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UCF beats Memphis 62-55 Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel

Opinion: The Five Best Tight Ends in AAC History

Approaching a decade of existence, we’re looking back at the best players in AAC history. Next up, the tight ends.

The AAC is on its way to conference realignment a decade after the conference first came to be. It just so happened to also be born out of realignment. That makes this a great time to look back on the conference’s top talent. Next up are the tight ends. Unfortunately, they’ve largely been overshadowed by the top-tier wide receivers in the AAC’s history. Still, there are plenty of talented players to choose from here.

There is always room to debate these things, but here are the five best tight ends in AAC history.

5. Joey Magnifico-Memphis

Along with having a top-five name in conference history, Joey Magnifico is also one of the best tight ends in conference history. He wasn’t just a solid option through the air. He also excelled as a blocking tight end, busting holes open for Memphis’ explosive backs.

His best season statistically came as a junior in 2018, when he had 21 receptions for 363 yards and five touchdowns. Overall, Magnifico was a consistent receiving threat, with more than 20 receptions in three straight seasons.

On his career, Magnifico had 71 receptions for 1,063 and 12 touchdowns.

One of his best games came in 2017, his sophomore season. Memphis was playing UCLA when Magnifico had six catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. In his senior season, 2019, Magnifico matched that game with a six-catch and 87-yard game against Temple. In 2018, he even managed to have a two-touchdown game against SMU.

Joey Magnifico was Second Team All-AAC twice, in 2016 and 2017. The NFL never came calling for Magnifico, and he now coaches high school football at St. Benedict at Auburndale in Tennessee.

4. Jordan Akins-UCF

After spending time in the Texas Rangers minor league system, Jordan Akins went back to school to play tight end for UCF. It worked out for everyone involved. You could even say it was a home run.

2017 was by far Akins’ best season. That year he acted as a big-play threat from the tight end spot for UCF. He had 32 receptions for 515 yards and four touchdowns. His 16.1 yards per reception in 2017 was also good for 10th in the AAC.

On his career, Akins had 81 receptions for 1,149 yards and eight touchdowns.

As a senior in 2017, Akins had big games against SMU and Memphis. Against SMU he had five receptions for 62 yards. Then, against Memphis in the AAC Championship Game, he had four catches for 66 yards and a key early touchdown. However, 2015 was when Akins played his best individual game as a Knight. Against FIU, he had nine receptions for 104 yards and two touchdowns.

Jordan Akins was named First Team All-AAC in 2017. He was also named to the AAC Fifth Anniversary Team in 2018, primarily based on his 2017 season.

In 2018, Akins was drafted in the third round by the Houston Texans. Now a New York Giant, he has better than 100 NFL receptions and 1,200 yards.

3. Josiah Deguara-Cincinnati

Josiah Deguara was an incredibly important tight end on the Cincinnati Bearcats. In particular, Deguara was a key player in Cincinnati’s turnaround as a program under Luke Fickell, even though he was a Tommy Tuberville recruit.

Deguara fit well into the offense under Mike Denbrock’s offense. He also had a great connection and acted as a safety valve for a young Desmond Ridder. That’s a great combination to have for an experienced tight end.

In 2018, he had 38 receptions for 468 yards and five touchdowns. The next year, his senior season, he had 39 receptions for 504 yards and seven touchdowns. Those seven touchdowns in 2019 were also good for seventh in the conference that season.

On his career, Deguara had 92 receptions for 1,117 yards and 12 touchdowns. Most of that production was during his junior and senior seasons.

One of his best games came as a junior in 2018, against UConn, when five catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. In a big win over UCF in 2019, Deguara managed five catches for 64 yards.

Deguara was Second Team All-AAC in 2018. The next season, 2019, he was named First Team All-AAC.

Josiah Deguara was a third-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2020. In the 2021 season, he played in 16 games and scored twice.

2. Bryce Williams-ECU

A transfer from Marshall to ECU, Bryce Williams made his mark on the Pirates. He converted from wide receiver to tight end, largely due to his size at six-foot-six-inches and 268 pounds. Still, he was an excellent receiving threat in ECU’s passing attack.

In particular, Williams had a massive senior season, with 58 receptions for 583 yards and four touchdowns. Those 58 receptions were eighth in the AAC that season. Meanwhile, on his career, Williams had 96 receptions for 1,040 and 13 touchdowns.

As a senior in 2015, Williams had his best game against Florida, with nine catches for 83 yards and a score. The week after that he had a two-touchdown game against Navy.

Williams was Second Team All-AAC in 2014. In 2015, he was named First Team All-AAC.

In 2016, Williams signed as an undrafted free agent with the New England Patriots. From there he bounced around the NFL without making an active roster. The last team that he played for was the Arizona Hotshots of the AAF.

1. Mitchell Wilcox-USF

Mitchell Wilcox is the best tight end in AAC history, as he dominated at the position for USF over the years. Consistently playing over the course of his four seasons of eligibility, Wilcox was a great all-around tight end.

His best season came in 2018. That was his redshirt junior season, and he had 43 receptions for 540 yards and a couple of touchdowns. 2019 saw his highest production rate for touchdowns when he caught five.

On his career, Wilcox had 100 receptions for 1,326 yards and 11 touchdowns.

His most productive game came against Illinois in 2018, when he had eight catches for 109 yards. That season he also managed seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown. He also had a two-touchdown game as a senior in 2019 against South Carolina State.

In 2016, he was named to the Second Team All-AAC and snagged the first team spot in 2018.

Wilcox was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent following his time at USF. He has spent time on both the practice squad and active roster for Cincinnati.

Best of the Rest

  • Kylen Granson SMU: It was hard to leave Granson off this list. In his two seasons at SMU he put up massive numbers in Sonny Dykes’ system, but he just missed the cut overall.
  • Sean Dykes Memphis: Dykes played at least one game at Memphis from 2016-21. He also put up massive numbers in the latter half of his career.
  • Grant Calcaterra SMU: Calcaterra had a great season at SMU, but it was just the one season.
  • Michael Colubiale UCF: A great tight end who was overshadowed by Akins.
  • Josh Whyle Cincinnati: Whyle has done a great job taking the torch from Deguara.
  • Alan Cross Memphis: Before Dykes or Magnifico, there was Cross and he was a dominant force.
  • Tyler Kroft Rutgers: Kroft only played one year in the AAC, but it was a massive season, with 573 yards receiving.

Previous AAC Rankings

So, what do you think? Who should have made the list, but didn’t?

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