Returning champion Florida Atlantic once again has a bright outlook going into spring practice. The Owls' biggest spring priority is finding two new starting safeties.
Troy, which has to find a new quarterback, and Middle Tennessee, which has issues on the offensive line and at defensive end, look as if they should be FAU's main challengers.
Here's a look at the Sun Belt going into spring football.
Arkansas State: Feb. 27-April 5 Florida Atlantic : March 25-April 19 FIU : Still to be determined Louisiana-Lafayette: Feb. 22-March 15 Louisiana-Monroe: Feb. 28-March 18 Middle Tennessee: March 17-April 12 North Texas: March 10-April 12 Troy : March 20-April 8 Western Kentucky: March 19-April 19
Florida Atlantic: The Owls don't have many holes to fill, but they did lose both starting safeties from last season. FS Gregory Joseph and SS Carldayle Brantley will try to make the jump from backups to starters this spring. Joseph played a lot last season in a reserve role.
FIU: Cornerback Lionell Singleton was the Golden Panthers' best defensive player last season, and coaches need to find his replacement. FIU also is looking for a new strong safety. Dezariah Johnson should get first dibs on the vacant cornerback slot.
Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin' Cajuns have to replace three-fourths of their starting secondary, all but free safety. Daylon McCoy looks as if he'll be the strong safety. There are numerous contenders for the cornerback spots. Junior college transfer Dwight Bentley, Scooter Rogers, Orkeys Auriene and Junior Jean should be in the mix.
Louisiana-Monroe: Job One is replacing starting TB Calvin Dawson, and Frank Goodin gets first dibs. The Warhawks also need three new starting offensive linemen. Two junior college linemen already have enrolled: C Keating Helms and T Ryan Dercher. Holdovers Brett Thompson (guard) and Josh Andrews (tackle) also should be in the hunt.
Middle Tennessee: The Blue Raiders appear primed to contend for the league title assuming they can find a pass rush. Both starting defensive ends are gone. Coaches expect Chris McCoy who started three games last season to win one of the vacant jobs. Emmanuel Perez probably is the front-runner on the other side.
North Texas: The pass-happy Mean Green need to find a new tailback, and Micah Mosley likely will be the guy. Mosley was the No. 2 tailback last season. North Texas is also looking for new starters at defensive tackle and defensive end.
Troy: Replacing do-everything QB Omar Haugabook is of the utmost importance. There will be four candidates in the spring, and two freshmen arrive in the fall. Tanner Jones was the No. 2 quarterback last season, but he'll have to hold off - among others - Richmond transfer Levi Brown this spring.
Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers have more than a few holes to fill. The most important probably are along the offensive line, which needs three new starters. Both tackle spots are open, and Preston King and Jacob McLaurin look to be the leaders heading into spring ball.
FIVE PLAYERS WHO SHOULD EMERGE THIS SPRING
Louisiana-Monroe TB Frank Goodin: He backed up 1,000-yard rusher Calvin Dawson last season, but is the front-runner to win the starting job this season. Goodin, a sophomore, has breakaway ability but needs to prove he can handle a large workload.
Florida Atlantic DT Josh Savidge: Savidge, a junior, began last season as the starter but injured his knee early in the season. He's expected back at full strength, and he and Jervonte Jackson could give FAU the best pair of defensive tackles in the league.
Middle Tennessee TB Phillip Tanner: Tanner, a junior from Dallas, started one game last season. However, the starting job should be his full-time this year. He has good speed and, at 220 pounds, can run between the tackles, too.
Arkansas State FS Evan Van Dolah: Van Dolah backed up Khayyam Burns last season but has his sights set on starting this season. Van Dolah, a junior, has good size (6 feet 2/199 pounds) and excellent speed.
Louisiana-Lafayette DT LaQuincy Williams: He's the only starter returning on the defensive line for the Ragin' Cajuns. Williams, a junior, flashed some big-play potential last season he forced two fumbles and had two sacks but he needs to provide far more of that this season.
FIVE IMPACT NEWCOMERS THIS SPRING
North Texas CB Adryan Adams: Adams, a transfer from junior college, already is enrolled for the Mean Green. North Texas' defense was, in a word, horrible last season. Adams who has great size for a corner at 6-1 and 185 pounds will be given every opportunity to win a starting job this spring.
Louisiana-Lafayette CB Dwight Bentley: Bentley, from Florida prep powerhouse Pahokee High School, redshirted in his only season at Dodge City (Kan.) Community College. He already is enrolled at ULL. Though he's a little light (175 pounds at 5-11), coaches expect big things from Bentley. Both starting cornerbacks are gone from last season.
Troy DB Michael Ricks: Ricks, a JC transfer, already is enrolled at Troy. He's a former all-state player in Alabama who committed to the Crimson Tide out of high school, then signed with them out of junior college before running into academic issues. Troy returns both starting safeties, but Ricks, a 6-3, 190-pounder who might be able to play some cornerback, has good speed and coverage skills and bears watching this spring.
Arkansas State CB Leroy Trahan: Arkansas State is looking for two new starting cornerbacks, and Trahan a junior college transfer who has three seasons of eligibility remaining already is enrolled. He had six picks for San Bernardino (Calif.) Valley Community College last season.
Florida Atlantic WR Darian Williams: Williams, a redshirt freshman, has great size (6-3/195 pounds) but is trying to break into a crowded receiving corps. He would give the Owls a physical threat on the outside.