Conference USA seems to always produce quality quarterbacks. As of today, there are five QB’s on active NFL rosters that played in CUSA, which is more than any other Group of 5 Conference has at the moment. The next closest Group of 5 Conference is the American, which currently has three QB’s on NFL rosters, and I am including Case Keenum, even though when he played at the University of Houston they were in CUSA. It is important to remember that I am not including practice squad players. The CUSA quarterback play in 2018 seemed to have several different tiers of quarterbacks (like most conferences). There was a top tier of elite guys with potential NFL futures, a tier of young guys who have potential to develop into good quarterbacks, a tier of guys who struggled, and a tier of guys who struggled, but also showed potential to be good down the road. I am going to spend time breaking down the top QB’s in this conference and briefly touch on the guys who could be on their way to being in that top tier.
- North Texas- Mason Fine (JR.) (2018 Stats: 295CMP-457ATT/3,734yds/27tds/5ints)
Last year’s conference player of the year has had an arguably better season this year than he had last year. The statistics are very similar to last year’s numbers, despite in playing in one less game this year since they did not make the conference championship. Fine was already a house hold name in the conference coming into the season, but with the win over Arkansas early in the season and his continued high level of play, he has started to receive more national recognition. Yes, he has thrown for a lot of yards and touchdowns this year, but my biggest takeaway has been his ability to take care of the ball. Last year, he threw 15 interceptions, 5 of those occurring on third down. This year he has only thrown 5 interceptions and only 1 coming on third down. Everyone always wants to mention his size, which is fine; it is no secret at 5”11” and about 185 pounds he is considered undersized. With that said, he has above average arm strength, quick release, great anticipation, and is an above average athlete. I will take those qualities all day regardless of size.
**Below is one of Fine’s best plays of the season from my twitter page, with me giving a brief breakdown of the play. This play demonstrates all the qualities that make Fine a great quarterback. It shows his athleticism by escaping the pocket, his intelligence by keeping his eyes down field, and his arm strength by throwing a dime on the run.**
- FIU- James Morgan (JR.) (2018 Stats: 213CMP-326ATT/2,727yds/26tds/7ints)
Unlike Fine, Morgan came into the 2018 season competing for the starting job. Outside of people that kept up with FIU, no one had much input about Morgan and just assumed that the QB play at FIU would be down this year since McGough was drafted. McGough is now on the practice squad for Seattle. The previous two years Morgan played at Bowling Green before transferring to FIU. While he showed flashes of potential at Bowling Green, I don’t think anyone expected him to have the type of year he has had at FIU. He got the starting nod Week 1 and while playing good football the first half of the season, it wasn’t till the Middle Tennessee State game that people started realizing how good of a QB he was. Morgan went on a streak for the next 6 games, including the Middle Tennessee game, throwing 14 touchdowns to only 1 interception. He threw at least 1 touchdown in every game this season until the last game of the season when FIU lost to Marshall and Morgan had his worst game of the season with no touchdowns and 2 interceptions (only one was his fault). He ended up setting the single season passing touchdown record at FIU a few weeks ago and still has a bowl game to add to that record. Morgan is built like an NFL QB standing at 6”4” and has an impressive arm that allows him to make any throw on the field. After his senior season next year, he will be the next FIU QB to have a legit shot to play on Sundays.
**Below is one of Morgan’s best plays of the year and displays his arm strength. This is from my twitter page and has me giving a brief breakdown of the play. Notice that he was not able to step into the throw due to the pressure and was still able to launch the ball nearly 60yds.**
- Middle Tennessee- Brent Stockstill (SR.) (2018 Stats: 301CMP-427ATT/3,214yds/28tds/8ints)
As far as effective QB play goes, Stockstill has picked up where he left off before he got injured last year. His freshman year (2015), was when he threw for his career high in passing yards, over 4,000, but the offense this year is more of a complete offense and the team is better overall. The only losses of the year for the Blue Raiders that wasn’t against an SEC school was to FIU by three, which Stockstill left early in the game due to an injury, and UAB by two in the CUSA Championship game. While Stockstill is considered undersized, hovering only around six feet, he is one of the toughest QB’s not just in the conference, but in all of college football. His toughness and grittiness rubs off on his teammates as the whole team plays with that gritty attitude. Middle Tennessee’s offense is made up of a lot of quick, short passes to get the ball to their playmakers in space. Stockstill uses the short game to set up the downfield passing attack, which he is extremely accurate in as he is
completing over 70% of his passes. Like the other quarterbacks mentioned, he takes care of the ball with having only 6 interceptions going into the CUSA Championship game and 3 of those interceptions came on 4th down when he was just trying to let his guys make a play. He did throw two interceptions this previous weekend that give him 8 interceptions on the year. Going into the game this previous weekend, Stockstill was completing nearly 70% of his passes, with 8 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. However, both his picks thrown this weekend happened to be on third down. Despite those two picks, Stockstill was still excellent on third downs this year, the down many people refer to as the “money down” for quarterbacks. He will go down as one of the best overall football players to play in the CUSA and we still get to watch him one last time in their bowl game.
**Below is one of Stockstill’s plays from the season the defines his toughness and accuracy. Like the other videos, the link is from my twitter page with a brief breakdown. He knows the blitz is coming, but stands in the pocket and takes the hit while delivering a touchdown.**
Smith from Louisiana Tech, Green from Marshall, and Abraham from Southern Miss all had good seasons under center as well. All of them could be mentioned as one of the top QB’s in the conference next year. With Fine and Morgan only being Juniors this year, along with the QB’s mentioned in the previous sentence and a few others not mentioned that could blossom next year, this conference should expect the solid QB play to continue next year.