If you didn’t know or haven’t picked it up by now, offense will be the trend for this conference. The AAC is known for its offense, so there will be more offensive players in the Top 50. However, there are still a good amount of defensive players to watch as well. As we move lower on the list, the talent level rises, and the gap between players closes.
40. RB Corey Taylor II, Tulsa
We are grouping the two Tulsa natives together after ranking 35th in the country in rushing a season ago. The duo racked up 1,813 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground, and both were named to the 2019 Doak Walker Award Preseason Watch List.
Taylor, the bigger of the two backs at 5-foot-10 and 222 pounds, is coming off his first full season of action for Tulsa. He led the Golden Hurricane in touchdowns with 11, rushing for 846 yards on 4.8 yards per carry, while adding four receptions for 45 yards.
39. RB Shamari Brooks, Tulsa
Part 2 of the Tulsa duo gives the offense another weapon. In his second season as a starter, Brooks nearly rushed for 1,000 yards. Both Brooks and Taylor must work with a mostly new offensive line, but that’s the least of the offense’s concern at this point. They’ll do their job, but the passing attack needs to do its part.
38. OL Marcus Norman, USF
Norman enters his senior season as the leader of the Bulls offensive line with 34 career starts, and was named to the Outland Trophy Watch List for a second year in a row.
The right tackle helped pave the way for Jordan Cronkrite and Johnny Ford to both averaging over six yards per carry. USF rushed for 2,517 yards on the year, the fourth-most rushing yards in single-season school history.
The Sebastian, Fla. native failed to earn postseason accolades last season, but was second-team all-conference following the 2017 season. Norman, like several Bulls, is expected to draw NFL scouts this season.
37. TE Mitchell Wilcox, USF
Underrated not only on the conference, but on his own team. Wilcox emerged as a reliable threat as a receiver last year. In his first two seasons, he only caught 29 passes for 436 yards, but last year he caught 43 passes for 540 yards. With Blake Barnett looking for new receivers, Wilcox will be the primary target for the Bulls.
36. DE Kevin Mouhon, Cincinnati
With some major losses on the Bearcats defensive line, Mouhon’s return eases some of the concern. He started 12 games in 2017, but missed all of last season due to injury.
He’s returning for a sixth season and will need to get back to where he was before tearing his ACL in last year’s spring workouts. He was one of the top pass rushers in the conference his sophomore and junior seasons, posting 16.5 tackles for loss.
The former four-star prospect was expected to have a breakout season last year. The injury to his knee might limit him, but from what we’ve seen when on the field, he’s one of the top defensive ends in the AAC.
35. CB Cam Jefferies, Cincinnati
James Wiggins may get most of the attention for the Bearcats secondary, but Jefferies is a beast too. Cincinnati’s defense will thrive again this year thanks largely to an experienced secondary. The AAC is known for great receivers, so Jefferies and the Bearcats will see plenty of action this year. His two interceptions and 19 passes defended prove he can handle the pressure.
34. RB Darius Bradwell, Tulane
Bradwell bursted onto the scene as a junior, leading the team in touches, yards from scrimmage and touchdowns. Paired with fellow tailback Corey Dauphine, the running game had a lot to do with Tulane going bowling last season.
The MVP of the AutoNation Cure Bowl after scoring two touchdowns and rushing for 150 yards on a career-high 35 carries was spectacular for the Green Wave. He scored 11 touchdowns, including a seven-week stretch in which scored in every game.
The duo enter their senior seasons with high expectations as Tulane’s offense could be the most explosive it has been under Willie Fritz. With Justin McMillan at quarterback and two of the best receivers in the AAC, there should be plenty of running space for Bradwell to go over the 1,000-yard mark once again.
33. RB Jordan Cronkrite, USF
Cronkrite came from Florida looking for a chance to start. He found a spot with the Bulls, and hasn’t looked back. Cronkrite rushed for 1,121 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first year as a starter, proving he was ready for the task. Kerwin Bell’s offense should open up the field for the passing game, but that also helps their star running back too.
32. QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
There is no denying that Ridder looks the part as a starting quarterback. He has the size, speed and a cannon for an arm. What no one truly expected was him to lead the Bearcats to double-digit wins after starting the season as the backup.
He made a name for himself almost instantly, taking over for Hayden Moore in the opener against UCLA and mounting a 10-point comeback to get the upset win. From that point on, it was Ridder’s show to run. Ridder completed 62 percent of his passes, but what might be more impressive is his touchdown-to-turnover ratio. He had 20 touchdowns, while only throwing five interceptions. He also added 583 yards and five touchdowns rushing.
The schedule gets more difficult this season, but the Bearcats still have high expectations and that’s largely in part that they have their quarterback for the foreseeable future.
31. LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa
Cooper Edmiston receives a lot of attention for his production, but Collins can do the same. He’s gifted athletically, and has great size at 6’4”, 256 pounds. Oh, and he’s a sophomore, If he’s already made it this high on the list after just one season, imagine where he’ll be in the future. His first season of college football produced 85 tackles (9.5 for loss), and it will only get better from here.