C-USA correspondent Cary Estes will provide insight and information from the 2010 Conference USA Football Media Kickoff for the league's official website.
July 25, 2010
Posted at 2:46 p.m. CT
Greetings from Memphis, where the weather is hot, the ribs are sizzling and the music is as cool as ever. We are here for the annual Conference USA Football Media Kickoff, which is taking place this afternoon at the east Memphis Hilton.
It's been nearly seven months since we've been able to enjoy college football, which is much too long. While we're still more than a month away from seeing any action on the field, at least it's time to start talking about football. And that's the next best thing to watching it.
So settle back and get ready for several hours of comments and commentary. The fun begins in approximately 15 minutes.
Posted at 2:55 p.m. CT
There is one announcement to make before we get started. The tropical storm that made landfall in Louisiana this weekend forced the cancellation of the flight that was going to bring Tulane head coach Bob Toledo and his players to Memphis. So unfortunately, the Green Wave will not be able to take part in this year's C-USA Football Media Kickoff.
Posted at 3:07 p.m. CT
The team that might have the biggest hole to fill is UAB, which must find a way to replace quarterback Joe Webb. Last year, Webb passed for 2,299 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushed for 1,427 yards and 11 TDs. It would be difficult to find another single player who meant more to his team than Webb did to the Blazers.
"There's no doubt we'll miss Joe Webb," UAB head coach Neil Callaway said. "He accounted for about 70 to 75 percent of what we did offensively."
Posted at 3:15 p.m. CT
One of the big surprises last season was the performance of Tulsa, which has regularly competed for the C-USA championship. Last year, however, the Golden Hurricane went 5-7, the team's first losing record in five years.
"Last year was a humbling year for us," Tulsa head coach Todd Graham said. "We want to get back to the winning ways we're accustomed to."
Tulsa might not be that far away. After getting off to a 4-1 start last season, the Golden Hurricane lost three of its next four by a touchdown or less, including a seven-point setback to Boise State and a crushing 46-45 loss to nationally ranked Houston.
Posted at 3:23 p.m. CT
The Houston media guide indicates that the Cougars have a new offensive coordinator this year. Tulsa head coach Todd Graham said that is incorrect.
"They said Houston is going to be without their offensive coordinator. He's still there, he just plays quarterback," Graham said, referring to Houston senior Case Keenum, who threw for a staggering 5,671 yards and 44 touchdowns last season. "I can't say enough about Case. He is a special young man, a guy who deserves all the accolades and consideration for the Heisman. He is one of the best I've ever coached against."
Posted at 3:30 p.m. CT
New head coaches often get their job because a team had a disappointing season the year before. First-year East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeill knows that is not the case in his situation. He is replacing Skip Holtz, who had four consecutive winning seasons at ECU and led the Pirates to the past two C-USA championships.
"I know I'm not coming to a downtrodden program," said McNeill, a 1980 graduate of East Carolina. "I'm coming into a great, great situation."
Posted at 3:36 p.m. CT
UCF senior defensive end Bruce Miller, the 2009 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year, has a big fan in UAB head coach Neil Callaway.
"He's one of the best defensive lineman we've faced anywhere, not just in our league," Callaway said. "He's relentless in the way he plays."
Posted at 3:52 p.m. CT
As he enters his seventh season at UCF, George O'Leary is now the dean of coaches in Conference USA. He said he has seen one area of significant improvement in the league since his arrival.
"We've closed the gap on a lot of these other conferences," O'Leary said. "The thing that separated them when I first got here was the line play. Every one of the teams had good skill guys who could probably play for anybody. Where we've closed the gap is on the offensive line and the defensive line."
Posted at 4:06 p.m. CT
The Houston Cougars had so much success last year, it is easy to forget that they closed the season with two consecutive losses, dropping the C-USA championship game to ECU and then losing to Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl.
The Cougars, however, have not forgotten about the way the 2009 season ended, even though they are ready to.
"I think our team is tired of talking about last year," Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin said. "We accomplished a lot of things individually and from a team standpoint, but obviously we're not very happy with the way we finished.
Posted at 4:18 p.m. CT
Last season was a frustrating one for UTEP. The Miners averaged 29.8 points per game, but they gave up 33.5 ppg. Late in the year they had consecutive losses of 38-33, 45-38, 35-31 and 30-29 on the way to a 4-8 final record.
"If you want to watch a lot of fireworks, come watch our games," Price said. "We can score a lot of points, but we can't stop anybody on the other side. It's fastbreak basketball at its best. If we can do anything defensively, we'll be a much better team and have a much better record."
Posted at 4:23 p.m. CT
It wasn't that many years ago that there were only four African-American head coaches in all of Division I football. This year, there are three African-American head coaches in C-USA alone, with first-year head coach Ruffin McNeill of ECU and Larry Porter at Memphis joining Houston's Kevin Sumlin.
"To have three African-American head coaches in one league, I think it shows where we're headed," Sumlin said. "As things move forward, I think that's going to become less and less of an issue. Guys are going to get opportunities, and it's what you do with those opportunities that are going to create other situations for guys down the road."
Posted at 4:32 p.m. CT
There is already more Heisman hype at Houston, as senior quarterback Case Keenum is receiving early notice for the award following his eye-popping stats of 2009 (5,671 yards passing and 44 touchdowns). Keenum said he is trying to shut out all noise, but admits is can be difficult.
"It's hard not to think about it, with all the talk," Keenum said. "The preseason stuff is very cool and it's definitely an honor, but it doesn't really matter until the end of the season. And it's a long season."
Posted at 4:39 p.m. CT
Yes, it is a long season. But it's an even longer offseason, especially for those of us who can't get enough of college football. Fortunately, the wait is nearly over, and another exciting season of Conference USA football is almost here.
As always, it's been a great day. We want to thank all the coaches and players for taking the time to join us. We'd also like to thank the city of Memphis and the Hilton for their hospitality.
The first game is less than six weeks away, with Southern Miss playing at South Carolina on Thursday Sept. 2 in a game to be nationally televised by ESPN. And then before you know it, we'll be back in Memphis for the Liberty Bowl. In between those two games, there will be plenty of C-USA football action to enjoy.
So get ready. The season is almost here. Thanks for joining us today, and check back often during the season for all the news and updates on Conference USA football.