You’ve heard the story. In an offensive overhaul, Western Kentucky brought on a handful of Houston Baptist personnel, including the Huskies’ offensive coordinator, quarterback, and leading receivers. By the end of the 2021 season, offensive coordinator Zach Kittley, quarterback Bailey Zappe, and wide receiver Jerreth Sterns became household names amongst CFB enthusiasts and the CFF community. The strategic move took WKU – one of college football’s worst offenses of 2020 – and turned them into one of the most prolific in 2021. Helton and the Hilltoppers tapped into not only the transfer portal but tapped into FCS talent to the degree that no other program had attempted before.
Whether you consider the Hilltoppers trendsetters or not, looking for and utilizing immediate impact, FCS talent is having its moment. Case in point: Washington State. It is mostly a low-risk, high-reward strategy, especially for Group of Five programs looking for a quick fix, fresh ideas, and/or rising, under-the-radar stars.
In the Making the Jump series, I look at players and coaches transitioning from the FCS to the FBS ahead of the 2022 season: outlining the previous production and describing how they might fit within the program.
Each player will have a provided Impact Rating, which is the predicted likelihood of immediate impact coupled with CFF relevancy. For example, a 5/5 would be a presumed immediate impact player with high-volume production. A 2/5 might be someone who is poised to make an immediate impact but isn’t necessarily in a position to garner much production value.
- Class: Junior
- Transferred from: Samford
- Transferred to: Troy
- FBS offers out of H.S.: Army, Navy, South Alabama
- FBS offers upon entering the transfer portal: Charlotte, Liberty, Coastal Carolina, Tulane, FAU, UConn, Georgia Southern, Marshall, Troy
Tight end Micahel Vice was with Samford for the 2019, 2020, and 2021 seasons. During his career as a Bulldog, Vice had 75 receptions for 862 yards, 11.5 yards per reception, and ten touchdowns. In 2021, he had 43 receptions for 514 yards, and four touchdowns, making him Samford’s second-leading receiver in the aforementioned statistical categories. The best game of his career was also in 2021, with four receptions for 94 yards and one touchdown in Samford’s 52-70 loss to the Florida Gators.
After putting his name in the transfer portal, Vice kept things in-state and announced his transfer to Troy: 1 hour from Samford and 2.25 hours from his hometown of Vestavia Hills, Alabama.
Troy has not had a TE in a prominent role in recent memory, but the Trojans’ new coaching staff gave Vice reason enough, even over the likes of Coastal Carolina and Marshall. Jon Sumrall serves as Troy’s first-year and first-time head coach, while Joe Craddock takes on offensive coordinator (and quarterbacks coach) duties. Craddock’s coaching career includes stops at SMU (OC/QB, 2015-17), Arkansas (OC/QB, 2018-19), and UAB (TE, 2020-21) while coaching the likes of Cheyenne O’Grady (Arkansas), Gerrit Prince (UAB), and Hayden Pittman (UAB).
Craddock is on record saying that Troy will be a power spread team and “We are going to run the football and we are going to be physical, we are going to be violent within the rules and we are going to knock people off the ball. We are going to be explosive on offense and get our playmakers the ball.” During his previous stints as a play caller, Craddock had the same proclivity for a balanced, spread, and power spread offense.
Offenses under Craddock (as OC)
|TE Receptions MS||9.4%||7.3%||1.4%||25.7%||23.8%|
|TE Receiving Yds MS||11.1%||5.9%||2.7%||29.8%||22.2%|
At UAB, Craddock coached a stout tight end group who had a reception market share of 21.3% in 2020 and 32.0% in 2021 as well as a receiving yards market share of 19.0% in 2020 and 33.2% in 2021.
Since arriving, Sumrall & Co. have tapped into the transfer portal, adding guys like four-star Utah quarterback Peter Costelli and big targets like UAB wide receiver RaeJae’ Johnson-Sanders and, of course, Vice. There’s a general belief that Troy will utilize tight ends more, so it isn’t far-fetched to believe Vice will be a playmaker and even start over returner Deyunkrea Lewis.
Given his size and production – and if Troy can utilize him effectively – Vice could be a monster (and a matchup nightmare). At 6’4” and 253 pounds, he could easily dominate DBs in one-on-one situations, outrun linebackers, and become a big play threat.
