Moving on is tough, and replacing someone who was so special to your team is even more difficult. The AAC saw a ton of stars emerge during the 2017 season, and many of them are out of eligibility or have decided to turn pro. That means someone has to take their place, and also means they have big shoes to fill. I think many of us took some of these players for granted while they were playing, but their absence in 2018 will be extremely noticeable. Who are the 10 toughest players to replace? Find out here.
1. Quinton Flowers, QB, USF
Flowers is by far the most difficult player to replace. The Bulls offense will miss their star, who gave them plenty of memories. Charlie Strong has to find a new quarterback, where the production is guaranteed to decrease, and hope his playcalling improves on that side of the ball as well. Flowers finished this year with 3,989 total yards and 36 touchdown, giving him 11,796 total yards and 112 touchdowns for his career. Good luck matching that.
2. Shaquem Griffin, LB, UCF
Someone may replace Griffin’s production in terms of statistics, but the intangibles he brought to the Knights defense are nearly impossible to replace. Griffin’s motor is something that isn’t seen outside of Ed Oliver, and he has a knack for making big plays. The former AAC Defensive Player of the Year was a special talent, and the defense will miss him. If the Knights are going to make a run again in 2018, the defense will need another star like Griffin to emerge.
3. Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
Miller had his best season in 2017, and had 60 more catches than the next leading receiver on his team. That’s not by mistake. Miller was, by far, the most talented receiver on his team, and he was targeted often because of it. Miller finishes with 238 catches for 3,590 yards and 31 touchdowns in his career. Miller’s an elite talent that won’t be replaced in 2018 with one person, and some of his attributes simply can’t be reproduced. His ability to make difficult and spectacular catches will be missed, though Tony Pollard and Damonte Coxie have shown flashes of potential. Still, Miller’s absence will be noticeable, and the Tigers new quarterback will have to find a new #1 target.
4. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Given his size (6’4”, 216 pounds), it was already difficult to miss Sutton on the field, but his production also predicated double teams frequently. He did his best to work through that adversity, and still eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving this year. Having Trey Quinn this year also was helpful. Sutton could become a great receiver in the NFL, but his departure (along with Quinn’s) gives the Mustangs a big problem offensively.
5. Trey Quinn, WR, SMU
Quinn and Sutton are a package deal, and new coach Sonny Dykes has the unenviable task of trying to replace both this year. Not only did Quinn lead the nation in receptions, but he took away some of the pressure from Sutton’s side of the field. Now, they’re both gone. That production won’t be replaced with two new faces, and James Proche will need a ton of help as the leading returning receiver.
6. Riley Ferguson, QB, Memphis
While the Tigers quarterback situation now appears to be in better hands than it was at the end of the season, Ferguson leaves a big hole at an important position. The former JUCO trasnfer threw 7,955 yards and 70 touchdowns in his two years at Memphis when he took over for Paxton Lynch. Memphis has a few quarterbacks to compete for the job, such as Brady McBride and Connor Adair and Arizona State transfer Brady White, so they have options. Will one of them be the next Ferguson or Lynch? Their success in 2018 depends on the winner’s development.
7. Auggie Sanchez, LB, USF
The Bulls not only lose their leader on offense, but also on their defense. Sanchez didn’t eclipse 100 tackles like he did in 2016, but he made up for it in other ways. The captain of the defense finished with a career high in tackles for loss (10.5) and intercepted two pass which he returned for touchdowns. Bulls fans should have faith that Charlie Strong can find a partner for Nico Sawtelle in 2018, but they will also miss having Sanchez around.
8. D’Angelo Brewer, RB, Tulsa
Tulsa may have a replacement at running back in Shamari Brooks, but you can’t discount how valuable Brewer was to the Golden Hurricane attack. With a limited passing attack for most of the year, Brewer battled through injuries and 8+ man boxes on his way to 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns. Now, he’s gone, Brooks is recovering from a broken leg, and Tulsa is trying to move on from a 2-10 campaign. Imagine how bad it would have been without Brewer.
9. Sean Chandler, S, Temple
For a while, Chandler and Delvon Randall seemed to be the only two defensive players making plays on a consistent basis. Temple’s defense was in trouble, and couldn’t stop anyone. Something clicked in the second half, and the Owls’ safeties were still productive but carried less weight. Now, Chandler is gone. Randall is left to find a partner and Chandler could be one of the top safeties taken in this year’s NFL Draft. Temple can’t afford to start out slow again, and Randall better hope that Chandler’s replacement can handle to pressure of playing opposite of him.
10. Tre’Quan Smith, WR, UCF
Smith’s speed and hands will be tough to replace, but the offense should be able to excel in 2018 without him. That doesn’t diminish his abilities, but is why he’s lower on the list. Losing Jordan Akins will hurt as well, but players like Dredrick Snelson and Otis Anderson will help the transition on the perimeter. Smith averaged 19.8 yards per reception, and the Knights may not have another player like him this year to replicate that production.
Honorable Mention: Dontrell Hilliard- Tulane, D.J. Palmore- Navy, Micah Thomas- Navy, Jordan Akins- UCF, Steven Dunbar- Houston, Linell Bonner- Houston, Gabe Kuhn- Memphis, Evan Plagg- Tulsa, Chris High- Navy, Justin Lawler- SMU, Mike Hughes- UCF, Parry Nickerson- Tulane