Conference Preview: Conference USA

Conference Preview: Conference USA

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

The biggest name from Conference USA is gone. I'm not talking about a player, though, because the man in question is Lane Kiffin. The Lane Train has departed Florida Atlantic for Ole Miss. That doesn't mean there isn't intrigue in Conference USA. While it's impossible to write a sports article right now without a litany of caveats, I'm still moving forward with this preview of Conference USA, including a quarterback who is one of the absolute top guys to target this season in Middle Tennessee's Asher O'Hara. He threw for over 2,600 and rushed for over 1,000 yards last season. What will he do for an encore?

ALL-CONFERENCE USA FANTASY TEAM

FIRST TEAM

QB: Asher O'Hara, Middle Tennessee (5)

RB: Brenden Knox, Marshall (16)

RB: Sincere McCormick, UTSA (20)

WR: Jimmy Marshall, MTSU (57)

WR: Jahcour Pearson, WKU (53)

TE: Xavier Gaines, Marshall (16)

SECOND TEAM

QB: Jack Abraham, Southern Miss (44)

RB: Gaej Walker, WKU (34)

RB: Justin Henderson, La Tech (32)

WR: Austin Watkins, UAB (64)

WR: Victor Tucker, Charlotte (75)

TE: Michael Irvin, FAU (NR)

THIRD TEAM

QB: Chris Reynolds, Charlotte (35)

RB: Malcolm Davidson, FAU (64)

RB: Tre Harbison, Charlotte (75)

WR: Tim Jones, USM (66)

WR: Jaelon Darden, UNT (54)

TE: Josh Simon, WKU (NR)

SLEEPERS

QB: Chris Reynolds, Charlotte

Think of Reynolds as the poor man's Asher O'Hara, in terms of being a dual-threat under center. Reynolds was a little loose with the ball last year, he threw 11 picks in 13 games, but that was with 22 passing touchdowns. The redshirt junior also rushed for 791 yards and six touchdowns. Last year was his first campaign as the starting quarterback for the 49ers. With a season under his belt, Reynolds could be ready to take his game to the next level, especially if he can cut down on the turnovers.

QB: Jason Bean, North Texas

Mason Fine has been the man under center for the Mean Green for a few years but he has finally moved on. For the first time since 2017, North Texas needs a new starting quarterback. The player likely to take that role is Bean, who was fine's backup last season. In limited action, Bean threw for three touchdowns against three interceptions. The sample size is small, but Bean is only a redshirt sophomore. Fine never threw for fewer than 3,000 yards and 27 touchdowns in a season. Was that the quarterback or the system? We're about to find out.

RB: Gaej Walker, Western Kentucky

He may have made the second team for the conference, but he might be flying under the radar even still. Walker was a one-man run game for the Hilltoppers last season. That is not hyperbole. Walker had 241 carries, and no other player had more than 118, and that was quarterback Ty Storey, which means some of those carries were sacks. No other running back had more than nine carries. Walker is a true workhorse, and he ran for 1,208 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019.

RB: Spencer Brown, UAB

Brown has been the primary back for UAB since he was a freshman, which also happened to be the Blazers' first year back as a team. He's also been one of the better backs in Conference USA. Brown rushed for over 1,200 yards and double-digit touchdowns in each of his first two campaigns. Last year, though, he struggled with injury and was held to 566 yards and five touchdowns. If he's healthy, I expect him to bounce back.

WR: Jahcour Pearson, Western Kentucky

Pearson had 71 catches for 772 yards in 2019, and he ranked third in receptions in Conference USA. The guy who ranked first? Pearson's teammate Lucky Jackson. Jackson has graduated, though. Pearson wasn't even the top target on the Hilltoppers and he had 71 receptions. What can he do as the main guy? I'm intrigued by the possibilities.

WR: Jyaire Shorter, North Texas

If you are intrigued by bang for your buck, you might want to take a shot on Shorter. As a redshirt freshman, Shorter only had 24 catches. However, he turned those receptions into 473 yards and nine touchdowns. If you do the math, he averaged 19.7 yards per catch. Shorter showed what he can do when he gets the ball in his hands. If he has more targets, can he remain a big-play receiver?

BUSTS

QB: Tyler Johnston, UAB

 Originally, the plan was to go with Chris Robison, the former FAU quarterback. However, earlier this offseason he and the Owls parted ways, and it would be unfair to say that Nick Tronti has bust potential when he's just been thrust into a starting job. Instead, let's turn our attention to Johnston, who did not take the step forward in 2019 many hoped. While he did throw the ball more and complete a higher percentage of his passes, he still only had 17 passing touchdowns against 15 interceptions. More disappointingly, his rushing numbers actually dropped, and he only managed one rushing score. Not only is Johnston not likely to excite fantasy player, it wouldn't be surprising if Dylan Hopkins ends up stealing playing time from him this season.

RB: Aaron McAllister, Charlotte

Last season, Benny LeMay ranked fourth in rushing yards in Conference USA and notched over 1,000 yards. Given how much Chris Reynolds runs at quarterback as well, clearly this is a run-happy offense. LeMay is gone, so does that mean McAllister can step into his cleats? I'm not so sure. McAllister is a redshirt senior and has never rushed for more than 458 yards in a season. Last year he did rush for 380 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games. Will his numbers be bigger this year? Maybe, but Northern Illinois transfer Tre Harbison seems to be the favorite to lead this backfield.

WR: Jimmy Marshall, Middle Tennessee

Can Asher O'Hara throw the ball? You bet, but his true skill is running from the quarterback position. I'm not sure there will be enough pass attempts out of the Blue Raiders for Marshall to live up to his ranking. After all, he's a senior with 52 career catches. He's also fighting Jarrin Pierce for targets, and I'm not certain that Marshall will win that battle.

WR: Adrian Hardy, Louisiana Tech

Heading into 2019, Hardy seemed to be brimming with potential. In 2018 he had 75 catches for 1,145 yards and six touchdowns in his first full season. Instead, in 2019 he had 42 catches for 534 yards and only one touchdown. He missed two games with a suspension as well. Hardy was only able to manage one game with over 100 yards in 2019, and now he will be playing with a brand-new starting quarterback as well. I'm not betting on a rebound.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Morgan
Chris Morgan is a writer of sports, pop culture, and humor articles, a book author, a podcaster, and a fan of all Detroit sports teams.
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