2020’s college football season will be remembered in large part for the challenges that COVID-19 presented for teams across the nation. Of the 13 Conference USA programs that took the field this season, seven played eight games or less. As a result, a litany of talented C-USA players were deprived of a full season’s worth of opportunities to showcase their talents. Let’s take a look at five players who had an excellent year, despite the lack of a full season.
5. QB Mike Collins - Rice
Since taking over the head coaching reigns at Rice in 2018, Mike Bloomgren has turned to graduate transfer quarterbacks in consecutive seasons seeking to boost the Owls’ passing attack — but both Shawn Stankavage and Tom Stewart yielded modest results. However, Owls quarterback Mike Collins looks to have changed Rice’s fortunes at the position. The Texas Christian transfer threw for 802 yards and 10 touchdowns in only three games. Should Collins return to the program in 2021, look for him to be among the top quarterbacks in C-USA.
4. DE Leighton McCarthy - Florida Atlantic
The veteran Owls’ defensive end has been a steady presence over his four seasons in Boca Raton. However, as one of the few remaining defensive players from last year’s conference championship team, McCarthy’s play excelled in 2020. The 6-3, 230-pounder led the league in sacks (9) and tackles for loss (12.5) in only eight games. Given the multiple cancellations that FAU faced this season, it’s fair to assume that those numbers would have been even gaudier, had he seen a full season.
3. DB/LB Treshawn Chamberlain - Rice
Pound for pound, Rice’s Treshawn Chamberlain is arguably one of the top players in Conference USA. At the “Viper” position in defensive coordinator Brian Smith’s 3-4 defense, the 5-10, 195-pound Chamberlain is just as effective in pass coverage as he is against the run. His 7.5 tackles per game average place him among the top-15 tacklers in C-USA and he had his best performance in the Owls’ upset of Marshall, notching eight tackles, a half-sack and an interception.
2. WR Victor Tucker - Charlotte
North Texas wide receiver Jaelon Darden rightfully garnered the lion’s share of attention regarding C-USA pass catchers this season. However, Charlotte wideout Victor Tucker has been among the league’s best at the position since arriving in 2018. The dynamic playmaker hauled in 30 receptions for 400 yards in six contests. Had the Niners not suffered numerous canceled games this season, Tucker would have again been among the league leaders in receptions and receiving yards in 2020.
1. RB D’Vonte Price - FIU
For three seasons, D’Vonte Price patiently waited his turn in the Panthers’ talented backfield as Alex Gardner, Napoleon Maxwell and Anthony Jones all had successful tenures at FIU. Entering 2020, Price finally had his chance as the feature back in Miami and didn’t disappoint. The Punta Gorda, Fla native rushed for 581 yards and four touchdowns in FIU’s five games — the fewest amount of games played by any C-USA team. Price led the league in yards per attempt, which was even more impressive given the Panthers’ struggles through the air.