When spring practice begins, it represents position battles among relatively new faces. It also means that experienced players inherit new roles. The AAC West returns a plethora of experience, and there are many names to watch. After taking a look at the storylines to watch in the West, we pick out a player from each team that you should watch during spring ball.
Houston: LB Leroy Godfrey
Godfrey returns to the Cougars defense with experience, but faces a new challenge. New defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen brings a new scheme to H-Town, which warrants a change for Godfrey. He played outside linebacker last year, but will have to slide inside if he wants to continue to be a linebacker in 2019. Cauthen retains a solid leader on a defense that needs new ones, and Godfrey provides a skillset that can make him successful on the inside. Whether he plays there or not remains to be seen, but it’s safe to say that he will be on the field one way or another.
Memphis: LB Austin Hall
Entering his senior season, Hall comes in as a veteran with 37 games of experience. After following players like Curtis Akins and Genard Avery, Hall is one of the leaders of a defense that needs to improve. He’s a playmaker with the speed to cover a receiver and power to take on blocks. There aren’t many openings in the Tigers defense, but Hall can become one of the leaders in his final season. Memphis is poised to make another run at a conference title, but needs a better defense to make that happen.
SMU: RB Xavier Jones/Ke’Mon Freeman
Braeden West is gone, but the backfield remains crowded. After splitting reps three ways, Jones and Freeman now divide the load by just two. Both are hoping they can bounce back after down years in 2018. Freeman’s production has declined every year, and Jones went from 1,000 yard rusher to rushing for just 311 yards in one year. SMU’s passing attack appears to be in good hands under Sonny Dykes, but these two determine how balanced the offense will be. If either can get back to their normal form, the Mustangs are going to score a ton of points.
Tulsa: QB Seth Boomer
Luke Skipper began the season as the starting quarterback, but Boomer took over when he struggled. Tulsa’s offense relied heavily on their running backs because quarterback play was wildly inconsistent. Boomer showed some flashes, but not enough to scare defenses. He must prove that he can be reliable, and do so without his two best receivers from last year.
Tulane: WR Jalen McClesky
The Oklahoma State transfer brings another weapon for the offense to utilize in both the run and pass games. McClesky’s speed needs to be accounted for at all times, which could open up the field for Justin McMillan. It’s crazy to think that this offense was predominately a run heavy offense just a few years ago, and now their passing attack is dangerous. McClesky helps the Green Wave continue that balance attack.
Navy: QB Malcolm Perry
All of the cliche’s about short quarterbacks are true with Perry. Navy’s offense struggled last year, and their quarterback did as well. Perry eventually was benched, but has been given new life. Two years ago, he exploded onto the scene in place of Zach Abey, but he couldn’t rekindle that fire last year. Now, he’s given a chance to redeem himself, and hopefully Navy’s offense as well.