Case Keenum seemed like he was at Houston forever while he set all those NCAA passing records.
Keenum played in five seasons, getting a medical redshirt after tearing an ACL early in 2010. He finally finished his college career last season by becoming the first FBS quarterback with three 5,000-yard passing seasons, throwing for 5,631 yards and 48 touchdowns as the Cougars won 13 games.
Conference USA had five 3,000-yard passers last season, but all of them are gone - Keenum, Austin Davis at Southern Miss, Tulsa's G.J. Kinne, East Carolina's Dominique Davis and SMU's J.J. McDermott.
That means a lot of new names this season at the most visible position. A year after a season dominated by quarterbacks, the only signal-caller to attend C-USA media day this time was UTEP's Nick Lamaison, an eight-game starter in 2011.
"We may not know their names now, but I bet by next season you will see some quarterbacks here,'' Rice coach David Baliff said. "Some of those guys really rise up and make a difference for the program. Just the parity in Conference USA, it's going to boil down to who can take care of the football, who can make the big plays and who can tackle.''
SMU, Houston, Central Florida and Memphis are in their final C-USA seasons before moving to the Big East. They will be replaced next season by North Texas, Louisiana Tech, Florida International and Texas-San Antonio.
While losing the most prolific passer, Houston may also have the most ready replacement.
When Keenum got hurt two years ago, David Piland was a true freshman who threw for 2,641 yards and 24 touchdowns in eight games. The Cougars redshirted him last year preparing for post-Keenum.
"I told him this word for word - Case Keenum, I physically saw him months earlier leave the locker room after he was done playing and he took his shoes with him,'' said Cougars coach Tony Levine, one of C-USA's five new head coaches. "There are no shoes to fill for David Piland. He's got his own shoes, he wears a different size. He's young, but he does have eight games of starting experience under his belt.''
A look at C-USA:
Notes: Won four of last five games last season, including a bowl victory over future C-USA foe Florida International. ... Four of their wins were by six points or less, and another was a seven-point overtime victory. ... Cato threw for 2,059 yards with 15 touchdowns as a freshman last season. ... Among six departed defensive starters are all three linebackers.
Notes: Set school record with 12 wins last season, winning the C-USA title with 49-28 victory over previously undefeated Houston in league championship game. It was their fifth conference title, but first since league went to divisional play in 2005. ... New coach Ellis Johnson was Southern Miss defensive coordinator in 1988-89 and head coach at his alma mater, The Citadel, from 2001-03. ... Lampley is an all-purpose player who ran 91 times and caught 47 passes last season.
Notes: Return top three rushers from last season, all who rushed for more than 400 yards. ... The Knights have played in three of the seven C-USA championship games. They have also had three losing seasons in that same span, including last year's 5-7 with a three-game losing streak in November. ... Worton had 41 catches last season, a school record for freshmen.