Our preview series of the Sun Belt here at Underdog Dynasty rolls on as we head to the perimeter of the offense. Here we’ll breakdown how each team in the Fun Belt is standing at tight end and wide receiver entering 2018.
Enough with the small talk, let’s get to business.
Top of the Food Chain
The Red Wolves enter this season with the best quarterback in the league and he’ll have plenty of weapons at his disposal. Justin McInnis returns as the leading receiver. The Canadian had 800 yards on 49 grabs to lead the team last fall. Omar Bayless is back for his junior season and he had six touchdowns on 32 grabs in 2017. Kendrick Edwards also returns and he collected 434 yards on 38 receptions in his first season at Arkansas State. Oklahoma transfer Dahu Green joins the group this season to make this one of the deepest units in the Group of Five even with the loss of superstar tight end Black Mack.
Caleb Evans exploded onto the scene last season and he got most of the attention but he didn’t do it all alone. Evans utilized a ton of strong receivers and four of the top five are back in Monroe. Marcus Green is the star as the junior led the squad in receiving, was used in the running game, and returned four kicks for touchdowns. D’Marius Gillespie and RJ Turner are excellent big play threats while Xavier Brown is reliable in the intermediate zones. This ULM offense is going to be so much fun to watch in 2018.
The numbers weren’t great for the Trojans in 2017 but there is still plenty of talent in the fold. Deondre Douglas and Damion Willis are both back for their senior seasons in Neal Brown’s offense and this may be the best pass catching duo in the league. As a true freshman, Tray Eafford was a pleasant surprise in 2017 and he could be a future star in this air raid scheme. This group will help break in a new starter behind center as they are still on the search for a reliable tight end.
Room for Improvement
Wide receiver was a huge question mark for the Mountaineers entering last season and they had some young guys answer the bell as the year progressed. Freshmen Thomas Hennigan and Jalen Virgil combined for 65 grabs, 949 yards, and 10 touchdowns. These two are nice building blocks for Scott Satterfield’s offense as App State breaks in a new quarterback and will be looking for secondary options at wide receiver. Collin Reed is an excellent red zone threat at tight end as he had five touchdowns on nine grabs last year.
Billy Napier is taking over a program that has a lot of holes but the wide receiver spots do not appear to be one of them. The Cajuns get their top three pass catchers back from an offense that experienced a lot of success at times in 2017. Seniors Keenan Barnes and Ryheem Mahone should be the new quarterback’s top two targets as Napier has the skill position weapons to put up points this fall.
You could make the case that Penny Hart is the best receiver in the Group of Five as the redshirt junior led the conference in receiving after missing the 2016 season. For the year, Hart finished with over 1,100 yards and he is one of the finer weapons in college football. He needs help, however, as GSU is looking for complimentary pieces. Tamir Jones was an impressive looking freshman last year and tight end Ari Werts has a ton of potential. The Panthers will need both of them to make a jump in 2018.
It was a rough 2017 for the Jags but the play of USA’s wide receivers leaves the offense with some promise in 2018. Junior college transfer Jamarius Way was outstanding in his first year on the FBS level as he had over 700 receiving yards. Sam Harris was excellent out of the slot as he had over 40 receptions. Under new head coach Steve Campbell, USA will shift to the air raid and these two should see their touches increase.
It’s Still Ugly
The Chants had their fair share of offensive issues in play-caller Jamey Chadwell’s first season but they found a star on the perimeter. Malcolm Williams was one of the league’s biggest surprises as he hauled in 43 grabs for 793 yards and seven touchdowns. Finding him help will be vital for this offense to take the next step.
Leading receiver Elijah King is no longer in San Marcos and things are looking very bleak for this unit. Tyler Watts is this group’s top returning receiver and he averaged under nine yards per catch last fall. New quarterback Willie Jones III is going to need some help from this group. The coaching staff has its worked cut out for them.
In any option offense, passing is usually going to be a challenge and that definitely was the case for the Eagles last season. The leading receiver was Malik Henry and he only had 268 yards on 20 grabs. The big plays were not there as Shai Werts struggled in his first season as the starter. Georgia Southern gets four of its top five receivers back from last season so the hope is that the new offensive coaching staff can put a jolt into this passing attack.