The Watch List: 2018 C-USA Preview

Updated: June 6th 2018

Welcome to The Watch List, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players, storylines and matchups from the college game that deserve your attention.  Check back throughout the Summer for previews on each conference and my preseason predictions.  During the regular season, The Watch List will continue to update you on who is fantasy relevant and worth your draft capital next year. 

Storylines to Watch

  • Heisman Favorite: Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic.  We’ll cover Singletary more below but let’s just say that anybody with 2,000 yard and 30 TD potential has a shot at getting votes for the Heisman.
  • Darkhorse Heisman Candidate:  Brent Stockstill, QB, Middle Tennessee State.  Stockstill put up big numbers in 2015 and 2016 and a return to that 4,000 yard form could put him on the radar for more casual fans.  Stockstill will have three marquee games to showcase his ability, and maybe pull out an upset, when the Blue Raiders visit Vanderbilt, Georgia and Kentucky.
  • Offensive Player of the Year:  Mason Fine, QB, North Texas.  It would be easy to pick Singletary here but Fine likely means more to his team than Singletary does.  Fine is undersized (5110/180) but is a high volume passer.  He finished second in the conference in most passing categories in 2017 and should find himself atop the leaderboards in 2018 with Mike White, Jason Driskel and Chase Litton gone.  In 2017 he finished with 4,052 yards, 31 TDs and 15 INTs.
  • Defensive Player of the Year:  Jalen Young, S, Florida Atlantic.  Young is currently rated as’s sixth best safety in the 2019 class.  He is a three year starter heading into his senior season.  He’s averaged 81 tackles and 4 INTs over those campaigns.  I watched a package of his high school highlights since more recent ones were tough to find and I noted that he had a good combination of ball hawking skill and a desire to get involved in run support.  He could be a sneaky NFL Draft prospect if he continues to improve in 2018 because teams will value his versatility.
  • Newcomer of the Year:  Maureese Wren, WR, Louisiana Tech.  Per ESPN’s scouting service, Wren is the highest rated incoming transfer to the C-USA.  Wren is listed at 6030 and 216lbs which is a big enough frame to factor in right away.  According to, Wren received offers from 24 FBS schools including some blue bloods like Texas, Oregon, Washington, Nebraska and Arkansas.  Wren could help jump start the Bulldogs after a disappointing 2017 season.
  • Underclassman to Watch:  Spencer Brown, RB, UAB.  Brown was a big part of UAB’s unexpected success in 2017.  As a true freshman he put up 1,329 yards and 10 TDs.  He has tremendous size at 6000/235.  As you’d guess, he is thick and can easily power through contact.  I’d like to see an increase in receiving production this season.  We have some time yet to see if he was a one year wonder or a star in the making.
  • Best QB-WR Tandem:  Mason Fine and Jalen Guyton, North Texas.  I mentioned Fine above and since he’s one of the few returning quarterbacks in the conference he basically guarantees North Texas this spot.  I expect Fine’s top target this season to be former Notre Dame transfer Jalen Guyton.  Guyton has good size at 6010/194 and produced well in his first season at Marshall (49-775-9).  If Guyton doesn’t step up, Fine will look to juniors Michael Lawerence or Rico Bussey who were also Top 10 in receiving yards in C-USA last year.
  • Best RB Corps:  Marshall.  Sure, the Owls have the best back in the conference but the Thundering Herd return two 800+ yard rushers from last season.  Tyler King gained 820 yards and 7 TDs last season as a freshman; Keion Davis totaled 812 yards and 6 scores.  Both were involved in the passing game too, combining for 31 receptions and 231 yards.  New grad transfer QB Alex Thomson can also contribute on the ground: he had 402 rushing yards and 5 TDs in his career at Wagner.
  • Coach on the Hottest Seat:  Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee State.  I stumbled on a great site when doing my “hot seat” research:  The site tracks coaching bios, hirings and firings from year to year and grades coaches against their team’s expected win totals.  The site rated the Blue Raiders season a C in 2017, B- in 2016 and C+ in 2015.  If the last name sounds familiar it’s because Rick’s son Brent is the starting quarterback.  If MTSU falters at all this season, I’ll bet the administration sees it as an opportunity to move on from the father as the son is graduating.

