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Conference USA Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2017


It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused clichés used during the year.

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In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2017, Athlon asked coaches in Conference USA to talk anonymously about their opponents.

Related: Conference USA 2017 Predictions

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

Conference USA Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

College Football Rankings: Charlotte


“I think you’re going to see an improvement in their win total.”

“Their first year in the league people just rolled up scores on them left and right and made all kinds of big plays, but they were much more sound last year. You had to work a little harder to get the ball in the end zone, and you could tell the kids believed in it more.”

“It takes time to build it, but it’s a great area, love their stadium. Those guys have a shot at building something good because of their campus, their community.”

“Their quarterback (Hasaan Klugh) is a real good athlete but he struggled to throw it.”

“They’re not a big blitz-heavy team on defense, but they’ll compete.”

“They’ve got some guys now who have been in the program so they’ll steadily improve, but they’ve got to stay healthy. The 2s and 3s aren’t real good, so that’s where it can get a little rough.” 

Related: Conference USA Football 2017 All-Conference Team

College Football Rankings: FAU

Florida Atlantic

“Your guess is as good as mine on what that’s going to look like.”

“I don’t think they care about anything right now other than getting some better players in there because the record the last couple years speaks for itself.”

“I don’t have any doubt they’ll get some talented guys, the question is going to be if they can manage the kind of guys they get and not turn it into a circus.”

“They went out right off the bat and got the quarterback who was kicked out of Florida State (De’Andre Johnson) and hired Kendal Briles to run the offense, so they’re not going to be afraid to take risks.”

“I don’t think you can learn much watching [head coach Lane Kiffin's] film from Alabama. Totally different situation and personnel. They’ll probably look more like Baylor from a scheme standpoint to tell you the truth.”

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“They fired their coach early in the season and got a little jump out of that, but they struggled offensively and were just OK on defense.”

“They rotated quarterbacks and tried to confuse you a little bit, but they don’t walk onto the field and look like a team that’s going to scare you.”

“The new staff has to go in there and get some players, but I don’t think you just snap your fingers and kids in South Florida are going to come. They’re going to have to do a good job evaluating the kids in that area and get guys who play hard.”

“The Butch Davis thing sounds good and everybody’s fired up, but it’s still FIU.”

“I think the key in this league is finding a brilliant offensive mind like Western Kentucky did with Brohm and get some guys that are going play their butts off on defense.” 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

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Louisiana Tech

“They’re very difficult to prepare for.”

“They do a great job moving the ball around. They did lose some key players with [Trent] Taylor, their inside slot receiver, and [Carlos] Henderson, the outside guy. They’ll have some holes to fill there and at quarterback, but schematically they’re a very sound, spread offense, get the ball to their playmakers do a good job of that but they will look a little different this year.”

“Their backup quarterback (J’Mar Smith) last year played a lot in the Arkansas game, which they almost won. He’s more of a dual-threat guy. I assume he’ll be the starter for them and in some situations, I’m sure they feel pretty good about what they’ve got and they’ve seen him. They’ve had several different quarterbacks there who had success in that system, so if they didn’t this time it would be a surprise.”

“They’ll be good, but they did lose a lot of skill.”

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“It was weird last year because they don’t look bad, and I know they don’t have bad talent, but the kids just didn’t play very hard.”

“There was something going on there, some issues that I wouldn’t know behind closed doors.”

“They’ve been too good in this league for awhile to just do a 180 like that.”

“When we played them, we didn’t think they could score a lot and they didn’t. Not very good quarterback play, weren’t able to get their skill guys the ball in space like they used to.”

“I know they’re getting a lot of junior college recruits in there to try to fill some holes, but that’s a 50-50 proposition.”

“It’ll be interesting to see if they bounce back. The people there care a lot, so I’m sure there’s going to be some heat on that staff if they have another year like that.” 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2017

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Middle Tennessee

“Brent Stockstill getting hurt last year cost them at least two more wins, so getting him back 100 percent is going to be big.”

“Stockstill established himself as one of the top players in the league already and has a chance to be special. A lot of times coach’s kids think they know everything, but he seems like a very humble, competitive kid and I know Coach [Rick] Stockstill wouldn’t play him if he didn’t earn it every day in their program.”

“Their No. 1 receiver (Richie James) is as good as anybody in the league and they move him around to try to create matchup issues for your defense. With him and Ty Lee, they’re loaded at receiver.”

“They lose their running back and most of their offensive line, so they may struggle in the running game.”

“Scott Shafer was a huge hire for their defense. He’s a quality coach; much more aggressive than what they’ve had before. I would expect them to be much better on that side of the ball.” 

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North Texas

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“They have a spread offense out of that Larry Fedora tree, and you saw how much better those guys were playing in that system right away.”

“They have some talent, and they should be able to get some pretty good players out of Dallas every year.”

“They had a junior running back that our staff thought was pretty good (Jeffrey Wilson), probably one of the better guys in the league until he got hurt.”

