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Conference USA Players to Watch Blog

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 11, 2008


The Conference USA players to watch and to look out for in each week's games.

Conference USA Players Blog

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By Jonathan Deal

East Carolina...East Carolina QB Patrick Pickney.  Pickney orchestrated ECU’s upset of Virginia Tech last week and looks to do the same against West Virginia.  The senior quarterback was 19-for-23 passing with 211 yards and a touchdown while adding another 24 yards and a TD on the ground.  If Pickney can keep the ball away from West Virginia’s offense, the Pirates have a real shot of pulling off the upset at home in this one.

Houston…Houston WR Mark Hafner.  Case Keenum may have found his new favorite target in Hafner who caught seven balls for 103 yards and two touchdowns before halftime against Southern.  The two will have to be on the same page when they travel to Oklahoma State in what looks to be a shootout.

Marshall…Marshall RB Darius Marshall.  The talented sophomore ran for 115 yards and a touchdown in the program’s first opening win since 2004.  Darius Marshall will have to carry the load and control the clock when the Thundering Herd travel to Wisconsin or P.J. Hill might just rack up over 200 yards for the second consecutive week.

Memphis...Memphis WR Duke Calhoun.  Look for the lone C-USA match-up of the weekend to be a scoring spree between Memphis and Rice.  Calhoun led the Tigers last year in receptions and hopes to improve on his four catches against Ole Miss in week one.  Memphis will most likely use a quarterback tandem but both will be looking to get Calhoun involved in the offense against a relatively weak Rice secondary.

Rice…Rice QB Chase Clement.  This crucial C-USA West game against Memphis will be a battle between quarterbacks and Clement clearly has the edge in this one.  After tossing six touchdown passes against SMU, the senior quarterback will look to pick apart a Memphis secondary that gave up 222 yards through the air against a mediocre Ole Miss passing attack.  Look for Clement to find WR Jared Dillard early and often in this one.

SMU...SMU QB Bo Levi Mitchell.  The true freshman signal caller threw the ball 49 times against Rice in June Jones’ new run-and-shoot offense.  He completed 25 of those passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns but also had three picks one of which was returned for a TD.  Mitchell will get a chance to fine tune his arm when SMU host Texas State-San Marcos on Saturday.

Southern Miss…Southern Miss RB Damien Fletcher.  Fletcher ran for a career high 222 and two touchdowns against UL-Lafayette but he will have to be even better when the Golden Eagles travel to the Plains to face one of nation’s top defenses.  Fletcher will be facing eight and nine men in the box every week and the Auburn game will prove if he can run against a quality opponent.

Tulane…Tulane DT Oscar Ponce De Leon.  Making the switch from offensive guard to defensive tackle just two weeks ago, Ponce De Leon will have to get nasty in the trenches in order to stop one of the SEC’s best offensive lines.  Alabama will run it at the Green Wave often and the junior DT will have to play big for Tulane to have a shot in this one.

Tulsa…Tulsa QB David Johnson.  Paul Smith’s understudy completed 83 percent of his passes throwing for 332 yards and three touchdowns while running for 48 more yards in his debut against UAB.  The Golden Hurricane will look to continue their offensive dominance against a North Texas squad that gave up over 300 yards in the air last week against Kansas State.

UAB…UAB WR Frantrell Forrest.  Forrest only caught two passes against Tulsa but one of them was for a touchdown while having another TD catch denied by the officials.  The sophomore is most dangerous in the return game as he proved last week when he took a second quarter kickoff back 90 yards for a touchdown.  Look for the Blazers to get Forrest more involved when they travel to Florida Atlantic in Week two.

UCF…UCF FS Jason Venson.  The senior safety had an interception and led a Central Florida defense that held South Carolina State to just 122 total yards.  Venson and the defense will face a much tougher test when they host cross-state rivals South Florida on Saturday.

UTEP…UTEP QB Trevor Vittatoe.  Vittatoe will have to play better than he did in the Miners week one blowout loss to Buffalo.  Buffalo is not exactly a powerhouse, but Texas is and if UTEP does not improve soon, they will be more than embarrassed when the Longhorns visit El Paso this weekend.