Former Texas quarterback Shane Buechele could have a big year leading SMU's offense
When it comes to the Group of 5 and the chase for that lucrative New Year's Six bowl game at the end of the season, sometimes all you need is a game-changing player stepping up when it counts the most. Sometimes it will be the star player everybody knows about. Other times it may be somebody flying under the radar as a backup or working their way up the depth chart due to injuries or performance.
This year's look at rosters throughout the Group of 5 conferences shows there are a number of transfers from power conference programs that could step in and lead their team to a wonderful ride this fall.
American Athletic Conference
Shane Buechele, QB, SMU
The Texas Longhorns quarterback is hoping to find his role as a starter once again with the Mustangs. With Sonny Dykes as the head coach, there should be plenty of opportunities to put up some big numbers running the offense.
John Brousard, CB, Memphis
The Tigers are in decent shape with their backfield this fall, but the addition of the Auburn transfer could add some good coverage to the mix. He doesn't have a lot of experience on the field, but the former four-star recruit is hoping to tap his potential after changing his tiger stripes.
Malcolm Perry, QB, Navy
In order for Navy to have a successful season, the Midshipmen will need a slight rebound from Perry in his senior season in Annapolis. Perry was replaced as the quarterback for Navy last season but should return to the role this season.
Kyle Porter, RB, Houston
Dana Holgorsen was busy adding to his new program with the help of transfers, including Porter. The former Longhorn appeared in four games last season and also has the ability to help as a receiver at times. He could fit in nicely with the Cougars' offensive game plan.
Brandon Wimbush, QB, UCF
With the assumption McKenzie Milton will not be available, Wimbush was set to battle Darriel Mack Jr. for the starting job. However, Mack recently broke his ankle in a non-football-related activity, so it looks like it will be up to Wimbush to keep the Knights atop the AAC.
Torrence Brown, DE, Southern Miss
The Golden Eagles have a key hole at defensive end, and the hope is the Penn State transfer will plug it. Brown last played a full season in 2016 and sat out last fall while temporarily medically retired.
BJ Emmons, RB, FAU
The Owls have to replace one of their most productive players (Devin Singletary), so Lane Kiffin is hoping one of his former players at Alabama can keep things going on the ground. Emmons may have to work to earn the majority of the handoffs for FAU, but may have the higher upside.
Channing Hames, DT, Marshall
With Ty Tyler leaving transferring to Louisville, there will be even more emphasis on Hames as the headliner along the Thundering Herd's defensive line. The All-Conference USA lineman recorded 12.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks last season. He'll constantly be hunting down opposing quarterbacks this season.
Zac Lefebvre, WR, Buffalo
The Bulls are coming off a big year but have some retooling to do. That includes moving Lefebvre from tight end to wide receiver. Lefebvre's size (6-6) makes him a big target in the Buffalo passing game.
Desmond Phillips, WR, Toledo
The Rockets have some work to do at the receiver position this season after losing some key players from the unit. Phillips could develop to be the go-to receiver.
Chase Cord, QB, Boise State
With Brett Rypien moving on, the Broncos will rely on Cord to step in and lead the offense this fall. Cord played in four games last year, thus preserving his redshirt eligibility, and completed six of nine passes. Highly touted four-star freshman Hank Bachmeier may have to wait to get his shot in Boise.
Cole McDonald, QB, Hawaii
After a great start to the 2018 season, McDonald cooled off a bit as the season progressed. If McDonald stays consistent, he should help keep Hawaii in the running for another bowl berth.
Zo Bridges, LB, Troy
The Trojans take pride in their defense, and Bridges returning to the field for the first time since 2017 should help solidify what they can do. Bridges missed last season with an ankle injury and he is itching to get back on the field.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.