The WAC is a conference in flux and, perhaps, a conference on its last legs, as there is talk it may disappear into the ether as soon as next season. That's what happens when three of your most prominent teams, Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada, flee to join former WAC stalwart Boise State in greener, more mountainous pastures. In their stead come Texas State and the University of Texas-San Antonio, both new to the FBS level. The Bobcats and Roadrunners, respectively, aren't eligible for bowls, but they are eligible to be beaten on, which could help your fantasy team. You could make the argument that the WAC is the weakest conference in the FBS (congratulations, Sun Belt!), but that doesn't mean there aren't some potential diamonds in this rough.
TOP-5 FANTASY STARS
1. Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
Patton was a junior-college transfer last season when he debuted with the Bulldogs, and he quickly emerged as a weapon. He finished with 79 receptions for 1,202 yards and 12 scores. Patton is the top returning receiver in the conference, and Louisiana Tech is a good bet to be the WAC's best team. The Bulldogs do have a couple tough non-conference games - they start at Texas A&M and visit both Illinois and Virginia - but Patton has the talent to put up numbers against even higher level competition. He could be one of the better fantasy receivers in college football.
2. Kerwynn Williams, RB, Utah State
Last season, Robert Turbin was the key running back for the Aggies, and he had a tremendous season in his return from a serious injury. Now, both Turbin and Michael Smith, who was Utah State's second-leading rusher, have moved on, leaving Williams as the starting running back. Williams was primarily an asset as a return man last year, but he did rush 81 times for 542 yards, good for 6.7 yards per carry, and he found the end zone thrice. Presumably, his return duties will be greatly curtailed, you tend to want to avoid unnecessary risk with your starting running back, but he will get many more carries, and while he may not be as good as Turbin, he should have a fine season, and is a good bet to lead the conference in rushing yards.
3. Ryan Otten, TE, San Jose State
Tight ends are on the verge of becoming an endangered species in college football, at least tight ends who put up numbers worth noting. After the top few tight ends, you might as well be choosing a player on a whim. However, Otten is one of those aforementioned tight ends worth targeting. Last season, despite dealing with injury, he caught 52 passes for 739 yards and five touchdowns. If he can remain healthy, and with an easier conference schedule, Otten could possibly put up better numbers than any tight end in the nation.
4. Hunter Lee, RB, Louisiana Tech
With Lennon Creer having some injury issues last season, Lee got his chance to prove his mettle as a freshman. Now, Creer is gone and Lee is a sophomore ready to take over the starting role. He rushed 135 times for 650 yards and five touchdowns last year, and he reeled in 13 passes for 126 yards to boot. That was with only getting one carry in the first five games of the season. Given the bulk of the carries, Lee is definitely a player to keep in mind for your fantasy team.
5. Noel Grigsby, WR, San Jose State
Grigsby may be stretching the definition of fantasy star, but the cupboard is relatively bare in the WAC. That isn't to say Grigsby isn't a good player or that he won't put up statistics worth noting. He had 89 catches for 886 yards last season, after all. The issue was that he only found the end zone twice. That said, touchdown totals can fluctuate, and with just a bit more fortune, Grigsby could score more, and then suddenly his fantasy numbers look a bit brighter.
Colby Cameron, QB, Louisiana Tech
Cameron could not beat out true freshman Nick Isham to start last season, but after Isham struggled, Cameron took the job and did not look back. He completed 54.9 percent of his passes for 1,667 yards, 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. Cameron also rushed 43 times for 180 yards, so he is at least a bit mobile. Now a senior, and with some likely job security and leading the way for perhaps the best team in a weak conference, Cameron could be an interesting play when teams like UTSA are on the schedule.
Chuckie Keeton, QB, Utah State
Much like Isham, Keeton got the starting job when the season began despite being a freshman. Also like Isham, he ended up losing the job, but Keeton lost his role due to injury. When he played, Keeton completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 1,200 yards, 11 touchdowns and two picks. The dual-threat signal caller also rushed 68 times for 293 yards and four scores. He appears to have won the starting quarterback battle yet again, and though the leash may be short, Keeton has tremendous upside.