Teams to Watch

Florida Atlantic (11-3 in 2017)

FAU has the best shot, in my opinion, of earning a New Year’s Six bowl among the Group of 5 teams.  They have a Power 5 coach in Lane Kiffin, a Heisman hopeful in RB Devin Singletary and the conference’s best defense.  What they don’t have is a quarterback.  Last year’s signal caller, Jason Driskel, retired from football.  Kiffin has two potential starters to choose from, both of whom originally enrolled at Power 5 schools: De’Andre Johnson (Florida State) and Chris Robison (Oklahoma).  Whether or not the Owls are contending for the Boca Raton Bowl or the Peach Bowl will rely heavily on what Kiffin can mold those two into.

Florida International (8-5 in 2017)

Per 247Sports, FIU signed the best recruiting class of C-USA.  They were able to secure the conference’s only two 4-star recruits, both of whom are defensive tackle JUCO transfers.  Tayland Humphrey is listed at 6050/350 and will clog the middle.  He had offers from an awesome list of schools and ultimately took visits with Kansas and Oklahoma State before choosing Florida International.  Teair Tart-Spencer meanwhile is a bit lighter at 6040/295 but his Hudl highlights will strike fear into opposing offenses.  Tart-Spencer was predicted to go to Alabama by 247Sports but ultimately signed with the Golden Panthers.  Tart-Spencer was dismissed from his JUCO team so it appears that some teams got cold feet and backed out of the running.  Butch Davis, like Kiffin, may be taking a chance on talent over character but it’s worth the gamble.  Look for FIU to compete with FAU for the division crown with it all coming down to their November 3rd matchup.

Players to Watch

Honorable Mentions

  • AJ Erdely, QB, UAB:  Erdely is possibly the oldest player I’ll cover this offseason (24 when the season begins) and he has a sweet mustache to prove it. Erdely started as a true freshman at Middle Tennessee State in 2013, played sparingly in 2014, went JUCO in 2015 and sat out 2016 all before leading the 2017 reincarnation of the Blazers to a 8-5 finish. He is a dual threat who passed for 16 TDs and added 13 on the ground. I don’t think Erdely gets NFL Draft looks but he has an interesting personal journey and plays on a team that surprised us all last season so keep an eye on him.
  • Aaron Cephus, WR, Rice:  Cephus caught my eye because he had the best yards per catch average in the conference at 24.9.  Usually when you see such a huge average it’s somebody who caught six balls and one of them was a fluke hail mary.  Not for Cephus who had 25 grabs on route to that huge average.  In fact, Cephus lead the NCAA in yards per catch average.  Plus he was a (redshirt) freshman playing on a horrible Rice team.  The cherry on top is that he comes in at 6040/200.  Cephus will technically be NFL Draft eligible after this season as a redshirt sophomore but I imagine it would take a record-breaking season for him to come out.  Still though, he’s on my watch list.
  • Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Lousiana Tech:  Ferguson has accumulated some impressive stats over his three year career.  He has 122 total tackles, 41.5 tackles for loss and 27.5 sacks.  He’s listed at 6050/269 and has him projected at 4.84 speed.  He’ll need to show scouts he’s faster than that in order to get true buzz.  If he does trend closer to 4.70 speed we’re looking at somebody with physical comps to Myles Garrett and Bradley Chubb.
  • Azeez Al-Shaair, LB, Florida Atlantic:  Al-Shaair has started since he was a freshman and has a chance to hit 500 career tackles in 2018.  Last season was his best yet with 146 total tackles.  Unsurprisingly, that was good for best in the conference; it was also good enough for third in the FBS.  Al-Shaair decided to stay in school after his standout junior season and put off a potential payday that could have helped him care for two of his younger siblings who live with him.  After my limited research he seems like a good leader and an overall good dude that we can all root for even if he doesn’t have a huge draft stock.

Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic

As I have alluded to in multiple places in this preview, Devin Singletary is the conference’s best.  He put up incredible stats in 2017: 301 carries, 1,918 rushing yards, 6.1 yards per carry, 32 rushing TDs, 19 receptions, 198 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD.  He led the FBS in carries and rushing touchdowns and led the conference in just about every other stat.  What surprised me the most when I looked back at his stats this offseason were the number of carries.  Backs who are listed at 5090 don’t typically hold up over a 300 carry season but Singletary did.  Singletary is stout enough, he weighs in at 200lb, that he’s able to hold up better than thinner backs but he needs to add a few more pounds for the NFL.

