When your team has a star, it’s easy to take them for granted. The provide your team with one position that you rarely have to worry about. However, reality sinks in quickly when their time is up in college. The AAC had it’s fair share of star players this year, and many of them either ran out of eligibility, or decided to turn pro early. Today, we take a look at the 10 toughest players to replace in the conference. Who else should be included in this list? Be sure to let us know!
Mazzi Wilkins, USF
McKinley Whitfield, S, Tulsa
Dredrick Snelson, WR, UCF
Tyre McCants, WR, USF
Ryquell Armstead, RB, Temple
Marquise Copeland, DT, Cincinnati
10. Ben Hicks, QB, SMU
Hicks isn’t the best player on this list, but he made the SMU offense tick. His 9,081 yards and 71 touchdowns will be missed by the Mustangs, and a new starter must be established. Former SMU head coach Chad Morris convinced Hicks to join him in Arkansas, where he will compete for an SEC starting position.
9. Kahlil Lewis, WR, Cincinnati
If Cincinnati needed a clutch play, Lewis was there. Finally given a solid quarterback, Lewis produced his best season of his career. Desmond Ridder knew where his safety net was at all times, and it was rare to see Lewis let him down. Cincinnati will have a tough time replacing his production and clutch play.
8. Donnie Lewis, CB, Tulane
Replacing Parry Nickerson, the best cornerback in the school’s history, wasn’t going to be an easy task. Lewis received proper preparation to take over in 2017, given that teams avoided Nickerson’s side frequently. He took his opportunity and turned it into a chance to be drafted in the NFL. Who replaces him? For a second consecutive season, the Green Wave must find a shutdown corner.
7. Titus Davis, DE, UCF
Shaquem Griffin gave Knights fans a superstar to cheer for on a weekly basis, and finding a replacement seemed impossible. Davis did everything in his power to take over Griffin’s role, and caused issues for opposing linemen. His explosiveness off the line resulted in 17 tackles for loss, and UCF must find another playmaker of his caliber in 2019.
6. Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple
Temple’s secondary continues to produce studs, and Rock Ya-Sin is the latest to emerge. NFL scouts are raving about his abilities and length after just one season with the Owls. At 6’2”, he gives an NFL team a big corner to compete with bigger receivers. AAC teams tested him frequently in 2018, and it didn’t end well for them.
5. Trevon Brown, WR, ECU
Brown was the definition of a go-to receiver for the Pirates this year. His 74 receptions put him first on the team, and no other receiver had more than 30. New head coach Mike Houston must find a new target for Holton Ahlers in 2019, and the offense’s success depends on it.
4. Cortez Broughton, Cincinnati
Expectations defensively for the Bearcats were sky high coming into 2018, and Broughton ensured they were met. Cincinnati’s defense, along with an improved offense, led them to an 11 win season. Broughton’s 18 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks led the team, meaning a new force up front needs to step up.
3. Delvon Randall, S, Temple
It seems that Randall led the Owls defense for a long time, and his tenure finally comes to an end. Temple’s star safety finished first or second in tackles the last three years as a starter. His flexibility at the position allowed Temple to move him around the field and make plays everywhere. His physicality should give him a good chance to make an NFL roster this fall, whether that’s stuffing the run or picking off passes. For Temple, they find themselves without a leader on the defense.
2. Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Henderson was the lifeline of Memphis’ offense this year, and was snubbed for the Doak Walker award. Teams schemed to limit Henderson’s damage, but the Tigers star frequently found ways to make big plays. Deciding to go pro early, Memphis turns to Patrick Taylor to take over for Henderson. Taylor’s predecessor was so special that it will be tough to replicate his explosiveness. It’s safe to say Henderson’s career 4,303 yards and 44 touchdowns will be noticeably absent next year in the AAC.
1. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
There shouldn’t be any debate about this one. Ed Oliver was the best player to play in this conference by a long shot. The Cougars star dominated every matchup he faced, and put up monster numbers in the process. Oliver announced before the season began that this year would be his last, but it’s tough to think we won’t see number 10 line up again for Houston. He finishes his collegiate career with 192 tackles, 53 tackles for loss, and 13.5 sacks. Projected to be a Top 5 pick, Oliver should continue his success in the NFL.