The Campus2Canton writing staff will cover all of the conferences from now until the beginning of the college football season. To view previous conferences, click one of the links below:

We already covered the East. Now we’re bringing you the Conference USA West division. A division that has overall higher quality teams, they also sport some of the country’s better Group of Five players. As always, the players in this preview are broken down into four categories.

  • Fantasy Relevant
  • Roster Fillers
  • Stashes
  • Players to Avoid at Cost

All teams are listed in alphabetical order.

Louisiana Tech

Fantasy Relevant

None.

Roster Fillers

This offense should look different in 2022. New head coach Sonny Cumbie takes over as head coach after the firing of Skip Holtz. A Mike Leach prodigy, Cumbie, will turn this offense into a pass-heavy unit. Last season the Bulldogs ranked 44th in neutral game script pass rate, throwing 52% on neutral and standard downs. I expect them to be closer to the top 20 this year despite an undecided quarterback battle.

The focal point of the passing game will be receiver Smoke Harris. The diminutive yet shifty receiver has been one of the better receivers at the Group of 5 level the last few seasons but hasn’t been put in a position to succeed. With a 24.0% receiving yard market share last year, expect him to operate as the lead receiver again. Tre Harris will operate as the primary boundary option for the Bulldogs, but again, there are questions about the upside in this passing offense.

Stashes

While there’s a quarterback competition on paper, it’s Matthew Downing’s job to lose. He has familiarity with Cumbie from TCU and started the spring game. He showed some mobility in the game as well, rushing for 15 yards on his only drive of the game on a single carry.  I don’t know that he has fantasy relevance this year, but I think he can provide a positive impact to this offense.

True freshman running back DeAnthony Gatson could be an impact player on day one. He operates behind an offensive line that returns three starters and brings in an impact transfer. He’s an incredibly talented player – especially given the quality of his opponents and the general Louisiana Tech standard recruit.

Another true freshman who should be rostered is quarterback Landry Lyddy. Lyddy isn’t a heralded recruit but was productive for his level of play in Louisiana. Lyddy impressed at the Elite 11 Dallas regional in 2021, ranking third behind Quinn Ewers and Nick Evers. This player is under the radar with some week one potential.

Players to Avoid at Cost

None.

North Texas

Fantasy Relevant

Given the personnel changes, I believe that this entire offense has a higher ceiling in 2022. The big addition is the transfer of quarterback Grant Gunnell. Gunnell is worlds above what we’ve seen from incumbent quarterback Austin Aune, and if he doesn’t win the job, it would be a surprise. The offense ranked 116th in neutral game script pass rate last season and had success rushing the ball, but part of that is necessarily the game plan. The top three receiving options were all injured last year, and Aune was unable to lift the passing game out of the depths of FBS.

“In 2021’s regular season, Aune ranked 109th among qualified quarterbacks in total EPA with -16.66. The loss of Jyaire Shorter hurt the passing offense but ultimately, Aune was holding the unit back. He started or played the majority of snaps in 11 games. In those games, he had more than 240 passing yards once and under 125 yards five times. His average of 181 yards in games, ranks among the worst in the nation for a team that isn’t primarily an option team. To add, Aune had only 9 touchdowns in these 11 games.”

Chris Moxley in Underated Offenses: North Texas at campus2canton.com

The top receiving option is likely Roderic Burns, a former walk-on for the Mean Green. He led the team in receiving in 2021 and is primed to do so again this year. Despite one of the country’s worst offenses in passing efficiency (Aune attempted 5.9 yards per pass attempt), Burns managed to provide fantasy value despite this. According to fall practice reports, he’s the primary option. Alongside Burns, the return of Jyaire Shorter should improve the overall offense. Shorter’s breakout campaign was cut short last season by injury, but the big-bodied receiver looks ready to make an impact this season. They should pass more this season, given competent quarterback play from Grant Gunnell.

Roster Fillers

The North Texas offense hosts two of the better running backs in the conference. Oscar Addaway can step into a valuable lead-back role in 2022 with the departure of De’Andre Torrey. Torrey had 45% of running back carries, opening a role to be the lead back but with multiple contributors. The offense ran at an incredibly high pace last season, meaning potential RB2 Ikaika Ragsdale could see fantasy relevance as well. Both should be rostered in leagues, as Torrey averaged 19.1 points per game last season. The offense also returns four starting o-line, which is a “rising tide lifts all ships” situation, but it will keep the rushing game productive.

Stashes

A player to keep an eye on if the passing game does improve is Tommy Bush. He transferred last season but was injured and missed the last ten games. He’s been oft-injured in his career but is a big-bodied receiver at 6’5” and was previously at UGA for three seasons.

Players to Avoid at Cost

None.

Rice

Fantasy Relevant

None. Fantasy relevant means there’s a chance they would start for you if the season kicked off today. I don’t think that’s a fair assumption for any of our Rice Owls.

Roster Fillers

I think we do need to be rostering Ari Broussard, however. There’s a new offensive coordinator in town with Marques Tuiasosopo and a new quarterback under center in TJ McMahon. I think McMahon has a higher ceiling in this offense despite the limited sample size, highlighted by his 9.1 yards per pass attempt prior to his Rice transfer. Broussard has ample experience, and RB2 Dean Conners has yet to record a carry. This offense also vacates 51% of last year’s rushing production between the losses of Jordan Meyers and Khalan Griffin. Without experience and vacated opportunity, it’s Broussard’s job, and there’s 1,000-yard potential this year.

