It is always interesting to see FCS teams make the jump to the big time. We have seen teams like Appalachian State, Old Dominion, and UMass make that jump over the last few years. This year, Charlotte is the newest addition to the FBS. The first thing we as fantasy junkies think about is how this affects the fantasy landscape. Who is their star player? What kind of offense do they run? Do they throw it a ton? Do they want to pound the run all day? These are the questions we want the know they answers to.
They will be joining Conference USA and will have an opportunity to take advantage of the weaker schedule. So let’s discuss who the playmakers on this offense are. We will start with running back Kalif Phillips. Phillips is a 5-11, 205 lb junior that led the team in rushing in 2014 with 1,436 yards and 20 touchdowns. He put up these numbers in just 11 games, but we have to remember that these numbers are against FCS competition. Phillips isn’t used much in passing situations but this offense likes to keep a balance between run and pass. He should be the primary playmaker in this offense and we should expect very solid RB2 production.
As stated in the previous paragraph, the 49ers like to keep a balance in their offense. They do have a passing attack but not a set starter at the quarterback position. The leader in 2014 was junior Matt Johnson. He has been the starter for the last two seasons so should be the favorite to start in 2015. Last season, Johnson threw for 1,941 yards, 13 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He only completed 52% of his passes however in just 8 games as he missed the last 3 due to a knee injury. He will be pushed in fall practice by junior Lee McNeill and redshirt freshman Brooks Barden. McNeill filled in for Johnson after his injury last season and played relatively well. He threw for 974 yards, six touchdowns and just three interceptions. This will be something to keep an eye on during fall camp.
As far as wide receivers go, the guy you need to watch is Austin Duke. The junior wideout caught 79 passes for 1,373 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2014. No one else gained more than 365 yards through the air. Hopefully things open up a little more this year and the offense finds another option and becomes a fantasy powerhouse. However, this isn’t likely and Duke is the guy until someone else proves themselves.
Tight ends were not very productive in this offense last season. The leader in 2014 was junior Justin Bolus. He only managed to grab 14 passes for 241 yards and one touchdown. Of those 241 yards, 61 came on one pass so Bolus may have big play ability when given the opportunity. Maybe he can be the one that becomes the number two option in the passing game.
As you may have noticed, I did not mention that any of these players was a senior. This team as a whole is very young and may be very good in the years moving forward. Conference USA could use this injection of youth and talent and hopefully Charlotte takes advantage of their situation. They have established pieces in place so if they can build around them, they may be able to compete in year one of FBS play.