2018 Conference USA Mid-Season Quarterback Report

With Week 6 officially in the books, we are now ready for the mid-season report of each teams QB play. Although each team is not officially halfway through its season, every team has completed at least five games except Southern Miss. Let’s dive into Conference USA QB Reports!

 

**It is important to note that we are not ranking the quarterbacks yet. The order below is the current conference standings.

 

Conference USA East

 

  • Middle Tennessee – Five games into the season and QB Brent Stockstill is still healthy, and if he can keep this going, the Blue Raiders will be in contention for the conference championship. After starting the season 1-2, with losses against Vanderbilt and Georgia, the Blue Raiders have had consecutive wins against Florida Atlantic and Marshall. Both wins were largely due to the play of Stockstill, who is as tough as they come. The Blue Raiders offense plays to Stockstill’s strengths by calling short-range QB runs, quick bubble screens and swing passes, designed rollouts, and relying on Stockstill to get the ball to his playmakers. Tune in to some Blue Raider games if you want to watch Stockstill continue to find a way to get it done.
  • Florida International – Going into the season, James Morgan (transfer from Bowling Green) and Christian Alexander were competing for the starting job, but Morgan claimed the spot and has been having a good season thus far. His experience from Bowling Green has helped the transition process, and he will need it as he goes up against Stockstill and the Blue Raiders this upcoming week.
  • Marshall – Redshirt freshman Isaiah Green started the despite the hype surrounding graduate transfer Alex Thomson, and in his four starts, he has thrown for at least 270yds in each game. He appeared to be Marshall’s next-star QB leading them to a 3-1 start, but Green hurt his knee in the Week 5 victory over Western Kentucky. Thomson took over in the 34-24 loss to Middle Tenn. He demonstrated a strong and quick release, but he was not on the same page with his receivers. Although it was evident it was his first start at this level, he still showed potential nonetheless. I am not sure on Green’s status this week, it but will be interesting to keep up with this team’s ongoing QB situation.
  • Florida Atlantic – Oklahoma transfer Chris Robison won the starting QB job out of camp, and it looks like the Owls will let him continue to improve through valuable experience. He has shown flashes of potential this season, while at the same time showing his youth and inexperience. Robison is also a good athlete who can give the defense problems with his legs. Once he develops and learns how to properly go through all of his reads, while understanding what the defense is throwing at him, he could end up excelling under Lane Kiffin in the next few years.
  • Charlotte – Surprisingly, Charlotte has received good quarterback play from redshirt freshman Chris Reynolds. The team is still in the process of building its program, but it is headed in the right direction. If Reynolds ends up being “the guy” for the next few years, it could help bring stability to the program. If Charlotte can help Reynolds avoid sacks through pass protection or creatively getting rid of the ball quicker, it should help in Reynolds development as a quarterback.
  • Western Kentucky – WKU has had three different quarterbacks with at least 55 passing attempts this season in five games. Sophomore QB Steven Duncan may be the guy moving forward as he came off the bench and led the Hilltoppers to a come-from-behind win against Ball State in its fourth game – the only win of the season so far. Although WKU lost to Marshall 17-20, Duncan threw for 263yds and a touchdown. The QB situation still seems to be a work in progress, but each guy has shown potential.
  • Old Dominion – Sophomore QB Steven Williams started the season, but he was replaced after the Week 3 loss against Charlotte that dropped them to 0-3. Junior QB Blake LaRussa replaced Williams the next week vs. Va Tech, where he led the Monarchs to one of the biggest upset wins in recent memory. LaRussa has started three games including the Va Tech game and while they still only have one win, they have scored at least 33 points with LaRussa under center in each game and LaRussa has 9 TD passes.

 

Conference USA West

 

  • UAB – UAB is sitting in a good position at 4-1 right now coming off a big win vs. La Tech. The QB play from A.J. Erdely has been fairly inconsistent though, as far as the passing game goes, as he has only completed over 50 percent of his passes in two out of the five games. However, the senior QB has been finding other ways to get it done as he has 234yds rushing and 4 scores on the ground. UAB has a legit shot to win the West, but will need to make sure their passing game has taken a step forward if they want to beat Southern Miss and North Texas.
  • UTSA – UTSA has won its last three games despite not throwing for more than 187yds in any of those games and only having 43yds passing in its most recent victory over Rice. Junior quarterback Cordale Grundy has been the starting QB so far with D.J. Gillins (transfer from SMU) playing sparingly, as well. Grundy is second to last in the conference in passing yards with 799. The QB play needs improvement overall, regardless if Grundy remains the starter or if Gillins takes over at some point. One positive takeaway is that there has only been 2ints thrown so far from the QB position, which gives UTSA’s defense a chance to keep them in the ball game.
  • Southern Mississippi – Even though QB Jack Abraham has only played in four games this season, due to Hurricane Florence, he is still 5th in conference in passing yards and third in passing touchdowns. Abraham has also been extremely accurate as he leads the conference in completion percentage at 70.9%. Southern Miss has a big game against North Texas this upcoming weekend that could help decide the winner of the West. If Southern Miss wins the ball game, it will most likely be largely due to the play of Abraham.
  • Louisiana Tech – QB J’Mar Smith is quietly having a good year for La Tech despite the disappointing performance in its most recent loss against UAB. Smith has been sacked 13 times this season and five of those sacks occurred against UAB. Smith’s sub-par passing numbers are largely due to the pressure UAB applied. If you take out the UAB performance, Smith has at least 2td passes in every game. He is a big reason why they beat North Texas in Week 5 and why they played a close game vs. LSU in Week 4. I would expect J’Mar Smith to have a good season and keep La Tech in the remaining ball games.
  • North Texas – There are not enough good things to say about the QB play of Mason Fine thus far. Largely thanks to UNT’s upset win over Arkansas in Week 3, he has started receiving some national recognition. He has thrown for just under 2,000yds and 15tds through six games, and his most impressive feat is that he has only thrown 1int in 231 attempts this season. Fine has a quick release, more athleticism, and a stronger arm than most people probably think. He reminds me of Russell Wilson in how he plays the quarterback position, and it’s not just because they are “shorter” quarterbacks. This article isn’t a ranking of the Conference USA quarterbacks, but Fine is one of the top QBs in all of the Group of 5 Conferences, and I anticipate him only getting better.
  • Rice – Rice is in a transitional year under first-year Head Coach Mike Bloomgren. Shawn Stankavage, the Vanderbilt transfer, has been under center the majority of the time for Rice. While the play at the QB position has improved since last year, it has still been inconsistent throughout the year. With seven games left in the season, Rice has time to continue to get better, and Stankavage has time to put together some solid ball games a senior.
  • UTEP – Kai Locksley has taken the majority of reps under center with 99 passing attempts. Ryan Metz has also played a decent amount with 52 passing attempts. Both QBs are under 50 percent in completion percentage. Locksley is a good athlete as he leads the team in rushing with 363yds. Similar to Rice, UTEP is in a transitional year with new Head Coach Dana Dimel. The program and QB position will improve over time.

 

With tons of football remaining, this mid-season report gives us a decent breakdown of the current quarterback play in the conference. However, it will be interesting to see how this changes in the upcoming weeks and see how similar — or different — the end-season report will be.

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