Conference USA lost its share of talented playmakers to graduation or the NFL in 2019.
However, the league isn’t lacking talent and teams have their share of returners who are ready to step into starring roles.
Here’s my look at ten up and comers who may not have garnered the recognition that they deserve, but will be names to watch in 2020.
Arvin Fletcher - Southern Miss
The senior has quietly gone about his business as one of the better and more reliable offensive linemen in Conference USA.
Fletcher hasn’t missed a start since making his playing debut in 2017.
While Drake Dorbeck may have garnered the majority of the attention across the Golden Eagles’ offensive line, expect Fletcher to be a presence once again and could make his first all-conference team in 2020.
Dion Novil - North Texas
Garrett Marino has been the gold standard in C-USA over the past two seasons as far as interior defensive linemen are concerned.
With his graduation, there’s room for a new contender to make the all-conference team at defensive tackle.
Dion Novil had an excellent season in 2019, racking up 61 tackles, including 13 tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks in 12 starts.
The 6-4, 310-pound senior will be needed if the Mean Green are going to return to a bowl game this season after finishing a disappointing 4-8 last year.
Dy’Jonn Turner - UAB
UAB has a wealth of talent on defense and, in particular, the secondary.
Star cornerback Brontae Harris returns from missing all of last season with an injury, while fellow defensive backs Will Boler and TD Marshall are all excellent in their own right.
However, slot cornerback Dy’Jonn Turner could easily be one of the top DBs in C-USA. Because he plays in various spots across the secondary, Turner may not get the recognition that’s deserved but look for Turner to make an all-conference team in 2020.
Joshua Simon - Western Kentucky
As a true freshman in 2019, Simon entered fall camp as a 6-5, 235-pound offensive lineman.
First-year head coach Tyson Helton saw better to use him at tight end and the decision paid immediate dividends.
He opened his collegiate career with a touchdown catch against Central Arkansas and didn’t look back.
Simon finished the season with 30 catches for 430 yards and five scores. Look for him to be an even bigger part of the passing attack in 2020.
Cameron Dollar - Charlotte
Charlotte wide receiver Cameron Dollar has a chance to break out this season.
As the number two wideout behind Victor Tucker’s starring role as the WR1, Dollar recorded 41 catches for 599 yards and two scores.
His play picked up down the stretch as Tucker saw more double-coverage, which included a nine-catch, 157-yard day against UTEP in early November. At 6-2, 190 pounds, he provides an excellent contrast to the 5-11 Tucker.
With Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds having a full offseason as the starter, expect the receivers to be able showcase their talents for the Niners.
Alexy Jean-Baptiste - FIU
Jean-Baptiste could be the player on this list with the biggest potential.
After having to miss the first three contests of 2019 awaiting eligibility after transferring from Arkansas, he was the Panthers top pass-rusher racking up 5.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles-for-loss.
The 6-3, 245-pound Jean-Baptiste is an athletic freak, having been clocked 4.49 in the 40-yard-dash.
Even when he wasn’t getting to the quarterback, he was a consistent presence in providing pressure for opposing offenses.
What he’s able to do with an entire season remains to be seen.
The Panthers strongest pass-rush comes with Jean-Baptiste and Chris Whittaker at the ends, while fellow DE's Noah Curtis and Kevin Oliver slide inside to rush as defensive tackles on passing downs.
This foursome should see plenty of opportunities to get to the QB - with Jean-Baptiste leading the way.
Rashad Wisdom - UTSA
Rashad Wisdom was a bright spot for the Roadrunners amid a lackluster season in 2019.
Earning a starting spot as a freshman, Wisdom tallied 44 tackles, 5.5 tackles-for-loss, and two sacks en route to earning a spot all the all-conference freshman team.
Expect Wisdom to be a crucial part of the rebuild under first-year head coach Jeff Traylor.
Robert Jones - MTSU
Rick Stockstill’s Blue Raiders were led by a Chicago native on offense, who played in every game and was rated as a top performer weekly.
However, it’s not quarterback Asher O’Hara. Right tackle Robert Jones didn’t allow a sack the entire season in his 11 starts at the position.
The 6-5, 320-pound Jones has all the makings of an NFL offensive lineman. His ability to duplicate last year’s success will be vital in helping MTSU qualify for a bowl.
George Nyakwol - Rice
The Owls have been in the midst of a rebuild under third-year head coach Mike Bloomgren.
While they haven’t broken through just yet, don’t be surprised if this season sees Rice finish the year with a winning record. A significant part of that will be senior safety George Nyakwol.
The Houston native has started the past 25 consecutive games and has been the team’s top defensive back over the same period.
Malcolm Davidson - Florida Atlantic
Quite frankly, the only reason Davidson’s name makes this list is the fact that the Owls have excellent depth at running back.
A legitimate argument can be made that in spurts - Davidson looked like the top back in C-USA last season. The 5-10, 205-pound Kissimmee, Florida native rushed for 745 yards on 104 carries in 2019.
If he’s able to see an increased workload this season, Davidson will easily top the 1,000-yard mark and challenge Marshall’s Brenden Knox for the league’s rushing crown.