This is our SBC 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 OC: Frank Ponce
Previous OC: Kevin Barbay
Influenced by: Mario Cristobal; Scott Satterfield
2022 Miami QB coach; 2021 App State OC; 2019-20 Louisville QB coach; 2013-18 App State co-OC
Shawn Clark lost his OC to Mississippi State, so he went with a familiar face. Frank Ponce and Clark were once co-coordinators together at App State, and this will be Ponce’s third run as the Mountaineers’ OC. There is plenty of data to give us an idea of how this offense will look, even if Ponce wasn’t always calling the plays under Satterfield. Schematically, it’s not all that different from what we saw from Kevin Barbay.
No, things didn’t go great with Ponce as the QB coach for Miami last year. But his history of QB development is strong with guys like Taylor Lamb, Malik Cunningham, Zac Thomas, and Chase Brice. The ceiling is limited because it is a run-first system, but Ponce has a slightly better track record at QB than Barbay for CFF purposes due to his propensity to use the QB run game around the goal line.
2021: Chase Brice: QB36; 17.5 ppg
2018: Zac Thomas: QB26; 22.4 ppg
2017: Taylor Lamb: QB15; 22.5 ppg
Running Backs: Slight Downgrade
Both Ponce and Barbay have a really impressive track record of high-producing CFF RBs. Barbay has the 2021 Lew Nichols season on his resume, but Ponce has eight 1,000-yard rushers in his seven seasons as App State’s OC. However, Ponce did split the reps in his last season at App State between Peoples and Noel. He doesn’t use the RB quite as much in the passing game as Barbay.
2021: Cam Peoples: RB54; 14.6 ppg
2018: Darrynton Evans: RB59; 14 ppg
2017: Jalen Moore: RB39; 18.5 ppg
Wide Receiver/TE: Slight Upgrade
It’s not real pretty here for Ponce or Barbay. Ponce gets the slight edge because he has had some fantasy relevance as of late, but he has never had a 1,000-yard or double-digit TD receiver. Only target this position in DEEP leagues.
2021: Corey Sutton: WR58; 12.2 ppg
2018: Corey Sutton: WR68; 12.3 ppg
2017: Ike Lewis: WR70; 11.4 ppg
Takeaways: Ponce is the new old OC. We know what we want here. Running backs. Noel should remain fantasy relevant as he reunites with his OC that got him to 1K yards before. The only question is if he will be a bellcow, as we saw early in Ponce’s time here, or in more of a committee, as we have seen more recently. QB can be monitored for waiver wire, but WR is an avoid outside of the deepest of leagues.
New OC: Travis Trickett
Previous HC/OC: Jamey Chadwell/Willy Korn
Influenced by: Rich Rodriguez; Bobby Bowden; Neal Brown
2022 South Florida OC; 2019-21 WV WR coach; 2017-18 Georgia State OC; 2016 FAU OC; 2012-15 Samford OC
Coastal is undergoing a huge change in staff, with Jamey Chadwell leaving for Liberty and Tim Beck, the previous OC at NC State, being hired as the new head coach. While that is a fairly uninspiring hire from a CFF perspective, Beck’s decision to bring on Travis Trickett as his OC gives us some hope.
Quarterbacks: Slight Downgrade
Chadwell and Korn certainly had success with Grayson Mccall, but much of the credit goes to Mccall as a drop-off was seen here without him, and Chadwell has no other productive QBs on his resume. Trickett has a mixed bag of QB production, but his lone season at USF with marred by QB injuries. He isn’t afraid to involve the QBs in the run game, so that should benefit McCall despite him having to learn a totally new system.
2022: Byrum Brown: 16.5 ppg (4 games)
2018: Dan Ellington: QB57; 18.9 ppg
2017: Connor Manning: QB70; 15.2 ppg
Running Backs: Push
Trickett’s only RB to reach 200 touches in his career as a play-caller came in part due to injuries from the rest of the room. He had some success with Battie at USF and multiple RBs, including Devin Singletary, clear 800 yards and 12 TDs in his lone season at FAU, but his time at Georgia State was pretty abysmal. Chadwell also uses an RBBC, but was efficient enough with his modified triple option to still produce viable fantasy options.
2022: Brian Battie: RB48; 15.2 ppg
2018: Tra Barnett: RB167; 9.9 ppg
2017: Glenn Smith: RB84; 11.7 ppg
Wide Receivers/TE: Downgrade
On a positive note, most of the targets tend to be monopolized by one or two WRs in Trickett’s WR room. This room has two clear alphas in Sam Pickney and Jared Brown. Unfortunately, Trickett’s WR1 has been wildly inconsistent. Because of this and the change in the system, it’s hard to know what to expect from this room. Trickett rarely uses the TE; in fact, his TE1 at USF had all of six catches.
2022: Xavier Weaver: WR40; 14.7 ppg
2018: Penny Hart: WR201; 8.4 ppg
2017: Penny Hart: WR23; 16.7 ppg
Takeaways: This is one of the more challenging programs to project. It’s undergoing a massive systematic change, it’s new OC has shown promise but is inconsistent, but it is very experienced at the skill positions that have been fantasy relevant for multiple years. It may simply come down to how well McCall can pick up the new offense. If so, he and the WRs become viable, cheap options. Expect RBBC and avoid the TEs.