When I watched Singletary, I repeatedly noted two things: his cutting ability and his pass protection.  Singletary’s ability to change direction without losing much speed is an elite trait.  He shows a variety of cuts, including a jump cut and a back cut that is particularly useful for getting him out of trouble.  He has good speed, in the 4.50 range, but is not elite in that department.  He’s plenty fast for the position but he’s not a track star type back.  He lacks the strength to move the pile at the line of scrimmage but in one-on-one situations he has enough strength to break tackles.  In pass protection, I see an ability to identify his assignment and get there on time to protect his quarterback.  On one specific play he slide along the line, keeping his shoulders parallel and had good hand placement when contacting the defender.  On a number of other plays he successfully chipped or cut blocked the defender.  I didn’t see much of him in terms of his pass catching ability, he caught a number of relatively easy screens, but I would say that it’s average at worst.  He did show me nuance as a route runner though which is encouraging.  I also noted that he has enough awareness to carry out fakes on play action passes and zone read fakes.  Singletary does not give up on the play and rarely goes out of bounds by choice.

I was very encouraged by my film study of Singletary and I’m eager to see how he does in 2018.  I would not at all be surprised to see him rise up our fantasy draft boards and command a late first round pick this time next year.  (Film watched: Western Kentucky 2017, Middle Tennessee State 2017)

Tyre Brady, WR, Marshall

Tyre Brady was the first wide receiver I deeply studied this offseason and that might have been a problem because I am smitten.  I was honestly quite impressed with the two games of film I watched.  Brady looks like he has the potential to be a starting X receiver in the NFL.  He has good size at 6030/208 and showcases an ability to make acrobatic catches near the sideline with his strong hands and toe-tapping body control.  I was encouraged by his release which was usually positive, although I would like to see him get more physical when coming out of his breaks.  He can be physical at the top of his route stem so I know he can do it.  Brady has good to elite speed, I’m thinking in the 4.40 range.  He pairs that speed with the skill to stop on a dime and fluidly change direction.  His run after catch prowess relies mostly on his breakaway speed but he can spin out of tackles to pick up extra yardage.  The only negative I noted for Brady was his blocking but that’s not surprising for his position.  There is one possible off-field negative that I hope is behind Brady: he was suspended multiple times at Miami for undisclosed reasons before transferring.  Hopefully whatever that was is in his past and he can finish out a successful career at Marshall.  I’ll need to return to Brady after I study some more WRs to make sure it’s not a primacy bias but right now I’m thinking that Brady has Day Two NFL Draft potential and could end up on 2019 fantasy draft boards.  (Film watched: Colorado State 2017, NC State 2017)

Brent Stockstill, QB, Middle Tennessee State

Brent and Rick Stockstill combine to make an interesting story line at MTSU.  The father-son duo has brought as many or more wins to the Blue Raiders over the last three years as any other three year stretch in the program’s FBS history.  The only caveat to that is that son Brent has missed a number of games in that stretch due to injuries.  I watched Stockstill’s game against Arkansas State in the Camellia Bowl and was not impressed.  Statistically, it was one of the worst games of his career but I think it was worth watching because it came in a bowl game and against a mediocre defense.  Stockstill’s accuracy was inconsistent; he often missed throws high and wide, two of which turned into INTs.  He loves to throw the back shoulder and also shows good touch over the middle.  In addition to having a long injury history, Stockstill is also an old prospect (he was in the 2013 recruiting class) which means he’s unlikely to factor into NFL Draft conversations even though he has 4,000 yard potential.  (Film watched: Arkansas State 2017)


Notes: In an effort to standardize the description of key positional traits, I frequently use the following adjectives: elite, good, above average, average, below average, poor.  My experimental grading system uses a Madden-like approach by weighting position relevant traits on a 100-point scale; bonus or negative points are awarded based on production, size, injury history and character.  Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height.  Then watching film for a player, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  For top prospects I may add a third game, while for long shots I might only devote the time for one. If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had all season so they really need to jump off the screen. I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability. If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats:,,,,,
  • Film: 2019 NFL Draft Database by @CalhounLambeau, (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks:,,,,,
  • Draft history:
  • Combine info:,,
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

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