If the practice from the past couple of years holds true, the Conference USA offices should announce their players of the year tomorrow or sometime this week. Here at Underdog Dynasty, we figured, "Why not make our own picks?" before the league does and see how close (or painfully off) we are with ours.
Here's who I (at least) had in mind. Of course, we embrace debate here at UDD, so your comments (or harsh criticism) are welcomed below.
Brandon Doughty, QB, Western Kentucky (344-510, 4,344 yards, 44 TD, 10 INT)
Who would have figured that the man that led the league in passing in 2014 didn't even play in C-USA last year? The senior not only exceeded his output of last year, he blew it out of the water: more than tripling his touchdown total, cutting his interceptions by four and cresting the 4,000 yard mark. If only the Hilltoppers had taken care of business to put themselves in a position to get into the title game...
Honorable Mention: Rakeem Cato, Marshall; Devon Johnson, Marshall
Brian Nordstrom, DE, Rice (18.5 TFLs, 7.5 sacks)
Few players were as adept at making stops behind the line than Nordstrom. This year, the redshirt junior led the conference in TFLs while teaming up with fellow end Zach Patt to combine for 15.0 sacks and 28 TFLs. With their help, the Owls boasted one of the most feared defenses in the entire league when it came to quarterback pressure, tying Marshall for the C-USA lead with 35 sacks. Not bad for a former walk-on that played his way to a scholarship.
Honorable Mention: Jake Ganus, UAB; Diaheem Watkins, UAB
J.J. Nelson, WR/RS, UAB (843 KR yards, 38.3 KR average, 4 KR for TDs)
Nelson held his own catching passes (leading the Blazers with 655 yards and four receiving scores), but he truly shone as a return man, running four kickoffs back for touchdowns in 2014. It might not be a stretch to think that he may end up getting a few NFL looks as a Devin Hester-esque type WR/return man, because he certainly has the speed and talent to make somewhat of an impact at the next level, given a chance.
Honorable Mention: Reggie Whatley, Middle Tennessee; Lucky Whitehead, Florida Atlantic
Ray Lawry, RB, Old Dominion (135 carries, 947 yards, 16 touchdowns)
If the Woolwich, New Jersey's rookie campaign is any indication of how his career in Norfolk will go, then Bobby Wilder and his group have quite a player on their hands. While he did have a few down performances throughout the year, he still finished with almost 1,000 yards and would have topped that if not for a head injury against LA Tech in the second-to-last week.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Wint, LB, Florida International; Carlos Henderson, WR/KR, LA Tech
Doc Holliday, Marshall
I'm kind of hesitant with this one since we knew going in that the Herd would be a dominant team in 2014 given the talent they returned. It wouldn't surprise me to see Skip Holtz win it for the job he did turning LA Tech around, but in the end, Holliday gets the honor.