New OC: Kevin Decker
Previous OC: Kevin Reihner
Influenced by: Josh Heupel ; Joe Conlin (Fordham)
2019-22 Fordham OC; 2018 Brown OC
Ricky Rahne is now on his fourth OC as he enters his third season as the ODU head coach. No, that is NOT a typo. FOURTH IN THREE YEARS. Kevin Decker takes over after four very successful years as the Fordham OC. Fordham averaged 15.8 ppg and 251 ypg the season prior to Decker taking over. He wasted no time energizing the Ram’s lifeless offense as they improved to 25 ppg in his first season. Not bad at all, right? He wasn’t satisfied, though. The next two full seasons saw Fordham average 33.6 ppg with 450 ypg and then culminating in a whopping 49.5 ppg and 609 ypg in 2022! You might be wondering…How? What changed?
Well, Fordham’s entire fall 2020 season was canceled due to covid. So, Decker decided to use this extra time to study the Josh Heupel, wide-spread, up-tempo offense that was being ran at UCF. He implemented scheme changes throughout the fall and then applied them during a three-game spring season in 2021. By the time 2022 rolled around, the offense had multiple years of experience in the Decker version of the veer-n-shoot, and everything clicked. They averaged 78 plays, 413 pass yards, and 195 rush yards per game. Here are some of the statistical leaders from that FCS leading offense:
-QB Tim DeMorat 4891-56-10 with 5 rushing TDs
-RB Trey Sneed 197-1192-5 rushing with 34-227-2 receiving
-Three different WRs had over 1100 yards and 11 TDs. The slot WR was the leader with a stat line of 103-1312-14, which was 41 receptions more than the WR2
Takeaways: Fordham in 2022 was a VERY senior-laden team with a QB and WRs that were four-year starters, so that experience level likely played a huge role and can’t be replicated at ODU in 2023. However, Rahne looks to have hired an OC that is willing to be flexible and do whatever it takes to create a highly productive offense. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the two most productive players for ODU, Blake Watson and Ali Jennings, both transferred out, so Decker will have to establish new go-to players. This offense has a chance to really take off in 2024 should Rahne survive 2023 with his job intact.
New HC/OC: GJ Kinne
Previous HC/OC: Jake Spavital
Influenced by: Todd Graham; Gus Malzahn; Chad Morris
2022 Incarnate Word head coach; 2021 UCF OC; 2020 Hawaii OC
Like Eric Morris a year ago, GJ Kinne moves up to the FBS level after a short run as the Incarnate Word head coach. Morris certainly had the Incarnate Word offense rolling with Cameron Ward, but Kinne took it to another level in 2022. Their offense averaged 51.5 points and 581 yards per game. That is up from 39.5 points and 487 yards per game under Morris the previous season. Kinne takes over a Texas State program that ranked 13th in the conference in offense and was woefully bad under Jake Spavital during his four years as head coach. Spavital also left the talent cupboards pretty bare, so Kinne will have his work cut out for him to get this program turned around. Fortunately, Kinne was able to talk his OC at IWU, Mack Leftwich, into joining him at Texas State.
Kinne was an elite CFF QB himself, and so too, are the QBs he coaches. Lindsey Scott won the Walter Payton Award, which is the FCS equivalent of the Heisman, after an incredible season with a stat line of 4,686-60-8 passing and 132-712-11 rushing! He had Dillon Gabriel producing at a high level prior to his injury and guided true freshman Mikey Keene to serviceable production as his replacement.
2021: Dillon Gabriel: 31.3 ppg (3 games)
2021: Mikey Keene: QB95; 12.4 ppg
2020: Chevan Cordiero: QB22; 23.8 ppg
Running Back: Upgrade
Incarnate Word wasn’t just airing it out. Marcus Cooper also had a monster season with 212-1,476-12 rushing and 31-289-3 receiving. Kinne has shown a propensity to get the ball to his play-makers in creative ways. Both Johnny Richardson at UCF and Calvin Turner at Hawaii were listed as RBs but played more of a hybrid, swiss army knife role.
2021: Isaiah Bowser: RB38; 16.8 ppg
2020: Calvin Turner: RB30; 18.2 ppg
Wide Receiver/TE: Upgrade
Darion Chafin and Taylor Grimes were Scott’s favorite targets at Incarnate Word with stat lines of 70-1244-18 and 83-1221-15. Kinne didn’t have a fantasy-relevant WR during his lone season at Hawaii due to Turner being the primary receiver, but Ryan O’Keefe had one of the most productive seasons a Gus Malzahn WR has ever had with Kinne at OC. TEs have never really been featured in a Kinne offense.
2021: Ryan O’Keefe: WR28; 15.9 ppg
2020: Rico Bussey Jr: NR; 7 ppg
Takeaways: Kinne is having to rebuild this roster in one off-season, so expectations should be tempered in year one, but the future is bright. Kinne loves using his QB in the run game and Malik Hornsby shines in that area. The defense should continue to struggle, so we could be looking at serious garbage time scoring for Hornsby and the pass catchers. Keep an eye on the RB that is involved in the passing game. Avoid tight ends in your drafts but monitor the waiver wire.