Heading into 2019, Conference USA is littered with talent across the league’s 14 member programs. While only 25 will be recognized at the end of the season as an All-Conference performer, we at UDD decided to profile our choices for the top-50 players heading into the 2019 season. Here’s numbers 20-11
20. Cassius Grady: CB - UTSA
Not many players make it to where Cassius Grady is, having spent extended time away from football.
After leaving Northern Illinois because of academic issues, he moved back home to Arlington, Texas, and picked up odd jobs, such as working at a furniture warehouse and as a transporter for Honda.
He would take three months to decide if football was in his future, then enrolled at Trinity Valley Community College. Two seasons later, he’s one of the best cornerbacks in Conference USA.
The 5-9. 190-pound Grady was one of the lone bright spots for Frank Wilson’s UTSA squad in 2018.
Grady had 45 tackles (36 solo) with four interceptions and five passes defensed last season.
Despite being smaller in stature, his ability to defend against the run and make plays versus the pass, give UTSA’s defense a huge building-block for the 2019 season.
19. Khalil Brooks: LB - MTSU
Like so many athletes competing in Conference USA, if Khalil Brooks was two inches taller or 25 pounds bigger, there’s a chance he would be playing in a Power Five conference.
Instead, standing 5-11 and weighing 206 pounds, he’s dominating against opposing C-USA offenses, and when he’s had his shot against the “bigger” named schools, Brooks has made his impact felt in those contests as well.
In six games against those schools, he’s totaled 32 tackles, five tackles for loss and two and a half sacks.
30.5 tackles for loss to go along with 13 sacks in the past two seasons for Brooks, makes him our 19th rated player in C-USA.
18. Khairi Muhammad: DB - UNT
Khairi Muhammad has been at the top of the list of defensive backs in C-USA for two years.
The senior had a tremendous 2017 season, showing that he could be a force playing in the box for the Mean Green, totaling 94 tackles.
He followed that up by proving his worth in coverage, intercepting four passes last season, along with five passes defensed, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble.
The Dallas native played his strongest as the season progressed, making 17 tackles and an interception to help North Texas close out the regular season with wins against FAU and UTSA.
17. Levi Brown: OL - Marshall
Brown has been a model of consistency since his debut for the Herd in 2016.
37 starts in three seasons and being named to a postseason all-conference team in each year are indicative of his reliability and talent.
The 6-4, 280-pound center was named to the preseason all-conference first team heading into 2019 and is on the Rimington watch list for college football’s top center.
His play will be a key factor in helping quarterback Isaiah Green, along with running backs Tyler King and Brenden Knox spring the offense to success, this upcoming season.
16. Brontae Harris: CB - UAB
While Brontae Harris doesn’t fill-up the stat sheet with interceptions or tackles, his worth is more than known to opposing teams, as they usually avoid his side of the field.
Pro Football Focus rated the junior as their highest-graded returning cornerback in C-USA heading into 2019.
The 5-10, 190-pound Harris only had two interceptions in 2019, but when teams tried throwing his way, he swatted away 11 passes and helped the Blazers finish ninth among FBS teams total defense.
15. Rashad Smith: LB - FAU
Rashad Smith is undoubtedly one of the most talented and versatile linebackers in the entire conference.
In the Owls’ conference championship season in 2017, he was a force in the backfield, making 99 tackles with 12 for loss and six sacks.
He followed that up by showing his ability to play the pass, intercepting four passes, along with 85 tackles.
Now, with the departures of veterans like Azeez Al-Shaair and Jalen Young, it’ll be up to Smith to man the defense and help lead FAU back to another C-USA East crown.
14. James Morgan: QB - FIU
Entering 2018, the question was if James Morgan was viable starting FBS quarterback. Fast forward one year later, and the question is just how good can he be?
The Green Bay, Wisconsin, native had a phenomenal first season in Conference USA, passing for 2,727 yards and 26 touchdowns to just seven interceptions.
That’s a far cry from the 25 touchdowns to 22 interceptions he had the prior two seasons at Bowling Green.
“I know the major thing that the coaches talked about, were the lack of practice reps he got coming into the season, but he really broke out during the Old Dominion game and I think he’s one of the best players the league has to offer,” said Brett Romberg about Morgan.
Romberg spent the last three seasons calling C-USA games for beIN Sports and played for current FIU Head Coach Butch Davis at the University of Miami.
“I know Kenny (Dorsey) and some of the other offensive guys have really raved about him and it’ll be interesting to see how he fares in 2019,” said Romberg.
13. Ty Lee: WR - MTSU
The past three seasons of MTSU football have been the most prolific in the program’s history.
While the father-son duo of Brent and Rick Stockstill have garnered most of the headlines, Ty Lee has been more than just a cog in the wheel of the Blue Raiders’ machine.
Standing 5-9 and weighing 180 pounds, Lee’s size is the first factor that causes him to be overlooked.
However, his production has been big-time since arriving on the C-USA scene in 2016.
He’s amassed 213 catches for 2,537 yards and 21 touchdowns as a receiver and has been a threat out of the backfield, with 49 carries for 234 yards and a pair of scores on the ground.
That versatility will be needed as MTSU attempts to replace the younger Stockstill at the quarterback position.
12. Harrison Bryant: TE - FAU
The big decision of the offseason for Harrison Bryant was would he stay at FAU for his senior season, or, instead test the waters and pursue a pro career.
Luckily for Owl fans, he’s back in 2019 and it lands him as our 12th best player in C-USA.
He already has prototypical NFL tight end size at 6-5, 240-pounds and has been the best at the position in the conference for two years running now.
Bryant has 83 catches for 1,133 yards and nine scores during his three seasons in Boca Raton and whoever emerges as FAU’s quarterback will certainly be looking his way.
11. LaDarius Hamilton: DE - UNT
First-team All-Conference USA in 2018 and being selected to multiple preseason all-conference teams are just a few of the accolades that North Texas’ hybrid DE/LB Ladarius Hamilton holds.
In 11 starts last season, he recorded 11 tackles for loss, along with seven and a half sacks and 33 tackles.
The 6-3, 260-pound Hamilton has the ability to eclipse all of those numbers, with the variety of ways he’ll be deployed in 2019.
He showed a sample of those skills in the New Mexico Bowl, racking up five tackles, a sack, two quarterback hurries and a pass deflection.