Impact Rating: 4/5
- Class: Graduate Student
- Transferred from: Dartmouth
- Transferred to: Buffalo
- FBS offers out of H.S.: Bowling Green State, East Carolina
- FBS offers upon entering the transfer portal: UConn, James Madison, Buffalo
Robbie Mangas – a high school teammate of USC QB Caleb Williams – spent his undergraduate, collegiate career as a tight end for Dartmouth. Throughout three seasons (Dartmouth canceled its 2020 season), Mangas totaled 21 receptions for 424 yards, 20.2 yards per reception, and 4 touchdowns. In his best game, he hauled in 3 receptions for 105 yards, 35.0 yards per reception, and 1 touchdown en route to Dartmouth’s 38-3 victory over Colgate.
With offers from UConn, James Madison, and Buffalo, Mangas chose the Buffalo Bulls. Heading into 2022, UB’s coaching staff mostly consists of those entering their second year with the program, including head coach Maurice Linguist, offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery, and tight ends coach Ron Whitcomb. Through the past three seasons (two at James Madison and one at Buffalo), it is clear that Montgomery’s offenses tend to feature a tight end with consistent production value, year-to-year.
Given Tyler Stephens’ transferal to Missouri and Jake Molinich to the NFL, the two former Bulls leave the room wide open for Mangas. Dueling quarterbacks Matt Myers and Cole Snyder will have pass catching options, but the Bulls are still very much in a transition phase.
Offenses under Montgomery (as OC)
|James Madison (FCS)||Buffalo|
|2019||2020 (8 games)||2021|
|TE Receptions MS||13.4%||14.6%||12.4%|
|TE Receiving Yds MS||13.1%||14.9%||10.7%|
In his Dartmouth highlights, Mangas has good hands and seems like he could be a good receiver. He ran the same corner route ten times that the safety never covered. But overall, Mangas could be a guy that takes the next step with refined play calling.
He may be a solid starter and a big target at 6’4”/260lbs, but the entire UB offense feels very much like a “wait and see” situation.
Impact Rating: 2/5
- Class: Senior
- Transferred from: Missouri State
- Transferred to: Hawai’i
- FBS offers out of H.S.: –
- FBS offers upon entering the transfer portal: UMass, WKU, Georgia Southern, Hawai’i
In a productive playing career with Missouri State, Jordan Murray totaled 99 receptions for 1,196 yards, 12.1 yards per catch, and 11 touchdowns. He finished the 2021 season with 26 receptions for 351 yards, 13.5 yards per reception, and two touchdowns. Murray chose Hawai’i over the likes of UMass, WKU, and Georgia Southern.
Ex-Hawai’i head coach Todd Graham resigned in disgrace as a response to abuse allegations from former players. To replace him, the Rainbow Warriors brought on none other than Hawai’i alumnus and quarterback legend, Timmy Chang. With a regime change and several transfers out of the program, it is inevitable that the 2022 campaign will be one of rebuilding.
Chang has spent the past five seasons at Nevada in various position coaching roles: inside wide receivers (2017), tight ends (2018-2020), and wide receivers (2021). During the same stretch at Nevada, head coach Jay Norvell and offensive coordinator Matt Mumme implemented an Air Raid offense that saw tight ends average a 11.2% receptions market share per year and 6.2% receiving yards market share per year. With tight end Cole Turner, in 2020 and 2021, Wolfpack TEs (mainly Turner) averaged a 17.6% receptions market share and 17.6% receiving yards market share.
Ian Shoemaker – a longtime offensive coordinator and position coach at various Division II and Division III institutions – spent the 2019-2021 seasons as Eastern Washington’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Likewise, Eastern Washington operated under a very high-volume passing offense. He will serve in the same capacity at Hawai’i.
Recent Offenses under Shoemaker (as OC)
|2019||2020 (7 games)||2021|
|TE Receptions MS||8.7%||3.7%||8.6%|
|TE Receiving Yds MS||7.0%||1.7%||7.8%|
Shoemaker is said to be implementing a “multiple offense,” which would mostly draw from the Air Raid and Run-and-Shoot concepts. There’s usually an assumption that the Air Raid offense signals the death of running back and tight end positions. However, it is apparent that more and more prodigies of the system see it as an identity, not a binding, unchangeable scheme: often tweaking and fitting it to player personnel. And as for the Run-and-Shoot, they use a lot of presnap reads and motion. If there is a tight end that can run/block/catch, then the offense can create a lot of mismatches by moving him around the field.
Long story short, Murray will be utilized in, what could be, an explosive offense. There’s no doubt that he will be a starter, create some mismatches, and make an immediate impact on a depleted roster. But with newness comes the unknown. There’s no way to truly know how much or how little this offense will struggle and how that will impact Murray.
Note: Murray has dual-eligibility on Fantrax at TE and WR.
Impact Rating: 3/5