Top Group of Five Performers from Week 1

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The first full week of College Football is in the books, but before we fully move on to week two, I wanted to take a look at some of the top performers from this past week. However, this article will feature ONLY players from the non-power five schools. We all saw that Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy caught ten passes for 137 yards, and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts rack up 508 total yards (332 pass, 176 rush) and six total touchdowns.

However, there were several performers from lesser-known schools who had themselves quite the week. Below I will feature players that stood out in Week 1 that you may not have heard a ton about before today.

Quarterbacks:

Logan Bonner, Arkansas State: Bonner has some pretty lofty shoes to fill, as he is replacing Justice Hansen who departed as Arkansas State’s No.2 all-time passer (10,133 yards). However, Bonner, a junior,  has patiently waited for his turn under center. Bonner gave the fans in Jonesboro quite the show this past week, going 32/50 (64 percent) for 324 yards and four touchdowns. While the Red Wolves ultimately lost this week, Bonner and the offense did all they could to ensure a victory, and Arkansas State looks to have another quality signal-caller under center.

Mason Fine, North Texas: Fine is more well-known than the first two QB’s on this list, but plays in C-USA and does not get the recognition he has earned over the years. Fine already sits No. 1 on the North Texas all-time passing list (9,417 yards) and has 64 career touchdown passes. Though their opponent Week 1 was an FCS program, Fine picked up right where he left off last season as he threw for 383 yards (75.7% completion rate) and four TDs. If the Mean Green win the C-USA West Division this season, Fine’s right arm will have a lot to do with that.

Hank Bachmeier, Boise State:   The true freshman came to Boise with big shoes to fill as well. He was replacing four-year starter Brett Rypien, who set the Mountain West all-time record for pass yards in a career with 13,578 yards. Bachmeier became the first true freshman to start at QB here since the team jumped to the FBS in 1996, and that start came on the road at Florida State. After an up-and-down first half, Bachmeier led the Broncos back from down 31-13 to win 36-31. In the win, Bachmeier threw for 407 yards and was 7-11 for 115 yards on third down, and you can see those impressive throws below in the video courtesy of the ACC Network’s YouTube Page. Talk about staying calm under pressure. Though it was just one game, the Broncos coaching staff has to be excited about what Bachmeier can provide this team in the years to come.

 

Running Backs:

Josh Johnson, ULM: The Warhawks lost their top rusher heading into this season, and there was no clear No. 1 option heading into 2019. Johnson, who was an original Ole Miss commit, got the majority of the carries last Saturday and made the most of his opportunity. Johnson ran the ball just ten times but broke two long TD runs (51 and 37 yards) on his way to 173-yard night (17.3 yards per carry!). If ULM can get their run game going, it would take the pressure off of QB Caleb Evans, and propel this offense to be one of the Sun Belt’s best.

Charles Williams, UNLV: Though the Rebels lost their No. 2 all-time leading rusher, Williams led the Rebels in rushing back in 2015 with 763 yards. It is Williams’ turn to shine once again, and if this past Saturday is any indication, UNLV will have their third straight 1,000-yard rusher. Williams ran for 143 yards (9.5) and a trio of TDs. Granted this was against an FCS school, but UNLV is a run-first team, and Williams will get plenty of touches this season.

Jonathan Ward, Central Michigan: Going into last season, Ward was coming off a 1,000-yard season but could not stay healthy in 2018 and in six starts produced just 212 yards (2.8) and a single TD. However, Ward nearly equaled that mark in only one game this season as he ran for 158 yards (7.2) and a pair of TDs. If Ward can remain healthy this year, another 1,000-yard season is definitely within reach.

Wide Receivers:

Reggie Roberson Jr, SMU: Roberson had a productive season in 2018, collecting 802 yards and six touchdowns. In Week 1 Roberson looked to be the favorite target of Shane Buechele, as the two connected 11 times for 180 yards. With James Proche attracting attention from opposing secondaries, Roberson should see quite a few targets every week.

Rico Bussey, North Texas: The favorite target of Mean Green QB Mason Fine returned after catching 68 passes for 1,017 yards and 12 TDs in 2018. Bussey started fast this year, as Fine found him four times for 156 yards (39 yards per catch). This duo is arguably one of the best in C-USA and will connect for several scores in 2019.

Omar Bayless, Arkansas State: I noted earlier that Arkansas State QB Logan Bonner threw four TDs in Week 1, well Bayless was on the receiving end of all four of those scores. In total Bayless grabbed ten catches for 132 yards, and after one week is tied for the most TD receptions in the FBS. The Red Wolves have quite the talent at receiver, but early on Bayless and Bonner seem to have a reliable connection.

Cedric Byrd, Hawai’i: Even though Hawai’i played two weeks ago, Byrd’s performance against Arizona warrants him being on this list. Even though the Rainbow Warriors lost their top receiver from last year, Byrd was there to fill the void. He caught 14 passes for 224 yards and four touchdowns, which was the best opening day performance in over 20 years. In the Run ‘n Shoot offense that Hawai’i runs, Byrd is poised for another stellar season. (Video courtesy of Stadium’s YouTube channel)

Defense: 

Alex Highsmith, Charlotte: The 49ers returned seven starters on defense this season, none more important than Highsmith. The senior defensive end was First Team All-CUSA in 2018 after recording 14.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. In the 49ers first game, Highsmith nearly equaled his sack total from last season in one game, as he collected a pair of sacks. If he stays healthy, Highsmith can be one of the best pass rushers in the C-USA.

David Woodward, Utah State: Last season Woodward collected 134 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and five sacks on his way to being named an All-American. This tackling machine was all over the field against Wake Forest, as he collected 24 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss and was named the Chuck Bednarik Player of the Week. By season’s end, do not be surprised if Woodward is near the top of the FBS in tackles as the guy is all over the field.

Be sure to check back next week to find out who else from the group of five stepped up and showed out on the football field!