February 1, 2010

Rivals.com Spring Practice Primer: Sun Belt

We're two days from National Signing Day, and that also means the start of spring practice is just around the corner.

The first team to open spring ball? It's Duke, on Feb. 15. (Uhh, that's two weeks from today.)

To get you primed for spring practice, here's a look at the start dates for all 120 FBS teams plus the overriding problem each program must deal with during spring drills.

Sun Belt Spring Practice Primer

ARKANSAS STATE
Practice begins: March 29.
Spring game: April 24.
Biggest task: New offensive coordinator Clay Helton, who had been at Memphis, needs to revitalize the offense -- especially the passing attack. The defensive line needs three new starters, and coaches also have to find two new starting cornerbacks.

FLORIDA ATLANTIC
Practice begins: March 31.
Spring game: April 24.
Biggest task: FAU ran the ball effectively in 2009, so finding four new starting offensive linemen is going to be important. The receiving corps needs to be rebuilt, too.

FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL
Practice begins: March 3.
Spring game: April 1.
Biggest task: FIU has new coordinators on both sides of the ball, so getting acclimated to two new schemes is going to take some time for a young team. One player to watch is QB Wesley Carroll, a former starter at Mississippi State who has a good shot at taking over as FIU's starter. The rushing attack must improve.

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE
Practice begins: March 3.
Spring game: March 27.
Biggest task: For a program that loves to run the ball, replacing three starters on the offensive line is going to be vital. Finding two new starting linebackers is the top priority on defense.

LOUISIANA-MONROE
Practice begins: March 15.
Spring game: April 24.
Biggest task: ULM is coming off its second 6-6 record in three seasons, yet there's a new staff in place, so adjusting to different schemes on both sides of the ball obviously is important. In terms of position battles, the most important are the offensive line (three spots open) and in the secondary.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE
Practice begins: March 16.
Spring game: April 10.
Biggest task: Coach Rick Stockstill, who turned down a chance to become coach at East Carolina, has to teach his team how to deal with high expectations. MTSU is expected to be strong this fall, and learning to deal with those expectations could be a tough task. Defensively, rebuilding the linebacking corps could be difficult.

NORTH TEXAS
Practice begins: March 23.
Spring game: April 11.
Biggest task: The offense has the potential to be one of the best in the league under former USF coordinator Mike Canales. The defense, though, has some concerns; the front four has to get better against the run, and coaches also have to find some playmakers for a secondary that struggled in 2009.

TROY
Practice begins: March 15.
Spring game: April 3.
Biggest task: The Trojans are breaking in a new offensive staff and have to find a new starting quarterback. Replacing both starting defensive ends and two star linebackers is going to be tough on the defensive staff.

WESTERN KENTUCKY
Practice begins: March 23.
Spring game: April 17.
Biggest task: There's a new staff taking over a team that was winless in 2009. There are a lot of tasks, frankly, for new coach Willie Taggart. Finding a way to run the ball effectively probably is the most important thing, though.

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