The addition of BYU adds a little more flavor to the small group of independents, and the Cougars could be an excellent addition to leagues long on owners but short on college teams. For example, most Big Ten leagues have always included Notre Dame as another team with draftable commodities, and those in Big 12 and Pac 12 leagues can do the same with BYU. And if you’re thinking about playing with all four independents, then you’ll be adding four excellent fantasy quarterbacks to the player pool.
Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps headline this group, but Army’s Trent Steelman and Kriss Proctor of Navy will do more than just suffice in a bind. These quarterbacks may go about it in different ways, but each will bring breakout potential against the right opponent. And with the freedom afforded these teams with regards to scheduling, there will be plenty of weeks where you can take advantage of matchups.
2010 Record: 7-6
Offensive Rank (out of 120): 93
Defensive Rank (out of 120): 29
Base Offense: Option
Returning Starters: 6 offense / 5 defense
Significant losses: RB Patrick Mealy
Newcomer of Note: Dwayne Randall appears to be a back to watch.
2011 Thoughts: There is some talent here, led by quarterback Trent Steelman and talented, do-everything, man-among-boys fullback Jared Hassin. Joining these two is running back Malcolm Brown, a gifted runner in his own right, one who posted five touchdowns on only 67 touches from scrimmage. And while this offense was only ranked 93rd a season ago, in Alex Carlton the Black Knights boast an improving kicker, one who could actually help in a fantasy bind.
Final Analysis: Don’t get me wrong, this offense still has a long way to go, but in Hassin the Black Knights have another Collin Mooney, who went for 1339 and eight rushing scores in 2008. And in Trent Steelman we may see the Black Knights have the upper hand at the position when they take on the Midshipmen in December.
The schedule is intriguing and downright inviting at times. Visits from San Diego State and Northwestern provide the intrigue, while contests against Ball State and Fordham are enticing.
2010 Record: 7-6
Offensive Rank (out of 120): 73
Defensive Rank (out of 120): 24
Base Offense: Pro-set
Returning Starters: 10 offense / 6 defense
Significant losses: Wide receiver Luke Ashworth and kicker Mitch Payne
Newcomer of Note: True freshman tight end Colby Jorgensen (6’8”) is an intriguing prospect. If he can get on the field early we could have a solid red zone option. However don’t think keeper just yet…he’ll leave for his LDS mission following the 2011 campaign.
2011 Thoughts: Looking for a bounceback campaign in Provo. 10 starters (including 4 OL) return to the offense, three good, solid running backs will again run the ball, and in quarterback Jake Heaps the Cougars boast one of the more gifted signal callers in the nation, one poised to truly bust out. Provided Heaps makes it through the first two contests, against Ole Miss and Texas, there’s reason to believe that he could conclude the campaign as one of the nation’s most-improved quarterbacks. Considering he’s coming off a 15-score freshman year, we could be looking at big numbers.
In J.J. Di Luigi, Bryan Kariya and Josh Quezada the Cougars return 2,570 yards from scrimmage and 21 scores…it’s just too bad these numbers were shared by three fellas. Wide receivers McKay Jacobson and Cody Hoffman will lead the receiving corps, though we’re looking for a breakout season from Ross Apo.
This is a schedule that features good teams or lousy teams, with little games against decent squads. This means that the Cougars will be great options when the schedule is right, but it may be difficult to rely too heavily on any BYU footballers.
2010 Record: 9-4
Offensive Rank (out of 120): 38
Defensive Rank (out of 120): 75
Base Offense: Option (Spread)
Returning Starters: 7 offense / 3 defense
Significant losses: QB Ricky Dobbs, RB Vince Murray, WR Greg Jones
Newcomer of Note: Marcus Thomas isn’t a newcomer, having played a role on special teams last year, but 2011 could see this slot back play a significant role from scrimmage.
2011 Thoughts: Kriss Proctor is going to be one of those quarterbacks who could pay off very handsomely… provided you choose wisely. He blew up against Central Michigan last season, and he will make the transition from Ricky Dobbs very seamless for the offense. Joining Proctor on the draftable list in Annapolis is slot back Gee Gee Greene, a speedy runner with homerun and next level potential. Fullback Alexander Teich, a senior co-captain who broke through with seven scores a season ago, is the heart and soul of the offense.
Final Analysis: With only three returning defensive starters, it’s clear that the offense will need to step up, even though it was a very respectable 38th nationally a season ago. And in Proctor, Greene and Teich, there is some serious potential, especially in the season’s early and late weeks. Games against Delaware and Western Kentucky to open the season and contests with Troy, SMU and San Jose State down the stretch will provide opportunities to plug some Middies into your lineup.
2010 Record: 8-5
Offensive Rank (out of 120):
Defensive Rank (out of 120): 50
Base Offense: Spread
Returning Starters: 8 offense / 8 defense
Significant losses: RB Armando Allen, TE Kyle Rudolph
Newcomer of Note: Wide Receiver DaVaris Daniels oozes talent; however it’s not easy to step right into the Kelly offense.
2011 Thoughts: Stop me if you’ve heard this before…but I think Notre Dame will make a significant move this season, and it will be spearheaded by an explosive offense. Look for Dayne Crist to hold off Tommy Rees and proceed to throw it a whole bunch of times to Michael Floyd. Tight End Tyler Eifert could be poised for a big campaign, as he looked like a future star down the stretch. Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray should lead an improved ground game, though it’s hard to get too excited about either back right now.
Final Analysis: The fantasy value of Notre Dame’s skill talent varies greatly depending on how the Irish schedule matches up with the rest of your squad. A night game at Michigan, Michigan State, at Pittsburgh, vs. USC and at Stanford may not be the greatest matchups. However there are other games that look much more enticing.
Because I truly believe that Brian Kelly is one of the nation’s best offensive minds, I have no doubt that the Irish will improve upon their 61 ranking from a season ago. There are enough weapons to make serious strides, enough that we may finally end this seemingly never-ending “Return to Glory.”
For complete Independent player rankings and player previews, see our Draft Kit.