“The freshman quarterback (Mason Fine) was kind of a shorter guy but really moved around the pocket well and created some plays with his feet. I was impressed with him, but he got hurt too at the end of the year.”

“When you’ve got the quarterback and running back coming back, that’s a great start. They lost some receivers, but they’ll be solid coming into the second year of that system.”

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Head Coaches for 2017

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Old Dominion

“I saw them on film several times during the year, and I always felt they’ve done a really good job of evaluating and developing talent.”

“They’ve got huge receivers and an active quarterback that can make plays, get the ball to those receivers, and they can run it at times.”

“They don’t look like look mid-major physically.”

“It’s a great place to recruit because of the talent in that area. They’re probably the most attractive job in our league because of the location and their fan base.”

“When we played there, the stadium was loud, it was packed, kind of unusual for Conference USA.”

College Football Rankings: Rice


“This program had it going for a little while, but to be honest they really struggled last year in every phase of the game.”

“They just didn’t have very much playmaking and speed overall, and I don’t see that getting much better.”

“Basically, they had one good receiver last year and they’d play him some at QB to do some wildcat type stuff and try to get him touches. It seemed like they were very limited in what they could do with their offense.”

“Coach [David] Bailiff is well-respected in the league, but it just doesn’t seem like they’re going in the right direction.”

Related: Examining the Over/Under 2017 Win Totals for Conference USA

College Football Rankings: Southern Miss

Southern Miss

“Any time a team loses their quarterback, there’s some uncertainty.”

“It will just have to be a wait-and-see situation on who steps up at the quarterback position because they had a good one and their offense is predicated on throwing the football.”

“They’ve got three really good running backs, but they’re rotating in new guys on the offensive line so it might take a little while for them to figure it out.”

“Defensively they’re very aggressive, which is perfect for this league. You’re not going to pitch shutouts, but if you can create some turnovers and sacks and get the ball back to your offense, it doesn’t kill you to give up some big plays.”

“They do have two new safeties, which isn’t an easy position to break in when you’re playing that style. 

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“They’re going to be a mystery to everybody, but I think they will have some players.”

“They’ve been heavy in the transfer and junior college prospect market, and I don’t think the talent on their roster is going to be too far below what most of the league has.”

“Bill Clark is a really good defensive coach, so I expect they’ll be solid on that side of the ball.”

“Clark probably did one of the best coaching jobs I’ve seen a couple years ago to win six games with all the rumors about the program shutting down. The whole deal is kind of unprecedented, so I have to commend him because I don’t think the school would have started the program back if he hadn’t been there.”

“They’ll have a chance to make up ground if they’re truly committed to doing it right. I just don’t have a lot of information on their team right now because they’re literally at Year Zero and we haven’t seen their guys yet.”

College Football Rankings: UTEP


“They’re more of a pro-style offense, they like to play 21 personnel, 12 personnel, which makes sense because [head coach Sean] Kugler’s more of a pro guy.”

“Aaron Jones declaring for the NFL draft totally changes their team. He was probably the best running back in the league last year, just a big, fast guy that they’d give the ball to as many times as they could. He was pretty much their entire offense, and you’d hold your breath every time he made a cut.”

“I did think their offensive line was the biggest and most physical we played in the league and four of those guys are coming back.”

“Nothing about their quarterback situation really stood out. They mixed and matched some guys until the second half of the year when they finally settled on the one kid (Ryan Metz), but I’m not sure he’s really a threat to make any big plays with his arm.”

“I think they’ll take a step back just because of the change at running back.” 

College Football Rankings: UTSA


“They’re very different. They're like the old school LSU football team with a lot of 21, 22 personnel, 12 personnel.”

“They do a really good job of running the football. Offensive line is a strength for them. They have two good running backs, the quarterback is athletic and not a straight dropback guy.”

“They're totally different to prepare for because this is such a spread league and suddenly you’ve got a more traditional team and you really have to hit them in the mouth.”

“They did a great job recruiting this year, which isn’t a surprise because recruiting has always been [head coach Frank Wilson's] wheelhouse.”

“They have some good young kids. Honestly, I don't think the talent level was that bad coming into the job. They inherited a good receiver and a strong, physical offensive line and they did a good job developing those guys.”

“They’ll be better this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if they win the division.” 

College Football Rankings: WKU

Western Kentucky

The offensive lineman (Forrest Lamp) I really liked graduated, but they’re definitely the cream of the crop in our league.”

“Their talent is just a little bit better than anybody else.”

“They look more like a Power Five team when you play them. They’ve got bigger kids and they’ve done a good job recruiting in Florida.”

“It’s always interesting at this level when you take over for somebody that was as successful as [former head coach] Jeff Brohm was. They’ve been as good offensively as anyone in the country, and if you come in and make dramatic changes you’re going to have players wonder why are they’re changing something that’s working, so how the new staff approaches that will be key.”