The American has received national attention through national awards such as Tyler Matakevich winning the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award following a fantastic senior year. Oh, and Temple did the conference another huge favor by snagging national TV exposure and turning Philly into a college football town for one weekend when Notre Dame came to town on Halloween.
The team really leading the way and the favorite for recruits has been Houston. They capped off their season by forcing 5 Florida State turnovers and holding previous Heisman candidate Dalvin Cook to only 33 yards. Others in the conference are hoping that Temple and Houston's success will provide a trickle-down effect for the rest of the conference.
Here are the rankings so far in the American Athletic Conference:
(UPDATED: 11:45 CST to reflect new class signings)
1. University of Houston (same)
Paul Wall is the "People's Champ" and so are the Cougars in Houston. Coach Tom Herman's grill was probably one of the best moves he could have made to show that he isn't a typical humorless psychopathic college football coach (see: Nick Saban). Leading their recruiting class according to 247 Sports is a 6-2, 277-pounder Ed Oliver out of Westfield locally in Houston. Oliver could have gone anywhere as a 5-star recruit. He had offer letters from LSU, Alabama, TCU, Oklahoma, and the list keeps going with a who's who of college football powerhouses. If Houston keeps snagging recruits from other schools in Texas, Tom Herman might not need to look anywhere else to chase National Championships. Coach Tom is excited...
2. Memphis Tigers (⇧ +1)
The Memphis Tigers started last season strong, but fizzled out when the season started to have any kind of post-season consequences. Head Coach Justin Fuente headed to Blacksburg and Memphis hired former Arizona State Offensive Coordinator Mike Norvell for this year. Usually coaching changes make a huge impact on the recruiting trail, but Memphis seems to be holding steady. Norvell is only 34-years-old and has legitimate recent playing experience to go along with his fast ascend amongst the coaching ranks. Memphis has unable to secure any commitments from any 5 or 4 star recruits thus far, but for a team going through a coaching change they've help up well. Leading their class is Coffeyville C.C. transfer Riley Ferguson. Since Paxton Lynch decided to skip his senior season for the NFL Draft, they're going to need some quarterback help from Ferguson right away. Coach Norvell even call on Big Snoop!
Memphis Football feeling like.... pic.twitter.com/WHdkp0FQUW— Mike Norvell (@Coach_Norvell) January 31, 2016
3. South Florida Bulls (⇩ -1)
The South Florida Bulls are well behind Houston in the AAC, but in talent-rich Florida recruiting can be challenging much like it is in Texas. With recruits already growing up watching the success of Florida State and Florida it has to be tough to pry them away from those schools. Also, Alabama and Georgia are within driving distance for most of the highly-touted recruits that USF may be after. Leading this class is 6-3, 210-pounder Darnell Salomon. He's got a great frame for a receiver just out of high school and they got him to commit to USF even though he went to high school right in Miami's backyard. USF is doing a great job announcing their commits by the way.
4. UCF Golden Knights (⇧ +8)
The UCF Knights were completely devastated by the prompt (selfish?) departure of George O'Leary last season after an 0-8 start. Well UCF was able to recover well with a sexy hiring. First year coach Scott Frost came over from Oregon and should inject some energy into the program. There have also been leadership changes within the athletic department tied to O'Leary's retirement, which may prove to be fruitful as Frost gets his feet wet. Their solid recruiting class is led by Trinity Valley C.C. transfer Christian Beard. At 6-3 and 270-lbs he should have an immediate impact to help Frost's offense fire on all cylinders.
5. Southern Methodist Mustangs (⇩ -1)
SMU? What? THIS SMU?! Yep, that SMU. This bodes very well for this struggling program. This means that recruits are buying into Chad Morris' philosophies and like the direction the program is taking. After this last season I thought it would be pretty tough to keep even 3-star recruits on board, especially in Texas. Leading this class is 6-1, 230-pounder OLB Jordan Carmouche. Carmouche played ball at Manvel H.S. just south of Houston and had offers from pretty much everybody. He'll need to have an impact right away as SMU finished last season ranked 119th in total defense.
6. Temple Owls (⇩ -1)
Temple's ranking surprised me considering the success they enjoyed last season. Even though their campus is in a major metropolitan city with seemingly endless events and experiences for athletes to enjoy outside of football, they still struggle when it comes to recruiting. But as we learned last year, sometimes that doesn't matter. Especially since Matt Rhule has decided to stay on as the Owl's headcoach after flirting with a few vacancies last season. Leading this recruiting class is 6-4, 221-pounder Anthony Russo. Russo is a big pro-style quarterback out of Warminster, PA that was looking real hard at LSU before finally committing to Temple in the middle of January. Rhule likes Lil' Wayne?
Russo to Wright! Just came through!!!! pic.twitter.com/IIsTP5PeDM— Matt Rhule (@CoachMattRhule) February 3, 2016
7. East Carolina Pirates (⇧ +3)
Ahh Ruffin. After McNeill was fired last season there was significant protest. This season will answer serious questions that fans had as to why such a beloved coach was kicked to the curb when ECU really only had one down year under his leadership. Now with Scottie Montgomery at the helm, Pirate fans have to hope that this move was the right one, because there are still big McNeill fans that will be ready to say,"I told you so." Leading ECU's recruiting class is Saluda, SC native Cortez Herrin. The 6-4, 320-pounder has the size to start right away, but obviously will have to push hard early with a new system under a new coach to have any impact.
8. Cincinatti Bearcats (⇩ -2)
Cincinatti was in the conversation as an AAC Championship competitor until getting utterly destroyed by USF, 65-27 late in the season. Offensive lineman Zach Bycznski leads the 2016 group of commits.
9. Navy Midshipmen (⇩ -2)
After flirting with BYU last season Ken decided to stick around and grind it out with a service academy in the foreseeable future. This was huge for Navy because Ken has been so successful recently, especially with Keenan Reynolds running through every team they've faced. Now with Reynolds gone, Ken will face a significant challenge replacing that caliber of player. Leading Navy's class is nationally ranked DT Joe Goff. At 6-5 and 265 lbs. he'll help shore things up on the defensive side of the football.
10. Tulane Green Wave (⇩ -1)
Tulane has Georgia Southern's Willie Fritz walking the sidelines after finishing with a 17-7 record at his former head coaching position. Green Wave fans are hoping that this year's recruiting class will help end the misery. Leading this year's class of recruits is 5-11, 175-lb cornerback P.J. Hall. At this point ,any three star recruits that Fritz can make coach up to their potential would help immensely.
11. Tulsa Golden Hurricane (⇩ -3)
Tulsa's offense was amazing last year. The defense...not so much. Hopefully this recruiting class can supply them with the athletes that they need to become a complete team. With their high-flying offense, a significant improvement on defense could put them in the top quarter of the conference.
12. Connecticut Huskies (⇩ -1)
Although UConn manages to have one big surprise win per year, I would expect more mediocre football in the future. Having bad recruiting classes can be helped by coaching, but, when there the worst in the AAC, there isn't much you can do but hope.