The top 10 ULM football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
1. WR Marcus Green, Soph.
With a strong debut, Green showed the potential to become one of the key parts to the passing game for the next few years. The 5-8, 190-pounder is tough for his size and extremely quick, catching 63 passes for 698 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging over 20 yards per kickoff return. He got a little work right away, but only caught five passes in his five games. And then he got hot, catching six passes or more in six of the final eight games, with 12 catches against both Troy and Hawaii. Steady, he came up with a receiving touchdown in five straight games.
2. WR Walter Holley, Sr.
With 60 catches for 709 yards and six touchdowns, Holley led the team in receiving yards even though he missed the Idaho game. At 5-10 and 193 pounds he has decent size and enough experience to shine, earning All-Sun Belt honors two years ago, but he was even better last year coming up with four 100-yard games with a 155-yard day against Nicholls State and 166 yards against Georgia Southern. Reliable and sudden, he’s dangerous once he gets the ball in his hands – he’s a strong yard-after-catch receiver.
3. QB Garrett Smith, Soph.
It needs to be his time to take over the offense and the program as the leader now that he has a year of experience under his belt. Still just a true sophomore, he’s still going to need time and seasoning, but the 6-0, 211-pounder from Texas has the athleticism and arm to do a little bit of everything. Hurt late in the year, he struggled a bit after the receiving corps suffered a slew of injuries. Even so, he showed some impressive moments including a 23-of-29 day to start his career at Georgia and with three, three-touchdown days. Built like a running back, he took off for 250 yards and two touchdowns, but he’s not a speedy option and won’t tear off huge chunks.
4. S Tre Hunter, Sr.
Hurt late last year, he was excellent for a long portion of the season making 55 tackles with two picks from his safety spot. Not huge, but tough for his 6-0, 188-pound size, he came up with eight tackles or more four times and managed to get all over the field doing a strong job against the run. But he has to stay in one piece and has to use his speed and experience to be more of a force against the pass.
5. RB Ben Luckett, Soph.
The team’s leading rusher, Luckett took over in the second half of his redshirt freshman season with 149 yards and a score against Arkansas State and finishing with 509 yards and two scores, averaging 5.4 yards per pop. At 5-11 and 214-pounds, he has good size and a physical style able to come up with a pop on the inside with just enough bounce to get to the outside when needed. Built to be a workhorse, the offense will work around him early on until the rest of the offense comes into place.
6. S Wesley Thompson, Soph.
Thompson took over a safety spot turning into a decent young prospect showing good toughness and hitting ability. Fast with 6-1 and 193-pound size, he looks the part, but he didn’t do much of anything when the ball was in the air. He’s more like a defensive back-sized linebacker, making 49 tackles with 11 stops against Hawaii and with back-to-back eight tackle weeks against Appalachian State and Idaho. Expect him to become one of the team’s leading tacklers.
7. LB David Griffith, Soph.
The linebacking corps desperately needs a leader and a steady playmaker in the 4-2-5 alignment and Griffith needs to become just that. The 6-0, 211-pounder isn’t all that big, but he showed nice potential in his redshirt freshman season making 37 tackles and doing a decent job of getting behind the line. Very quick and very athletic, he fits the new scheme, but at his size, he has to be able to hold up against the power teams.
7. OT Rey Baltazar, Sr.
The pass protection was awful at times, and the blocking for the running game wasn’t good enough, but Baltazar showed promise at left tackle after coming in from the JUCO ranks. He started his career at Cisco College, with great strength and good toughness – he can move a little bit. At 6-5 and 300 pounds he has the right size and right frame, but he needs to be more of an anchor around a veteran line that gets everyone back.
9. RB Tyler Cain, Sr.
Cain took over the starting job coming out of spring ball, and now he’ll combine with Ben Luckett to handle the workload – at least until the freshmen are ready. Extremely fast, he ran for 214 yards and caught 45 passes for 273 yards two years ago but missed all of last season hurt. A dangerous kickoff returner, he’ll make his big mark as a runner and do-it-all playmaker.
10. C Brian Thlang, Soph.
Still growing into the job, the 6-1, 299-pound Thlang took over the starting center position in his redshirt season. Built for the position, he gets low with great leverage, but not he has to become more of a run blocker and has to be more of a force in the interior. This is going to be his veteran line to quarterback for the next three years.