relatively inexperienced group as a whole.
Key Losses | Jacob Bower - QB Corday Clark - TE Mase Duge - C Marcus Bellow - T Chris Royal - WR Josh Ellison - DE Damion Aultman - DT Terran Freeman - DE Deron Minor - LB Nick Toti - LB Geremy Pilate - LB Devin Holland - S
Key Additions | Riley Dodge a quarterback transfer from North Texas will battle Cody Stroud for the starting job this fall. The Cowboys return all the makings of a solid running attack so that should help ease the transition, plus the offense doesn't ask the quarterback to carry the load at McNeese State. Either way the extra competition at the spot is a good thing headed into the season.
Impact Offensive Player | Andre Anderson - Anderson returns as the teams leading rusher from a year ago having rushed for 906 yards and 5 touchdowns. Anderson is an All Southland Conference player from a year ago and led the league in rushing yards from scrimmage during league play with 713.
Impact Defensive Player | Malcolm Bronson (free safety) and Darrell Jenkins (safety) - Bronson and Jenkins return in the defensive backfield as All Southland Conference players from a year ago. They'll lead the secondary and likely the defense after the Cowboys lost the majority of their linebacking group from last season.
The Cowboys run a multiple pro set offense and Coach Viatar knows how to coach. Since his arrival the Cowboys have been one of the most consistently successful teams in the Southland and this year they have some experience up front which could be a big boost.
The big returning player is of course Anderson. In addition the Cowboys do return 4 players that have started and/or played major minutes on the offensive line. Factor in a host of other tailback options and the Cowboys will be deep and talented in the running game.
At quarterback Stroud does have two starts under his belt in his career and Dodge is a very talented player with experience on this level. With a pair of strong receiving targets in Will Briscoe and Diontae Spencer, whoever wins the starting job will have options when called upon.
Defensively the Cowboys run a 4-2-5 base. They lost a host of players at the linebacker spot but they do return a pair of all conference safeties who should help keep things moving in the right direction. Darrell Jenkins is a senior that ranked second on the team in tackles. Add in the other members of the secondary and you have what amounts to the most experienced group in the Southland conference. That's a big boost for the Cowboys who do have some turnover up front.
Deron Minor, Geremy Pilate and Nick Toti were three linebackers that all ranked in the top 8 in terms of tackles last year with Minor and Pilate in the top three. All three are now gone and the Cowboys have plenty of new faces working into these roles. The defensive line is in a very similar situation although they do have a few more starts under their collective belt. Regardless, McNeese will be moving players around and finding several new faces in starting roles all across the front 6.
At the end of the day McNeese is considered the frontrunner in the Southland. That is due to a strong offensive outlook and some key returnees on the defensive side of the ball. They will be athletic and fast which will be a good test for the improved speed of Kansas. On paper this one is probably more difficult than the game against North Dakota State a year ago. The Jayhawks definitely can't overlook the Cowboys and Mcneese has ever reason to think they can compete although after last year you would hope Kansas has learned that lesson.