We are back with another year of the AAC Preseason Position Previews. As always, we start with the quarterbacks. There’s only one elite option with a few solid players behind him. After that, there’s a ton of uncertainty at this position. This will still be a position to watch because there are eight quarterback battles to be solved.
Just like previous years, we break down the 12 teams into four categories: Elite, Second Tier, Wait and See, and Room for Improvement. Here’s a quick definition of each category.
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 position 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.
OTHER POSITIONS: RB, WR/TE, OL, DL, LB, DB, S/T
1. Houston: No one belongs in the same tier as D’Eriq King in this conference. Houston’s star accounted for 50 touchdowns last year, and deserves more respect than he’s getting. Competing for the backup position will be Clayton Tune and coach’s son Logan Holgorsen. If King shows that he’s completely recovered from his knee injury last year, it will be tough to stop him again in 2019. A tougher schedule awaits both King and the Cougars, so a decline in his production might be possible. Still, he’s the only one that belongs in this category.
2. Cincinnati: Desmond Ridder took over for Hayden Moore last year, and there was no looking back. Ridder was arguably the biggest surprise in the conference in 2018, and gives Cincinnati a weapon at quarterback. The dual threat produced 3,028 yards and 25 touchdowns last year, and should improve now that the job is his for good. He must find a new go-to target with Kahlil Lewis gone, but Ridder’s skills make that transition fairly easy.
3. Memphis: Brady White was granted two more years of eligibility, which gives the Tigers stability at this position. White eclipsed 3,000 yards passing and threw 26 touchdowns last year, but fans couldn’t seem to get behind him. He only passed for more than 300 yards twice last year, and did most of his damage against inferior opponents. Even with his inconsistencies, Memphis’ passing game remains a dangerous threat to opposing secondaries.
4. USF: A new offensive coordinator is just what this team needs. Blake Barnett struggled with injuries at times, but he was solid when on the field. Should he get injured again, the drop off will be even more than last year. USF needs him to limit his turnovers (11 interceptions to only 12 touchdown passes) while also staying healthy and preventing unnecessary hits running. Charlie Strong’s seat is hot, and his quarterback could have a big influence on his coach’s future.
Wait and See
5. UCF: Before everyone gets worked up, let’s clarify something. If McKenzie Milton was healthy for the season, he’d be in the Elite tier. Unfortunately for the Knights, he’s not, and the job is in limbo. Darriel Mack and Brandon Wimbush battle for the starting job, and neither will make fans feel as confident about their play like Milton. Both have decent potential and will be surrounded by weapons this year. All they really have to do is distribute the ball to them, and limit their mistakes. Until then, we will wait and see what happens.
6. SMU: Ben Hicks took his talents to Arkansas, leaving this position up in the air. William Brown appeared to be the heir to the position, but that changed when Texas transfer Shane Buchele came to town. Buchele at one point beat out Sam Ehlinger for the Longhorns starting job, so many think he’ll win this one. Sonny Dykes didn’t wait around to replace Hicks, and his options appear to be solid once again.
7. Temple: Anthony Russo is the incumbent starter after finishing out the season as the starter, but with a new coaching staff in place, there is no job security. Russo threw as many interceptions (14) as touchdowns last season, and his interception total was the most in the conference. Todd Centeio could push him for the starting gig.
8. Tulane: The switch to Justin McMillan in the middle of the season was the catalyst for the Green Wave to win five of their last six games. There is definitely room for improvement after completely just over 51 percent of his passes, but Tulane does enter the season with a clear starter and could be one of the fastest teams in the country.
9. Tulsa: One of the few quarterback battles to watch in the AAC will be between Seth Boomer and Zach Smith. Boomer played the last nine games for the Golden Hurricane a year ago, while Smith sat out the season after transferring from Baylor. Whoever wins the job has a daunting schedule awaiting them.
10. ECU: The Pirates believe they have their guy in Holton Ahlers, who led the team in rushing and passing last season. He’ll need to improve as a passer, however, after completing only 48 percent of his passes.
Room for Improvement
11. Navy: With Zach Abey and Garret Lewis no longer with the program, there is no choice but to go back to Malcolm Perry at quarterback. Perry was the starter to start last season with limited success before being moved to a slot back. Behind Perry are Dalen Morris, who played just six snaps last year, and Tyger Goslin, who has yet to see action in his collegiate career.
12. UConn: Your guess is as good mine as to who replaces David Pindell. Marvin Washington appeared in three games last year, completing just 9-of-24 passes. West Florida graduate transfer Mike Beaudry and Steven Krajewski will also be in the mix for the starting job, but it’s hard to imagine any replacing Pindell’s numbers from a year ago.