Adam Hunsucker covers the ULM Warhawks for the News-Star in Monroe, La. That’s right, I wrote ULM. The team prefers the acronym to spelling out Louisiana-Monroe, and we do as well for headline brevity. So we’ll go with that.
Hunsucker has agreed to be our first victim, eh, I mean, guest for The Opposing View. This grand feature, in which we reach out to a beat writer for Georgia’s opposing team to give us the low-down, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Or second or third, I’m not sure.
Anyway, Hunsucker is no stranger to Athens. He has made frequent stops to this fair city over the years. He’s a Tennessee grad, and a fairly recent one, if you count 10 or so years as “recent,” as I do.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of the southernplayalistic hospitality you’re famous for,” Hunsucker told me. “I’m quite familiar with the Dogs. Going to Sanford Stadium to work instead of ‘to Vol Out’ should be a different experience.”
You can follow Hunsucker on Twitter at @adam_hunsucker and read all is stories on the The News Star’s website HERE. As is the format for this gig, I asked Hunsucker five questions about the ULM and asked for his candid reply. Following is what we got:
Q: I understand the Warhawks have had a QB competition of their own. What’s the outcome of that?
Hunsucker: “They did. ULM head coach Todd Berry went with youth over experience and named redshirt freshman Garrett Smith the starter over fifth-year senior Brayle Brown. Smith outshined Brown throughout fall camp and in two scrimmages. Berry assumed the offensive play calling duties in the offseason and felt more comfortable with what Smith was doing in the offense. Smith also gives ULM the added dimension of a running quarterback that Berry wants to incorporate back into the offense after modifying things for NC State transfer Pete Thomas in 2014.”
Q. I’m hearing there are a lot of starters back on defense. What’s the expectation for that side of the ball?
Hunsucker: “The expectations are pretty high for the defense and rightfully so after ULM finished second in the Sun Belt in total defense and third in scoring defense. Seniors Gerrand Johnson at nose guard and hybrid safety/outside linebacker Mitch Lane are four-year starters and have shown up on some preseason mock drafts. ULM has nine total starters back on defense and seven of those are multi-year starters. Barring injury issues — a common problem at ULM over the years — this should be the best defense in Berry’s tenure.”
Q. Tell us about ULM’s recent history. Are they peaking as a program now, coming off a great year, in a rebuilding mode, etc?
Hunsucker: “It’s an interesting time around the program honestly. Outside of the defense there isn’t much of a known commodity on this team. That didn’t stop Berry from calling this the best team he’s had at ULM during Sun Belt Media Day. Berry’s proclamation turned plenty of heads around Monroe. Fans aren’t exactly sure what to expect from this team, but coming off of a 4-8 season the initial thought isn’t optimism. Berry has a year remaining on the contract extension he got after ULM’s surprise 8-5 season in 2012. It isn’t a make-or-break year for him but a winning season and possible bowl game would do wonders old approval rating.”
Q: Obviously ULM comes to Athens with the hopes of nothing but a resounding upset. What are some instances in school history in which they’ve made that happen?
Hunsucker: “ULM has a reputation of pulling the occasional upset over an SEC team every so often. The last victim was Arkansas in 2012, a game known around Monroe as ‘The Shock at Little Rock.’ Arkansas only won four games that year with John L. Smith as the interim head coach — Hog fans would probably rather forget that ever happened — but were ranked in the Top 10 at the time. Nick Saban gave one of the grandest of his grand postgame meltdowns after ULM beat Alabama in 2007, comparing the loss to America’s response to Pearl Harbor and 9/11. The Warhawks also have wins over Kentucky and Mississippi State on the ledger from the 90s.”
Q: So what’s the relationship between ULM and those Duck Dynasty fellows? Don’t they live close by?
Hunsucker: “They’re around. Duck Commander Empire and accompanying Robertson enclave are in West Monroe, just on the other side of the Ouachita River from Monroe. Willie is a ULM alum and he and the rest of the Robertson clan make sporadic appearances. When ULM put on a “camo-out” for last year’s home opener against Wake Forest, Willie was an honorary captain (because of course, right?).”