Time to start putting 2009 in the rearview and begin looking ahead to 2010. We start our conference-by-conference look by looking at those that aren't even in a conference.
Ahhh yes, the Independents. While we've yet to hear from any college fantasy footballers that partake in a little "Independent-Only" fantasy fun, we know you're out there. You're hanging out in Annapolis, walking along the Hudson River or enjoying life in chilly South Bend. And while we know you're few and far between, we do realize that a whole bunch of college fantasy leagues use the independents as the additional team when your league expands. You add Bob in Accounting to your SEC-only league, so you toss in the Irish to keep the talent pool comparable.
Looking ahead to 2010 we see a team that returns its star quarterback in Navy, its star receiver in Notre Dame, and one that loses its really tall wide receiver at West Point. And while we can bemoan the loss of Charlie Weis, a coach who produced his fair share of college fantasy fooball factors, we should welcome Brian Kelly, a coach who produces even more.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2009 Record: 6-6
Returning Starters: 5 offense / 2 o-line, 9 defense (lose both safeties)
Who They Lose
With the premature departures of both Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate the Irish have two huge holes to fill, and considering the losses of offensive linemen like Sam Young, Eric Olsen and Paul Duncan, the offensive overhaul becomes a little more daunting.
For all of the criticism he received early on we did see Clausen mature into one of nation’s better fantasy quarterbacks. While it often seemed that the offensive system was based on two plays: the deep sideline out, and the “run as fast as you can and I’ll throw it as far as I can,” it wasn’t offensive production that caused Notre Dame to eat their coach’s remaining years and move away from their “decided schematic advantage.”
In Michael Floyd and Armando Allen Brian Kelly has a new Mardy Gilyard and Isaiah Pead with which to work. Beyond this it gets a little dicey. And a great deal of this uncertainty stems from the turnover on the offensive line and questions at quarterback.
Both quarterback Dayne Crist (knee) and tight end Kyle Rudolph (shoulder) will need time to recover from surgeries, and this certainly limits what Kelly and new offensive coordinator Charley Molnar can do.
Things may not look very promising during spring ball but this coach knows what he’s doing and once he gets the quarterback situation settled, the sky is the limit.
The Irish will move from the pass-first, pro-style system of Charlie Weis to the spread attack favored by Brian Kelly, so the scheme change shouldn’t be a huge obstacle. The lack of depth at quarterback will be a problem, especially if Crist experiences any setbacks.
Recruiting will take care of itself, though we’ll have to wait until the summer to peg a likely breakout freshman. Based on stars alone we’ve deemed incoming runner Giovanni Bernard as the one to watch.
2010 Fantasy Outlook: Medium to High
The “medium to high” outlook is based on Brian Kelly and Michael Floyd. Kelly has boasted explosive offenses wherever he’s been, and in Floyd he’ll have his hands on his best receiver to date. The schedule does include some high-scoring opportunities with Michigan, Purdue, Western Michigan and Tulsa all playing under the watchful eyes of Touchdown Jesus.
The wildcard is Crist. He is boom or bust. He has the talent and he's in right the system to be a fantasy stud. And by all accounts he was developing nicely before the knee injury in week nine. But he is coming off a serious injury and only has 20 career passes to his name.
This is the year to stock up on young Irish skill talent and plan on waiting a couple of years. Brian Kelly will score points, but they may not come in 2010.
Army Black Knights
2009 Record: 5-7
Returning Starters: 7 offense/3 o-line, 7 defense
Who They Lose
With the departure of Ali Villanueva the Knights lose their 6-11 defensive lineman-turned-offensive lineman-turned wide receiver, one of the few reasons to tune in and watch. And with his departure so goes one of the only reasons Army had to throw the pigskin.
We went into 2009 hoping that a tailback could step in and do what Collin Mooney did in 2008 (1339 rush yards and nine scores) but it wasn’t to be. Instead Patrick Mealy and Jameson Carter split things up pretty evenly. Both will return in 2010, and only these two present any fantasy intrigue.
So what should we do with Army?
Admire these true student/athlete/soldiers for all that they do and appreciate their sacrifice and service. Then tune in for the Army vs. Navy game at the end of the year.
2010 Fantasy Outlook: Bleak
This is an offense that ranked 16th in rush offense yet somehow managed to be the 117th ranked offense in the country. And it doesn’t seem likely that Mike Leach heads to West Point for next season. Thus it’ll be a run-run-run attack and the carries and touchdowns will be spread around.
2009 Record: 10-4
Returning Starters: 7 offense/2 o-line, 5 defense
Who They Lose
Slot back Bobby Doyle and three offensive lineman move on, but otherwise this offense returns key contributors from 2009. However it’s at linebacker where the team loses a great deal. All four linebackers move on, and this may cause struggles in getting off the field, thus limiting the time when Ricky Dobbs has the ball in his hands.
Navy returns the great Ricky Dobbs and two other players with fantasy potential, fullback Vince Murray and slot back Marcus Curry. Both backs will bring scoring potential, especially against the likes of Georgia Southern, Louisiana Tech, SMU, Arkansas State and Army.
Dobbs will present an interesting option for drafters. The junior outperformed the likes of Terrelle Pryor, Mike Kafka and Jonathan Crompton in 2009. However it can be quite difficult to invest a selection in a quarterback who may throw the ball 80 times…on the season.
The schedule sets up very, very nicely for the Middies. Should they find a way to grease one out against Maryland or Wake Forest then we may be looking at another double-digit win total from Ken Niumatalolo’s squad. And it’s this schedule, which features a whole bunch of defensive lightweights, that should ease some concerns of those that are counting on Dobbs to serve as their #2 quarterback.
2010 Fantasy Outlook: Dobbs
This is an impressive offense that puts points on the board, but only Ricky Dobbs does it consistently.