If you haven’t noticed lately, we are a little excited about a potential college football video game coming back soon.
Earlier in the week, we released a piece on new the prestige rankings for every American Athletic Conference team in a potential new NCAA Football video game. A lot has changed in the sport in the years since we’ve been left without the game.
The AAC was in its inaugural season in NCAA Football 14. For those who don’t know, even though the title says 14, it represents the games played from August 2013 to January 2014. That means we have seen plenty of changes since. Louisville and Rutgers were playing out their final year in the AAC before moving to their current conferences. ECU, Tulane and Tulsa join the American the following year after leaving Conference USA, and Navy does so as well after always being an Independent.
Since the demise of the video game, there have been so many college football stars we never got the opportunity to play the game with. On a national level, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Kyler Murray are just some of the quarterbacks we missed out on. The list is pretty extensive on both sides of the ball. Saquon Barkley and Myles Garrett were both robbed of us as well.
So I asked myself, “what players inside the AAC have we been robbed of playing with?” The easiest answer is Ed Oliver, the highest-ranked recruit to join the conference and recent first-round pick by the Buffalo Bills. He also has not been the only player from the American to be selected in the first round since the game
I tried my best to leave out players who already made impacts in the previous game. An example would be Tyler Matakevich, one of the best the AAC has seen. You had your chance to play out his collegiate career. The point here is to name players who would have been some of the best in the game, but the game was not there for us.
That does not necessarily mean that if they were in the game, they do not make the cut. The AAC is still too new for us to eliminate all the freshmen that did not receive significant playing time until after the game disappeared. Greg Ward Jr. was electric for the Houston Cougars, and while he did see action in 2013 as a freshman, it wasn’t until his sophomore campaign that he truly made a name for himself. (Spoiler: Ward is an honorable mention at quarterback).
I will admit that it is rather difficult to figure out who some players are when names aren’t provided. NCAA Football 14 used a position and jersey number to identity players, but many change their number and position over the years so I did my best. Many of these picks were not easy, but this is our hypothetical All-AAC team.
Quarterback: Quinton Flowers (USF)
Honorable mention: McKenzie Milton, Greg Ward Jr. and D’Eriq King
This was a tough call between Flowers and Milton, but the edge goes to the former USF quarterback as his name is littered all over the AAC’s history books. He’s the all-time conference leader in total yards, rushing touchdowns and touchdowns responsible for, and ranks top five in passing touchdowns, rushing yards and passing efficiency rating. In a game where speed at quarterback is a valuable weapon, Flowers fits the mold we are looking for. Plus, if we are lucky enough for a game to be released in 2020, there is a chance we get the opportunity to play with Milton or King.
Running back: Darrell Henderson (Memphis)
Honorable mention: D’Angelo Brewer and Marlon Mack
Another difficult decision as Brewer is the leader in rushing yards, but Henderson edged him out in yards from scrimmage and total touchdowns in one less year of action. The do-it-all running back averaged over eight yards per touch in his collegiate career, while smashing the conference record for yards from scrimmage in a single season. He is only the fourth player in AAC history be named an All-American, and all this came with Patrick Taylor Jr. also on the roster. Give me Henderson in a video game and he easily becomes a Heisman candidate.
Fullback: Rob Ritrovato (Temple)
The fullback is a lost art in football, but the Owls found a back to grind out the tough yards when they needed them. Nicknamed “Nitro” by his peers, he averaged over four yards per touch in his career, including five touchdowns. The goal line FB dive would be unstoppable.
Wide Receivers: Zay Jones (ECU), Anthony Miller (Memphis) and Courtland Sutton (SMU)
Honorable mention: Trevon Brown, James Proche and Tre’Quan Smith
I’m including Jones in this list because even though he was on the 2013 roster, the game does not reflect it. Not only is Jones the all-time AAC leader in receptions, he is the NCAA’s career leader in receptions, and the competition behind him is not close. Jones has the record for just about every receiving stat in the conference, but Miller and Sutton are not far behind. With Jones’ hands, Miller’s speed and Sutton’s big-body presence in the red zone, this receiving corps would be impossible to stop.
Tight End: Mitchell Wilcox (USF)
Honorable mention: Jordan Akins
Wilcox has the size and speed to be a major threat in the passing game, and is coming off a season in which he outproduced Noah Fant, a first-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft. He is arguably one of the top returning tight ends in the nation and should be a major weapon for the Bulls again in 2019.
