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Independents Fantasy Preview: Irish Get their QB Back

Jeremy Schilling

Schilling covers golf for RotoWire, focusing on young and up-and-coming players. He was a finalist for the FSWA's Golf Writer of the Year award. He also contributes to PGA Magazine and hosts the popular podcast "Teeing It Up" on BlogTalkRadio.

The Independents are back to their usual number of four teams this year, as Idaho and New Mexico State - independents for one transitional year last season - moved to the Sun Belt Conference. Army has a new head coach, hiring former Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken. Meanwhile, Notre Dame gets back a certain quarterback you may remember.


1. Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame

Golson was suspended all last season because of academic issues but is back as the starter after beating out redshirt freshman Malik Zaire for the job. Golson dazzled in 2012, throwing for more than 2,400 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushing for six scores, as he led the Irish to the BCS Championship Game. He's a dual-threat playmaker, and the only concern is perhaps rust after sitting out a year. Golson was named to the Maxwell Award, Davey O'Brien Award and Walter Camp Award watch lists, an indication of the expectations the college football world has for him.

2. Taysom Hill, QB, BYU

Hill is one of the nation's top running quarterbacks, rushing for a team-leading 1,344 yards (5.5 YPC) and 10 touchdown last season. His passing, though, needs improvement after he threw for just 19 touchdowns in 13 games last year with 14 interceptions. That improvement might come this season. The Cougars have placed a renewed focus on the deep ball in training camp. And with a deep group of receivers led by Mitch Mathews and Jordan Leslie, the passing game should be improved. If so, that will make Hill a true dual-threat quarterback. If not, Hill will still contribute on the ground.

3. Keenan Reynolds QB, Navy

Reynolds is one of the nation's best rushers -- never mind rushing quarterbacks. He scored an FBS-leading 31 rushing touchdowns last season in Navy's vaunted option attack, totaling 1,346 yards (second among quarterbacks). Reynolds runs more than he throws (128 pass attempts to 300 rush attempts last season) and can't be counted on for much in the passing department (1,057 yards and eight touchdowns last season). But as a runner, he's as good as anyone. The one concern is health. At 5-11, 185, Reynolds is undersized to begin with and averaging 20-plus carries a game makes him an injury risk.

4. Terry Baggett/Larry Dixon, RB, Army

Army has a two-pronged running attack that can help fantasy teams. Baggett rushed for more than 1,100 yards last season and eight touchdowns while Dixon rushed for 705 yards and six touchdowns. Army's quarterbacks were shaky at best last season, which puts more emphasis on the backfield in a run-first offense. Both should rack up a lot of yards this season, especially since new coach Jeff Monken wants plans to continue the run-first system. They'll cut into each other's carries, but they both should still produce enough for fantasy teams, especially in deep leagues.


Mitch Mathews, WR, BYU

With Cody Hoffman in the NFL and highly touted junior-college transfer Nick Kurtz out six to eight weeks with a foot injury, Mathews likely will fill the No. 1 WR role this year for BYU. He led the team with 17.3 yards per catch last season, totaling 23 receptions for 397 yards and four touchdowns. The Cougars plan to stretch the field with Mathews more often this season, too, with a renewed focus on the deep ball. The undervalued Mathews should outproduce his draft-day price.

Kyle Brindza, K, Notre Dame

Brindza had a fantastic year for the Fighting Irish last season, going 20-of-26 on field-goal attempts and 38-of-38 on PATs. He's got a strong leg, too, as he made three field goals of more than 50 yards, with a long of 53. With Everett Golson's return at quarterback, and an offense promising to score a lot of points, Brindza should build on his strong 2013.

Ben Koyack, TE, Notre Dame

Koyack steps into the spotlight with Troy Niklas now a member of the Arizona Cardinals. The senior showed some flash last year, catching 10 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns. Niklas had 32 receptions for 498 yards and five touchdowns, and Koyack should easily exceed that with Everett Golson at quarterback this year.


Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU

Williams is the top running back for the Cougars, but he's second in the running game behind quarterback Taysom Hill, who had more yards and touchdowns than Williams last season. The situation led to an inconsistent season for Williams. He totaled 783 of his 1,233 yards in five games last year. In five other games, he had less than 80 yards rushing and no touchdowns. What's more, after posting 315 receiving yards and a score in 2012, Williams fell to 125 yards and touchdowns through air last season. Williams will have one fewer game this season, as well, as he is suspended for the season opener for violating team rules. Williams likely will get his numbers by season's end, but another inconsistent season week to week would not be surprising.

Raymond Maples, RB, Army

Maples' 2013 season ended in September last year with an ankle and groin injuries, but don't count on him returning to the 1,215 yards on 223 carries he posted in 2012. Terry Baggett and Larry Dixon carried the load last season and likely will again, leaving Maples to fight for scraps.


Overall position ranking in parenthesis.

Army Black Knights


Brigham Young Cougars

QB Taysom Hill (5), RB Jamaal Williams (16), Defense (19)

Navy Midshipmen

QB Keenan Reynolds (15)

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

TE Ben Koyack (14), K Kyle Brindza (21), Defense (2)