One Breakout Offensive Player from Each FBS Conference

As the dog days of summer blaze on and a new season approaches, we look at the breakout candidates in each conference:

American: WR Jadon Thompson, Cincinnati

The 2019 4-star recruit flashed in his limited opportunities last season, catching 14 passes for 208 yards. A great route runner and play maker after the catch, look for Thompson to improve these numbers, as he rises up the depth chart and continues to add size.

ACC: RB Malachi Thomas, Virginia Tech

Thomas only received a heavy workload in two games last year but made the most of them, rushing for a combined 254 yards against Syracuse and Georgia Tech. The explosive back appears to be number one on the depth chart after spring camp.

Big Ten: OT Jack Nelson, Wisconsin

Wisconsin is known as one of the biggest offensive line factories in the country and Nelson may very well be the next prized product. At guard, he earned all-conference honorable mention last season, starting all 13 games. However, Nelson will likely slide into the tackle spot next season, his most natural position that earned him a first round projection out of high school by some.

Big 12: WR Theo Wease, Oklahoma

The one thing we know is this man has talent. Wease was a Top 10 recruit in the country, but played sparingly in his first few years before suffering a season-ending injury in 2021. Now, the senior wideout is projected to start. His frame and ability to win jump balls aligns very well with the playing style of quarterback Dillon Gabriel.

Conference USA: RB Lexington “Flex” Joseph, FIU

We saw what Joseph was capable of in the last game of the season, where he turned his first career start into 105 yard performance, and earned his first career touchdown. FIU’s offense is largely predicated on utilizing backs in the passing game as well. As a returner, receiver, and ball carrier, Flex has untapped NFL potential.

MAC: QB Dequan Finn, Toledo

In 2021, Finn’s third full year in the Toledo program, he was extremely efficient, causing his snap count to increase down the stretch. Although he was occasionally inaccurate, he finished the season with 12 touchdowns and just one interception. Carter Bradley, who split time at quarterback last season, has transferred out, so it is now entirely Finn’s team.

Mountain West: TE Sam Olson, San Jose State

Tight ends are a staple in a San Jose State offense and Olson is expected to step into the starting role. He is slightly undersized for the position but plenty explosive. In his first two seasons, Olson has ran 73 routes and 174 yards (2.38 Y/RR), adding 2 touchdowns.

Pac-12: WR Lincoln Victor, Washington State

Naturally, Victor is an underdog. The 5’9″ athlete was unranked out of high school and attended Hawaii as a walk-on. After transferring to Washington State, Victor was put on scholarship this offseason. He is primed to see playing time as a slot receiver, after the two in front of him on the depth chart graduated. Victor 296 yard, two touchdown season.

SEC: OT Kilian Zierer, Auburn

Zierer seemingly won the left tackle job this spring and is on the radar of NFL scouts. At 6’7″, 312 pounds, he aligns perfectly with some of the top drafted tackles this past April. In three starts last season, he allowed just six pressures and zero sacks.

Sun Belt: RB Marco Lee, South Alabama

Lee played very sparingly at Virginia Tech, but transfers to the Group of Five this offseason in hopes of greater opportunities. He has the chance to earn the lead role in a wide open backfield. Although leading rusher Terrion Avery returns, he struggled mightily last season in a ground game that averaged merely 3.0 yards per carry.

Independents: RB Jackson McChesney, BYU

McChesney fills in the shoes of the great all-purpose back, Tyler Allgeier. The implication is that the Cougars will start with a running back by committee, but don’t be surprised to see McChesney take over. Like Allgeier, he has the ability to gain tough yards, can be used in the read option, and is a capable pass catcher. McChesney has averaged 7.8 yards per carry over the course of his career.