Skill positions get the glory, because they make the highlight reel plays. No one wants to watch the big men up front because it’s “boring.” When you have a good line, no one notices. When they’re bad, that’s pretty much all people talk about. The foundation of a good offense is the offensive line. Without them, nothing works. It doesn’t matter how good the players at the skill positions are. If you don’t win the battle in the trenches, you won’t win many games. The AAC has talent near the top, but lost a ton of talent. Expect a ton of competition on each team, but that should produce solid players.
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.
1. UCF: The skill position players get all the hype, but the Knights had three linemen make the All-AAC team last season and all three will return. Whoever wins the quarterback battle will have Jake Brown, Cole Schneider and Jordan Johnson to keep them upright.
2. Memphis: Trevon Tate and Drew Kyser are no longer with the program, but Dustin Woodard, a first teamer on the All-AAC team, headlines a group that finished fourth in the nation in total yards.
3. USF: The Bulls were one of the top run blocking groups in the conference, and that should be the case once again as the O-line is led by senior book ends Marcus Norman and Bill Atterbury.
4. Houston: The rushing numbers can be a bit skewed with a talent like D’Eriq King at quarterback, but the Coogs have the beef up front to wear down opponents. Josh Jones, Braylon Jones and Jarrid Williams, all entering their senior seasons, will have an opportunity to showcase themselves against Oklahoma in Week 1.
5. Temple: Jovahn Fair, Matt Hennessy and Vincent Picozzi give new head coach Rod Carey much-needed strength up the middle, but the question mark entering 2019 is whether or not unproven players can take over at both tackle positions.
6. Cincinnati: While they did lose Dino Boyd and Garrett Campbell, Morgan James and Chris Ferguson remain on the right side of the line. The rest of the group is inexperienced, but is made up of highly-touted recruits to make up for the losses.
7. Tulane: If the Green Wave’s offense is to thrive this year, they need to grow up on the line. John Leglue and Dominique Briggs are gone, bringing 63 career starts with them. Both played guard last year, so the middle needs two new faces. Corey Dublin started all 13 games at center and will be the leader this year. Brown transfer Christian Montano played center, but could help at one of the guard positions. There’s experience returning at both tackle positions as well.
Wait and See
8. ECU: Outside of Garrett McGhin, everyone returns on the line for the Pirates. McGhin started 34 career games, however, so a new leader must emerge. Left tackle D’Ante Smith and left guard Cortez Herrin started all 12 games last year, while six other players combined to start at right guard and center. ECU’s offense could be good, but their big men up front must be better.
9. UConn: The Huskies offense keeps losing players to transfer, which isn’t great considering how much they’ve lost already. Luckily, there’s not much to replace on the line. Matt Peart and his 46 career starts return at right tackle, and UConn brings back experience at the other positions. Cam DeGeorge (LG), Ryan Van DeMark (LT), and Nino Leone (RG) started every game last year, and bring back 57 career starts combine.
Room for Improvement
10. SMU: Just one starter returns that started all 12 games last year. Hayden Howerton returns at center, but there’s a ton of unknown outside of him. Columbia transfer Charlie Flores was brought in to help add some experience, but there will be competition at all four open positions.
11. Navy: Quarterback remains the biggest question on this offense, but it’s the only position where the starter is known. The Midshipmen must replace four starters on the line. Ford Higgins leads this group at center after starting all 13 games last year, but he needs help everywhere else.
12. Tulsa: Losing Chandler Miller and Tyler Bowling will be evident this year. The Golden Hurricane line could be good, but there will be uncertainty until we see it. Chris Ivy Jr. and Chris Paul showed potential, but there’s not much outside of those two.