Offensive Line: Dion Dawkins (Temple), Tyler Bowling (Tulsa), Chandler Miller (Tulsa), Gabe Kuhn (Memphis), Evan Plagg (Tulsa)
Honorable mention: Leon Johnson, Adam West, Jordan Johnson, Trevon Tate, Kyle Friend
Offensive linemen do not get the glory, but if you have played NCAA Football 14 behind a bad offensive line, you better have a quarterback that can escape the pocket on a regular basis. While we do have that guy in Flowers, he would be unstoppable behind this group of men. Dawkins is the highest-drafted lineman in the history of the conference and an anchor for the Bills offensive line. The Tulsa trio paved the way for James Flanders, D’Angelo Brewer, Shamari Brooks and Corey Taylor to all make significant impacts. Kuhn was a part of an O-line that produce some of the most-prolific offenses in Memphis’ history, and is now a contributor here at Underdog Dynasty.
Defensive Line: Ed Oliver (Houston), Haason Reddick (Temple), Justin Lawler (SMU), Tanzel Smart (Tulane)
Honorable mention: Bruce Hector, Matt Ioannidis
Oliver is the most obvious selection after being the only player in conference history to make the All-American team twice. He’s the AAC’s all-time leader in tackles for loss, a number that could have been significantly higher if he was not double or triple-teamed on every play. Reddick, Lawler and Smart are all in the top-8 in tackles for loss, with Reddick and Lawler also ranking at the top in career sacks.
Linebackers: Shaquem Griffin (UCF), Steven Taylor (Houston), Auggie Sanchez (USF)
Honorable mention: Genard Avery, Junior Joseph, Curtis Akins, Micah Thomas,
Griffin was the AAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 and an All-American in 2017. Sanchez made the all-conference team three times, and is second in career tackles (386) in conference history. Taylor was a force his entire career with the Coogs, recording 26.5 sacks and 50 tackles for loss, four interceptions, seven forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
Cornerbacks: Jacoby Glenn (UCF), Parry Nickerson (Tulane) and Deatrick Nichols (USF)
Honorable mention: Jordan Wyatt, Mike Hughes, Shaquill Griffin, Howard Wilson, Donnie Lewis
Glenn was a two-time first-team all-conference selection and the 2014 AAC Defensive Player of the Year. Nickerson was the definition of a shutdown corner in his time at Tulane. His 16 interceptions is a conference record, and he only trails his former teammate Lewis in the number of passes defended. Nichols finished his collegiate career with 11 interceptions and 24 passes defended.
Safeties: Obi Melifonwu (UConn) and Sean Chandler (Temple)
Honorable mention: Delvon Randall
As a Temple alum, it was hard for me not to put both former Owls as the top safeties, but there is no denying that Melifonwu was a collegiate star. It has not necessarily translated to the next level for Melifonwu, but he significantly got better over the course of his college career, finishing as one of the top tacklers in the country his senior season. After that, it is a coin flip between Chandler and Randall.
Kicker: Jake Elliott (Memphis)
Elliott owns every kicking record in the conference and it’s not even close. He is first in total points, extra points and field goals, and has established himself as a solid NFL kicker since. He drilled a game-winning 61-yard field goal in only his second NFL game so if for some reason we need to kick a long one, Elliott is no-doubt our guy.
Punter: Spencer Smith (Memphis)
Not that we plan on punting often (if ever) in this video game, but when I force myself into fourth-and-38 because I tried too hard to make a play with Flowers, I might as well have the only three-time All-AAC punter on my team.
Returners: Tony Pollard (Memphis), Isaiah Wright (Temple)
Honorable mention: Mike Hughes
It’s a clean sweep of the special teams unit for the Tigers. Pollard was electric as a kickoff returner, finding the end zone seven times, tied for most in NCAA history. Pollard did not return punts so Wright gets the nod as the punt returner. Temple’s jack-of-all-trades is the AAC leader in punt returns for a touchdown with three, and has a kickoff return as well.
Head Coach: Mike Norvell (Memphis)
Honorable mention: Ken Niumatalolo, Josh Heupel, Charlie Strong, Tom Herman, Scott Frost
I gave strong consideration to Niumatalolo, the most experienced coach in the AAC that is also not recruiting on the same level as his counterparts. I’m just not running the triple-option in a video game. Norvell is the only coach in the conference to record four consecutive winning seasons and has been to back-to-back conference championship games.