BYU, Liberty and New Mexico State have all put their independent status in the rear-view mirror, leaving just 4 schools out of 133 FBS members to NOT be associated with a conference.
The Cougars join the Big 12 while the Flames and Aggies move into Conference USA
Only Notre Dame, Army, UConn and UMass remain unaligned and it will likely be a short period of time before the Huskies and Minutemen will gain access to either the American or Conference USA. The Black Knights may be able to survive without following suit, and Notre Dame certainly has the branding and lucrative deals to continue to be self-sufficient.
The expansion of the college football playoff, however, puts even more emphasis on conference tie-ins. That may ultimately be the straw that breaks the camel's back and compels Notre Dame to either become a member of the ACC in all sports, or defect to the B1G.
Mock drafts have been around along time. These days, just about everyone considers themselves to be an NFL Draft expert. Thus, it shouldn't be too surprising that opinions on who's going when and where seem to change day-by-day if not hour-by-hour. Here's what we know about the prospects and eligible players from the four major independent teams.
NOTRE DAME: Tight end Michael Mayer is the top Notre Dame player available in this years draft, to be held at the end of April. He is the only consensus first-round pick, while safety Brandon Joseph and edge rusher Isaiah Foskey are expected to go in the 2nd or 3rd round.
Check out the complete list of Notre Dame players who have declared for the 2023 NFL draft.
Mayer caught 67 passes for 809 yards and 9 touchdowns last fall as a junior, which means he declared with two years of eligibility remaining.
Dalton Kincaid is the only player at the same position that is expected to go higher than Mayer. The 5th-year senior from Utah had similar stats with 70 receptions for 890 yards and 8 TD's. As of April 18, Mel Kiper, Jr. had Kincaid as the 15th over-all pick and headed to the Green Bay Packers. He had Mayer at No. 26 to Dallas.
ARMY: Only two players from Army have been taken in the NFL draft in the post-merger era and both went in the 7th round - Ronnie McAda in 1997 and Caleb Campbell in 2008. But a waiver law signed earlier this year as part of the over-all military budget bill will allow graduating Army outside linebacker Andre Carter II to defer his military service. In fact, players from the academies have actually been allowed to do so since 2019.which is why Carter didn't transfer when plenty of Power 5 schools would have likely scooped him up.
At one point, Carter was seen as a possible 1st-round selection on some mock draft boards, but now is largely slated as a Day 3 pick which would put him the 4th-7th rounds.
No Army player has been drafted higher than the 7th round since Hank Foldberg went to Washington in the 5th round in 1947.
Navy had 3 players selected between 2015 and 2020. The latest was QB Malcolm Perry by Miami in the 7th round. He played a year for the Dolphins, a year for the Patriots, and then retired from football to began his service in 2022.
Air Force defensive end Jordan Jackson was taken in the 6th round last round by New Orleans. He was subsequently waived and just signed a futures contract with Denver in January.
CONNECTICUT: Offensive Lineman Jake Guidone and LB Ian Swenson are two UConn football players who hope to get drafted in April. Also eligible are DB Tre Wortham and LB Brandon Bouyer-Randle.
All four independent programs retain their respective head coach from a year ago..
Marcus Freeman, Notre Dame - Freeman was 9-4 in his first season. Brian Kelly was 8-5 in his first two seasons.
Jerry Kill, New Mexico State - Kill got his first bowl win as a head coach in his first season at the school. Kill was 0-2 in bowl games with Northern Illinois and 0-3 with Minnesota. He led NMSU to only its third winning season in this century and more wins in 13 games than the school had enjoyed in its previous 42 games (3-1/2 seasons)
Jim L. Mora, UConn - Mora's first season was a success, which says a lot about how bad UConn football has been for awhile. The Huskies went 6-6 in the regular season, but lost to Marshall in the Myrtle Beach Bowl to finish with an 11th straight losing campaign.
Don Brown, UMass - Don Brown was just 1-11 in his first season since reclaiming the head coaching duties in Amherst. He was 43-19 in his first stint from 2004-2008 when UMass was in the FCS and his 2006 team went to the NCAA Championship game, losing 28-17 to Appalachian State.
9/2 at Louisiana-Monroe
9/9 Delaware State (FCS)
9/15 at UTSA
9/23 at Syracuse
10/7 Boston College
10/21 at LSU
11/4 Air Force (Denver)
11/11 Holy Cross (FCS)
11/18 Coastal Carolina
12/9 Navy (Foxborough, MA)
NOTES: The schedule has a little bit of everything, from two FCS teams (Delaware State and Holy Cross) to a trio of Power 5 schools (Syracuse, Boston College, LSU), and 4 very tough Group of 5 teams (UTSA, Troy, Air Force and Coastal Carolina). This is the 8th time in the last 10 seasons that Army has scheduled more than one FCS team.
9/2 NC State
9/9 at Georgia State
9/30 Utah State
10/7 at Rice
10/28 at Boston College
11/4 at Tennessee
11/11 at James Madison
11/18 Sacred Heart (FCS)
11/25 UMass (site to be announced)
NOTES: Building on last year's success could be difficult with this slate. It's interesting that the Huskies get a pair of ACC teams (NC State, Duke) to come to their place, but that doesn't make them winnable games. None of the road trips will be easy, either. The location of the game against UMass wasn't know at press time, but we'll put that one in the win column along with Sacred Heart at home. That's it. An 0-10 start and a 2-0 finish is a distinct possibility. The high side would be 5-7 if we add home wins over FIU and USF, and a road victory at George State.
8/26 at New Mexico State
9/2 at Auburn
9/9 Miami (O)
9/16 at Eastern Michigan
9/23 New Mexico
9/30 Arkansas State
10/14 at Penn State
10/28 at Army West Point
11/4 Merrimack (FCS)
11/18 at Liberty
11/25 Connecticut (site to be announced)
NOTES: The Minutemen are 3-37 over the last four seasons, and just 21-103 since moving up to the FBS in 2012.The schedule in 2023 offers only FCS member Merrimack as a better than 50% chance for a victory.
8/26 Navy (at Dublin, Ireland)
9/2 Tennessee State (FCS)
9/9 at NC State
9/16 Central Michigan
9/23 Ohio State
9/30 at Duke
10/7 at Louisville
11/4 at Clemson
11/18 Wake Forest
11/25 at Stanford
NOTES: Notre Dame's game against Tennessee State on September 2 will be the first time since 1941 (Carnegie Tech) that the Irish have played a school in a lower division. Tennessee State is in the FCS, or what used to be known as 1-AA.