We’re only in the Top 30, but we’ve already reached some elite talent. Even on defense. You should also be able to tell which teams will be successful this year based on this Top 50. The more players you see from one team after this article, the better idea you’ll have of who will contend for the conference title.
30. S Gleson Sprewell, Houston
Sprewell came to Houston from the JUCO ranks, and found a spot on the field right away. When Garrett Davis went down with an injury against Texas Tech, Sprewell took over as the starter. Pairing Deontay Anderson and Sprewell together gives the Cougars a promising duo, and the defense and secondary should improve with them on the field.
29. OL Josh Jones, Houston
Jones has been as reliable as anyone for the Cougars. He returns with 36 games under his belt, and is arguably the best pass blocker in the conference. Like D’Eriq King, Jones will be under his fourth offensive coordinator this year, but that won’t slow him down. He’s one of the leaders on this team, and he’ll continue playing at a high level.
28. WR Gabriel Davis, UCF
Davis has fans talking about his NFL potential strictly based on his frame, but his play adds to their excitement. He led the Knights with 53 catches, 815 yards, and seven touchdowns last year, and can eclipse 1,000 yards this year. He gives Brandon Wimbush a reliable target downfield while the Notre Dame transfer gets comfortable with the offense.
UCF returns a ton of weapons at the offensive skill positions, but Davis arguably has the highest ceiling. His big frame and ability to make athletic catches makes him the toughest receiver to guard on the Knights offense. His catch against LSU in the Fiesta Bowl showed the nation what he can do.
27. QB Brady White, Memphis
Some believe Brady White has tremendous potential coming into this year. Others are hesitant to declare anything quite yet. White best games came against inferior competition last year. That’s evident in his stats in wins (267.4 ypg, 21 TD - 4 INT) and losses (192.8, 5-5). Luckily for him, it’s just one step he needs to take.
White’s a capable quarterback who’s proven to be a solid passer. Now he has one full year of games under his belt, and there’s a ton of talent returning on offense. If he can develop like some believe, he’ll be one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. We just need to see it first.
26. DE Quincy Roche, Temple
Temple’s been producing elite defensive players in this conference, and Roche is just the latest player to join the ranks. He finished last year with 57 tackles, 9.0 for loss, and 5.0 sacks. The Owls defense has carried the team while the offense figures things out, and this year coul be the same. Roche gives them a leader who can keep their success going, and All-Conference honors are a possibilty at the end of the year.
25. DE Isaiah Chambers, Houston
If Chambers played a full year last year, he’d be much higher than this. An injury cost him most of last season, but he made an impact in the four games he played. He produced six tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in those games. Staying healthy will be the key for this explosive defensive end. Even with all of the competition Dana Holgorsen brought in, there’s no reason why he won’t start and be an All-Conference talent this year.
24. LB Perry Young, Cincinnati
Just one year after producing 101 tackles, Young struggled to stay on the field. He only appeared in eight games last year, but he’s still one of the best players in the conference. Young enters his senior year with something to prove, and we know what he’s capable of in terms of production. Cincinnati’s defense won’t take a step back because they return leadership like Young this season.
23. LB Shaun Bradley, Temple
Defense has been Temple’s strength the last few years, and Bradley’s a big reason why. He’ll lead a solid front seven while the secondary recovers from the losses of Delvon Randall and Rock Ya-Sin to the NFL. His 78 total tackles were second on the team to Randall, as were his solo tackles (51). With a new coaching staff coming to campus and an offense that needs to find playmakers, Bradley and the defense will steady the ship early this year.
22. RB Adrian Killins, UCF
He’s the fastest player in the country, but the Knights need to find more ways to get the ball in his hands. Killins is electric in the open field, and it doesn’t take much to get him in the end zone. He wasn’t as efficient running the ball this year (75 less yards on 24 more carries), but he found ways to torch defenses elsewhere.
With the emergence of Greg McCrae, there were less carries to go around. Killins and Otis Anderson both lost carries as a result. Killins also had less catches last year, but became more efficient. With his 19 catches, he produced 377 yards and four touchdowns (both career highs). He has Top 10 talent, but his stats need to reflect that.
21. LB/DE Bryce Huff, Memphis
One of the biggest concerns last year was who would replace Genard Avery and his production. Huff wasted no time providing a solution. He didn’t make a ton of tackles (49), but the ones he did make were impactful. He recorded 19.0 tackles for loss, just three shy of Avery’s number in 2017. Huff’s a threat in the opponent’s backfield every play, and he’s a big reason the Tigers will improve defensively this year.