This is our CUSA edition discussing the new play-callers throughout the conference, the impact their scheme could have on that program at each position, their lineage and coaching tree, and some historical data on their most recent seasons. This article is less about projection and more about coaching trends for you to draw your own conclusions.
New HC/OC: Jamey Chadwell/Willy Korn
Previous HC: Hugh Freeze
2019-22 Coastal Carolina head coach; 2017-18 Coastal Carolina OC; 2013-16 Charleston Southern head coach
The Coastal Carolina duo of Chadwell and Korn bring their spread option offense over to the C-USA, where Liberty will be a new member in 2023. Freeze had taken Liberty to another level with his dynamic offense, but Chadwell also had his fair share of fantasy producers over the last few seasons at Coastal. Freeze’s offense is more predicated on volume, while Chadwell aims for efficiency.
Chadwell and Korn certainly worked their magic with Grayson McCall in the last few years. But they lack the track record with multiple QBs that we have seen from Freeze with Malik Willis (QB2, QB9), Chad Kelly, Bo Wallace, and Ryan Aplin. The modified triple option is clearly designed for a dual-threat QB, which LIberty has, but will be a foreign system to the QB room.
2022: Grayson McCall: QB39; 22.9 ppg
2021: Grayson McCall: QB29; 24 ppg
2020: Grayson McCall: QB16; 26.2 ppg
Running Back: Upgrade
The last two years have been a mixed bag for Coastal RBs with some RBBC due to specialization, but Chadwell and Korn have shown they are willing to have a workhorse back. Marable had back-to-back seasons over 200 touches which isn’t something we have seen from a Freeze RB in quite some while.
2022: CJ Beasley: RB99; 10.4
2021: Shermari Jones: RB44; 16.9 ppg
2020: CJ Marable: RB6; 19.9 ppg
2019: CJ Marable: RB19; 19.9 ppg
Wide Receiver/TE: Upgrade
The volume will never be the emphasis in the passing game, but we consistently see Chadwell WRs and TEs be fantasy relevant with chunk plays and long scores. This staff has made a living off finding diamonds in the rough, athletic WRs and TEs that fit their system well. Far more consistent with this position than we have seen from Freeze.
2022: Jared Brown: WR55; 12.4 ppg
2021: Jaivon Heiligh: WR41; 14.4 ppg
2021: Isaiah Likely: TE2: 14.9 ppg
2020: Jaivon Heiligh: WR35; 17.5 ppg
2020: Isaiah Likely: TE20; 10.5 ppg
Takeaways: Some caution probably needs to be used at QB in 2023 until we fully establish if McCall’s success was a product of his talent or the system. Trey Lowe looks to be transferring in to compete with likely starter Kaidon Salter. There is some serious potential here if Liberty can establish its go-to guys, as their schedule is arguably the easiest in the entire country.
New OC: Drew Hollingshead
Previous OC: Ben Arbuckle
Influenced by: Mike Leach
2022 Mississippi State WR coach; 2020-21 Mississippi State analyst; 2016-19 Washington State analyst
Head coach Tyson Helton has lost a rock star assistant coach in back-to-back seasons, with Kittley going to Texas Tech and Arbuckle to Washington State. First-time play-caller Hollingshead steps into a position that has overseen two straight top-five offenses at WKU.
WKU has had a tumultuous offseason with assistant coach turnover and numerous transfer portal entries. Hollingshead is one of the least experienced OCs, having been a position coach at the FBS level for just one season. He comes from the same coaching tree as Zach Kittley, as he has worked under Leach since 2016. Some of the concepts will be similar to what WKU has seen over the last two seasons, but it’s hard to imagine this will be as seamless of a transition as Kittley handing the keys to Arbuckle, who worked directly under Kittley and had familiarity with the roster.
The biggest change here could be downfield passing. Kittley/Arbuckle’s version of the air raid asks his QBs to stretch the field and have had an average depth of target (ADOT) of 8.6 yards each of the last two seasons. Kittley even had an ADOT of 9.0 in 2022 at Texas Tech. Meanwhile, Leach/Will Rogers have had an ADOT of 6.1 over the last three years. Will Hollingshead, who’s spent his entire FBS career under Leach, try to copy-and-paste his protege’s dink-and-dunk scheme and potentially lower the ceiling of fantasy studs Austin Reed and Malachi Corley? Or will we see a more fantasy-friendly version that we have come to love from the Tops recently?
University of Texas El Paso
New OC: Dana Dimel/Internal hire
Previous OC: Dave Warner
Dana Dimel is the lead play-caller here. He was prior to Dave Warner retiring after 2022, and he will be for 2023 as well. We don’t expect significant changes. For some reason, Dimel has yet to make a public announcement as to which one of his coaches will have the OC title, but he has stated in interviews that he has already made the decision to promote from within.
Dimel and returning QB Gavin Hardison have produced 1,000-yard receivers in consecutive seasons (Jacob Cowing and Tyrin Smith). Unfortunately, the Miners lost each of them to the transfer portal after their breakout seasons. It is a position to monitor Kelly Akharaiyi is the leading returning WR, but he had a pedestrian stat line of 21-275-1. However, he did receive nine targets over the final two games, where he went 5-117-1.
Running back has been a fantasy wasteland the last couple of seasons under Dimel, but Ronald Awatt moves on, leaving Deion Hankins as the clear RB1. It is possible he could return to fantasy relevance, as he averaged 16 ppg over seven games in the shortened 2020 season.
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