The likely primary receiving option is incumbent Cedric Patterson III. Patterson has been a solid contributor for the Owls over the last three years but hit his stride with a 22.9% receiving market share while competing with Jake Bailey for targets. Between Bailey, August Pitre, and Jordan Meyers moving on, this offense vacates 68.5% of receiving production. Patterson is the best bet to assume a large chunk of this production. He does compete with Tulsa transfer Sam Crawford, a sixth-year player who will be able to contribute to this offense.

Stashes

None

Players to Avoid at Cost

None.

UAB

Fantasy Relevant

Any discussion about UAB starts with DeWayne McBride. The primary back has been one of the country’s most efficient over his first two years. Over his last ten games of last season (excluding out-of-conference matchups with UGA and Jacksonville State), he averaged 120 yards per game, 1.2 touchdowns, all on 7.1 yards per carry. McBride is one of the best and most productive backs in the country. He didn’t see 20+ carries until game 9, at which point he averaged 149 yards per game. McBride could lead the country in rushing if the back half of UAB’s season is an indicator for 2022.

Roster Fillers

The leading receiver on this offense in 2021, Trea Shropshire returns in 2022 to operate as the primary passing game weapon again. Despite leading the offense last year, he only had 27 receptions in 12 games for an other-worldly 26.0 yards per reception. He led the country in that mark in 2021 but eclipsed only 100 yards three times while going under 50 yards in six of his games. He’s a quintessential best ball option where his boom weeks can win you a matchup.

Stashes

Tight end Garrett Prince provided quality production last year, going 36-699-10 for the Blazers. However, his departure allows a contributor to seize some of that production for fantasy relevancy. The best guess is Terrell McDonald. He’s the only tight end on the roster who has caught a pass at the FBS level and played alongside Prince last year. He is competing with athletic tight end Maleak Bryant, but given his experience, we’ll give McDonald the edge.

The Blazers actively run two tight end sets, and last season, Prince and Hayden Pittman combined for 33.3% of receiving yards on this team. Both McDonald and Bryant should see the field a good amount.

Players to Avoid at Cost

None.

UTEP

Fantasy Relevant

The loss of Jacob Cowing hurts the entire offense but opens opportunities in the receiving game. Third-leading receiver Tyrin Smith returns as the most experienced in the room and figures to step into the WR1 role. Last year the offense averaged only 27.5 pass attempts per game, but with Cowing and running mate Justin Garrett gone, they’re going to be less productive on a per-play basis. That doesn’t hurt Smith as much as the vacated 62% receiving yardage production helps.

If this offense does throw for upwards of 3,000 yards again, receiver Kelly Akharaiyi should be rostered. Akharaiyi is a junior college transfer who made noise in spring and possibly vaulted himself into the WR2 role. The offense was able to support two productive options last year. If Smith doesn’t command the same target share that Cowing did, Akharaiyi is an undrafted player with fantasy upside.

Roster Fillers

I expect this running back room to be a 1A/1B situation with Ronald Awatt getting the first crack. Last year he was productive while Deion Hankins recovered from an injury suffered over the summer. Both split touches last year, but Awatt averaged 1.5 yards per carry more, and if he saw full-time usage, he could be a 1,000-yard RB.

Stashes

Despite losing the top two receiving options from last season, quarterback Gavin Hardison is still a target in drafts. He passed for over 3,200 yards, and while he loses Jacob Cowing, the staff feels confident in Tyrin Smith stepping up. As noted above, there’s spring buzz surrounding transfer Kelly Akharaiyi. The offense may have a lower overall ceiling, but with less efficiency could come more pass attempts.

Players to Avoid at Cost

None.

UTSA

Fantasy Relevant

Most key pieces return on offense for the Roadrunners, meaning we should target quarterback Frank Harris again in 2022. After the quietest QB1 finish of all time (QB12), Harris is a huge value in drafts still and provides upside in both phases of the game. In 10 of 12 games last season, Harris had over 24.5 fantasy points with games of 65.9, 45.9, 39, 32.9, and 29.9. One of the country’s better rushers, he had 599 yards and six touchdowns on the ground with a 3,176-27-6 passing line.

Harris returns his top three targets led by Zakhari Franklin. Franklin is one of the highest floor receivers in the country and should have another 1,000-yard season. Franklin has back-to-back seasons of 30% receiving yardage market share and leads a strong group. Alongside Franklin, Joshua Cephus should be a productive fantasy option. He is also competing with De’Corian Clark for WR2 opportunity. Both are quality receivers and, in best ball, can have week-winning weeks as the rotating secondary option.

Roster Fillers

If I were confident in which back to target here, I would put them in the fantasy-relevant category. A handful of backs are competing for the RB1 role, starting with incumbent Brendan Brady. Brady is the back with the most experience in this offense and seems to be in the lead for RB1 prior to the season. He’s competing with two transfers in Arkansas’ Trelon Smith and Junior College stud Tye Edwards. Edwards was a hot name in spring and has size and physicality, but Trelon Smith’s late transfer threw this positional depth chart in flux. Given the production we’ve seen from Sincere McCormick over the last few seasons, one of them could drastically outperform ADP.

Stashes                          

None.

Players to Avoid at Cost

None.

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