AAC Preseason Position Reviews is back, and it’s finally time to turn our attention towards the beginning of college football. We start with the most talked about position in football: quarterback. The AAC is top heavy at this position, but there is a lot of potential elsewhere.
This conference also features five teams that saw their second string quarterback transfer, meaning that the health of their starter is even more vital for success. As we did last year, we broke up the conference into four groups: Elite, Second Tier, Wait and See, and Room for Improvement.
Room for Improvement: Your team can definitely get better. Even if your team has a returning starter, there’s still plenty of room for growth.
Wait and See: Most likely, your team is going through a transition to a new starter. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just means the new face has to prove themselves.
Second Tier: Good not great. The player isn’t elite yet, but may be right on the doorstep.
Elite: The best of the best. Most likely competing for an All-Conference spot. Also helps to have depth at the position.
1. UCF: McKenzie Milton stands alone as the best quarterback in the conference, and it’s not really a competition. The dual-threat junior threw for 3,795 yards with 35 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, while also adding 497 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. His production played a big role in the Knights national championship season. This year, he will need to stay healthy as Noah Vedral will no longer be an option as a backup (transfered to Nebraska). If Milton gets hurt, UCF quickly slides towards the bottom in the conference at this position.
2. SMU: If there’s anyone that wants to move on from the Mustangs last game, it’s Ben Hicks. SMU’s humiliating 51-10 loss was not the greatest start for the Sonny Dykes era, but 2018 will provide a fresh start for Hicks. The junior took great strides last year, increasing his touchdown passes by 13, while also reducing his interceptions by six from his freshman campaign. He’ll have a loaded backfield again this year, but he’ll need to find new playmakers at receiver after losing Trey Quinn and Courtland Sutton to the NFL.
3. Houston: D’Eriq King provided stability to a position that struggled mightily last year for the Cougars. His first start against USF showed how clutch he can be, and will now get a chance to play a full season at the position he came to Houston to play. Tennessee transfer Quinten Dormady will provide King with a good backup in case something happens.
4. Navy: Malcolm Perry, Zach Abey, and Garret Lewis all saw time at quarterback last year. So you could say they have options, but they’re going to need one of them to pass the ball. Just ask Bill Connelly. Perry will be the starter after exploding onto the scene last year, but needs to work on his passing. Abey has been listed as a wide receiver because of Lewis and the development of Dalen Morris, but don’t be surprised if they use him in short yardage packages. Lewis is the best passer, and did an admirable job against UCF last year. It never hurts to have some depth at quarterback, and the Midshipmen have plenty of options.
5. Tulane: Jonathan Banks is the biggest reason why the Green Wave offense had some life last year, and he returns. Going with the theme of the conference, his backup is also transferring. Jonathan Brantley took over when Banks was injured a few times last year, and the offense seemed to keep humming along. With Brantley gone, Banks needs to stay healthy, but shouldn’t have to worry about carrying the team with the weapons around him.
6. Temple: Another team that finally solved their questions at quarterback. Frank Nutile took over for Logan Marchi midseason, and gave the Owls a consistent threat at the position. Marchi has since transfered, so a new backup needs to emerge should Nutile go down. The Owls needed a big play quarterback with a good arm, and there won’t be any doubt about who the starter is this season.
Wait and See
7. Cincinnati: One more year of Hayden Moore should mean good things, right? While inconsistencies have been a concern, Moore has the most experience in the conference. Moore beat out Ross Trail, who has since transfered, and Torrance Gibson never panned out with the team. Now, it’s just Moore. The Bearcats are hoping a switch gets flipped in his final season.
8. USF: Let’s be clear: replacing a star like Quinton Flowers just doesn’t happen overnight. So while there may be some good talent competing to replace him, they won’t be stars right away. Brett Kean and Chris Oladokun have been competing for the starting job, and Alabama/Arizona State transfer Blake Barnett adds his name into the mix as well.
9. Memphis: Arizona State transfer Brady White and David Moore are competing for the chance to replace Riley Ferguson. Neither has seen much action in games, so it remains to be seen what they can do. Luckily, the winner steps into an offense that is loaded with talent.
Room for Improvement
10. Tulsa: Philip Montgomery finally figured out how to use Luke Skipper and Chad President last year, but the Golden Hurricane still finished 2-10. Neither one was very accurate passing, but Skipper was clearly better in that aspect. President is a good runner that is tough to take down. They’ll have their top two receivers back, which will ease some concerns.
11. UConn: David Pindell should be the starter, but the offense needs to be better. The competition for the backup spot appears to be the only battle, but you never know. The Huskies have a long way to go from last year.
12. ECU: The defense was supposed to be the only big concern this year, but Gardner Minshew’s transfer changed that. Now, incoming freshman Holton Ahlers could be the starter. Scottie Montgomery’s time may be running out.
Which team boasts the best quarterbacks?
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