Mike Scott, WR, Idaho
The Vandals offense was fairly brutal last season, and their quarterback play was rather poor. Despite that fact, Scott caught 55 passes for 691 yards and two scores. With a new quarterback helming the offense in transfer Dominique Blackman, maybe Scott will have somebody who can do a better job at getting the ball. The senior could be worth a gamble late because, as mentioned, he has some easy games on the schedule in the WAC.
David Freeman, RB, San Jose State
The Spartans were not good last season, but that didn't stop Brandon Rutley from having a rather good year running the ball. Now, Rutley is gone, and somebody has to step in as the starting running back, or at least the main running back. That somebody could be Freeman. The senior only ran 20 times last year before going out with a season-ending injury. Now, he's back, though he's had some injury issues in practices, and seems like a good bet to lead the way for San Jose State's rushing game, at least early on.
Austin Franklin, WR, New Mexico State
The Aggies offense is seeing a lot of turnover this season, and Franklin is the team's top returning receiver. As a freshman, he caught 34 passes for 524 yards and three scores. Quarterback Andrew Manley, who starting last season as the starter before going down with an ACL injury, is back, which helps Franklin's value. If somebody is to emerge from NMSU's passing game, it is likely to be Franklin.
Andrew Manley, QB, New Mexico State
It might seem slightly askew to see Manley on the busts list right after Franklin, his wide receiver, appeared in the sleepers list. However, the problem for Manley is that, aside from Franklin, the cupboard is bare. The Aggies' top two wide receivers from last season, and their top running back in Kenny Turner, are gone. Not only that, Manley is returning to action after a torn ACL. He's had plenty of time to recover, but when you throw that in with a potential lack of weapons, Manley is a risky option.
Chandler Jones, WR, San Jose State
Finding players with bust potential in the WAC is really stretching the definition of the word because when expectations across this conference are so very, very low, it is hard to pinpoint players likely to fall below already limited values. Jones caught 61 passes for 566 yards and two touchdowns last season. However, the quarterback who threw him those passes is gone, and now the Spartans' quarterback situation is unsettled. With Ryan Otten and Noel Grigsby around, and with a new signal caller under center, it could limit Jones' potential.
Any Idaho RB
The Vandals did not run the ball well last year, their top rusher gaining only 705 yards. Now, both their top runners from last season have moved on. Their top returning rusher is Ryan Bass, who had 175 yards on 44 carries. He's also had academic eligibility issues this offseason. There's talk about newcomer James Baker getting carries as well. Neither should be trusted, nor should any player beyond them.
Terrence Franks, RB, Texas State
Quite frankly, you should avoid any Bobcats player. After all, this is a team that wasn't all that good last season playing in the Southland Conference. Now, the Bobcats find themselves foisted into the world of the FBS, even if in this transitional year they get four matchups with FCS teams. Franks has been singled out, since last season he rushed for 863 yards and nine touchdowns on 146 carries. Don't get cute on this one. Just let Franks be.
Any UTSA Player
Can this point be hammered home enough? The Roadrunners are in the same position as the Bobcats, and not just because they emanate from the same state. Plus, they don't even have a player like Franks who excelled at the FCS level. This team could be even worse than their fellow WAC newcomer. When you have a player on your team facing off with them, you can feel free to lick your lips in anticipation, but otherwise UTSA should be out of sight and out of mind.
TEAM-BY-TEAM FANTASY STARS
Overall position ranking in parenthesis.
TE Michael LaGrone (20)
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
QB Colby Cameron (35), RB Hunter Lee (26), WR Quinton Patton (8)
New Mexico State Aggies
San Jose State Spartans
TE Ryan Otten (3)
Texas State Bobcats
Utah State Aggies
RB Kerwynn Williams (14)
Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners