Byrum Brown: CFB's First Group Of Five Heisman Trophy Winner?
USF's Byrum Brown dominated the AAC as a redshirt freshman in 2023. VP thinks the ceiling is even higher in 2024 with HC Alex Golesh and WR Sean Atkins.
Gene, if they finish fourth and fifth here, we look like f***ing rockstars. And now we are a bunch of wankers. A bunch of f***ing clowns. I will do a proper investigation Gene, don’t worry. I will fix it. Trust me.
- Guenther Steiner, Former Haas Formula 1 Manager
The South Florida Bulls have not exactly been a safe haven for College Fantasy Football (CFF) assets in recent years. Given the amount of talent in the immediate vicinity, one has to wonder why this program has not been more successful.
Even more puzzling, the university calls itself the ‘University of South Florida’ while being located in the Tampa Bay area, which is definitely central Florida (I guess the University of West Central Florida wasn’t as appealing… taken maybe?).
Nonetheless, this always felt like a program that could elevate with ease under the right management; there are just simply too many elite athletes around to not catch some success by accident.
Indeed, the Bulls have had some big-time success in the past, reaching as high as #2 overall in the AP poll in mid-October of 2007. That feels like a distant dimension for the Bulls at this point, who have primarily been bottom-dwellers in the Group of Five (G5) since.
In addition to the investments made in the facilities of the program, the administration decided late in 2022 to take a major swing and hired Tennessee OC Alex Golesh as its next head coach. It makes sense that Tennessee’s OC would be in high demand, as the Vols fielded one of the most potent offences in the FBS that season. Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker had a phenomenal season, as did his two WRs Jaylin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman.
Hyatt actually won the Biletnikoff award for the nation’s best receiver (yea, that’s right Ohio State fans, cry me a f*cking river). Hooker was dangerous in the air as well as on the ground, and he found himself in the Heisman conversation late in the year.
As it happens, the Bulls have a young up-and-coming dual threat QB with a similar set of skills to Hendon Hooker. The timing of this marriage couldn’t be any better for CFF players, and this South Florida Bull could be poised to disembowel the AAC in 2023.
The entirety of the above text (minus the opening quote) is taken from my article on Byrum Brown in March of 2023, before last season.
In hindsight, it turns out he really was a CFF stud. I’m not here to pat myself on the back too hard (after all, who knew Gerry Bohanon was going to have a nagging shoulder injury ), but I am here to spotlight Mr. Brown once again.
Even more interesting now is the fact that our boy has a legitimate stud on the outside (well, in the slot) in WR Sean Atkins. We had a feeling with the new staff in town last year that there might be a WR or two who breakout. That turned out to be true in spades.
The ingredients are here for a monster season once again for Byrum Brown—perhaps for an even bigger one than his 2023 season, begging the question: could he legitimately end up in the Heisman trophy conversation as a G5 player next season? With the expanded playoff coming into effect in 2024, and there being a seat reserved for a G5 program, Brown could very well will his team into playoff consideration during the season, which would bode well for his chances.
So without further adieu, let us embark on a journey to the land of palms, pirates, and pub subs: Tampa Bay, home of the USF Bulls.
Byrum Brown Disemboweled The AAC in 2023, But Needs More Consistency
There’s a Michael Penix-esque quality to Brown’s profile, and that is that the highs are high, but the lows are also low, and happen far too frequently. In 2023, he scored less than 23 points in a game five times out of the 13 games he participated in. That includes two shocking performances vs. FAU (16.7) and UConn (18.2). I’m willing to excuse his 8.68 points vs. Alabama because, well… you know.
However, when things were good, they were really fucking good. He scored more than 30 points seven times out of his 13. That’s pretty crazy considering five of the other six he scored less than 23. Simply put, there wasn’t a lot of in-between with Brown—he either torched the competition, or had a generally lacklustre day. For this reason I’ve compared his CFF profile to UW’s Michael Penix Jr., not because they’re play styles are similar (not at all), but because there appears to be a sizeable volatility associated with each individual’s performance.
But, let us all close our eyes and imagine for one moment, that Brown, entering year two as the starter in the program, could take another step in 2024. First and foremost, we can look to the upcoming schedule. A puzzling home and home with Alabama is unavoidable in the out-of-conference (OOC) schedule. That’ll be tough, assuming Bama can find some bodies to play in the secondary during the spring transfer window.
They also unfortunately play Miami, who may be a bunch of wankers generally speaking, but should pose a challenge to Brown when USF plays them on Sept. 21st. The other two OOC opponents include Bethune Cookman (FCS), and Southern Miss.
Perhaps I’m naive, but I’ve seen the Hurricanes display enough incompetence over the years, that I think USF can light Miami up when they play. Maybe it won’t be a 40+ point bonanza, but I don’t think 25 is out of the question for Brown. Really, when it comes down to it, looking at the schedule in totality, Alabama is the only one where you’re looking at some friction in his scores. The rest of the games should be within reach for him to put up big numbers.
The big thing about Brown’s profile is his legs. On three separate occasions during the 2023 campaign, he finished a game with 20+ carries. He averaged 15.6 carries per contest, finishing the year with a total of 203 carries. That basically makes him a high end(ish) CFF RB1, who also happens to throw passes whenever he’s inclined.
His total rushing yards finished at 809, and he scored 11 times along the ground. He also attempted a pig-gasmic 427 passes over his 13 games (32.8 per game). All in all, that’s 48.46 plays per game where Brown was eligible to rack up points. USF also happened to be the team that moved the fastest on offence, running the most plays in the FBS in 2023 with 82.1. The next closest was North Texas at 79.3.
In 2023, the Bulls get Navy, UAB, Memphis and Tulsa at home, and Charlotte, FAU, Rice and Tulane on the road. Seems pretty straight forward to me if you’re Brown: show up, dominate.
USF Head Coach Alex Golesh & His Passing Attack
Outside of the pass-game coordinator—Joel Gordon, getting promoted to OC this offseason, virtually nothing has changed from what I wrote last time on the system in place:
Golesh is relatively new to coaching as he became an OC for the first time in 2020 with UCF, and spent the last two seasons in the same role with the Tennessee Vols before taking the Bulls’ head coaching position. In 2022, QB Hendon Hooker accounted for over 3500 total yards and 32 TDs in 11 games, which tracked to 30 fantasy points per game (FPG) in 4-point passing TD formats. The year prior, he once again accounted for over 3500 yards, and scored 36 TDs.
In 2020, Golesh had his most prolific QB from a CFF standpoint — Dillon Gabriel, who amassed over 3700 yards and 34 TDs, which tracked to 33.1 FPG in 10 games. In Golesh’s two seasons with the Vols, Hooker rushed over 100 times each; with the Knights, Gabriel attempted over 70 rushing attempts in 2020.
The theme seems to be that Golesh’s preference is to utilize a dual threat QB in both capacities — through the air and on the ground.
There isn’t actually an OC listed on the USF website so I think it’s safe to assume Golesh is the man running the show on O. There is associate head coach and RBs coach Matt Merritt, who spent his time at Georgia Southern last season, a program that averaged 468.6 ypg and 33.7 ppg. He’ll likely have a hand in things but I don’t think it is necessary to do a deep dive into his background, as it seems he’ll be more involved with the RBs.
Then there is passing game coordinator/QBs coach Joel Gordon. Prior to joining the Bulls, Gordon spent the last four seasons (2019-2022) at Iowa State in the same role. I am not overly inspired by his track record of developing QBs I must admit, as Cyclones QB Brock Purdy (anyone heard from him lately?) had his best season by far in 2019, and then gradually declined over the next two seasons. That 2019 season saw Purdy throw over 3900 yards, 27 TDs, while rushing for another 249 yards and 8 scores.
Miraculously, these numbers only track to 24 FPG for Purdy. It’s late in the evening as I write this so I’m not even going to try to figure out the math behind that. Perhaps someone can point out the flaw in my calculation. The point is, Gordon’s last stop did not produce an elite (or even above average, for that matter) CFF asset at QB. I suppose that’s why he’s now at USF instead of the P5 (or maybe he just likes living in western central Florida, who knows, right?).
Gordon did have significant success as the QBs coach at Division II school Shepard (W.V.). In his first year as QBs coach, the Shepards (I don’t know if that’s there mascot name, I’m just rolling with it) broke the school record for points per game at 43.5. One of his QBs, Bobby Cooper, broke the single-game passing record for the school with 430 yards against Fairmont State. Cooper also just brought me my Uber Eats order of a smoked meat sandwich with extra pickles in record time.
Okay, that’s obviously not true, but it could be right? I can’t be the only one that wonders what happens to these standout Div. II/III players after they finish playing.
Aside from the unnecessary shot at Bobby Cooper at the end there, I’d say the copied text pretty much covers all the relevant details.
One thing I can add to the above discussion is the 2023 numbers. They simply confirm the narrative that has already been weaved throughout this article. Byrum Brown finished 2023 with 3292 passing yards, 26 TDs to 11 INTs, 809 rushing yards, and 11 rushing scores. He also fumbled a remarkably high amount of times with nine, but only lost five of those. The turnovers are a concern with his profile, but that’s where my optimism about his development in year two under Golesh comes in.
Article Coming Soon On USF WR
USF WR Sean Atkins has as good a chance of finishing as the WR1 in CFF next year as anyone. I have an article coming on him in the future.
I found it funny looking back at the old article and reading the closing thoughts, which I’ve copied over here:
As it is still early days in the offseason it’s too soon to make any wild declarations. I’ve given my thoughts on Brown, and I think this QB situation is worth monitoring. Even if Bohanon get’s the nod, Golesh’s track record with rushing QBs intrigues me. If you’re feeling frustrated by the conclusion of this article, I don’t blame you, as few (if any) immediately actionable insights have been provided. This is more of a ‘wait and see’ type of thing. Golesh has an opportunity to find himself on the prestigious All-VP Degenerates list this season, will he rise to the occasion? I have my assistant faxing him this article as we speak… fingers crossed.
My message must have reached Golesh’s office after all. And, to the delight of CFF players everywhere, Golesh found himself on the prestigious All-VP Degenerates list in 2023. I think a round of applause is in order. Champagne maybe? Let’s slow down. After all, Brown did fail to score more than 20 points vs. FAU—Fucking FAU?? Unexplainable, but we’re moving in the right direction at least, and that pleases me.
Anybody who knows my philosophy on drafting knows that I recommend that you not spend your first round pick on the QB position if you play in a regular CFF league. However, if you must defy my order, and select a QB anyways, because you simply can’t control yourself, you pleb, then Brown is a guy you should probably reach for first.*
*Just joking. Whatever strategy you have, that is fine.
If you enjoyed this content, I encourage you to join the Pig Pen (subscribing), and follow me on twitter.
Have questions? Find out what people are saying about VolumePigs here.
VolumePigs is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.