The American is now on the radar. There is no way that anyone in the P5 should be surprised anymore if a team from the AAC knocks off one of their conference champions in a game that they usually thought would be a prison pounding. No more will "fans" scoff at the thought that maybe an AAC athlete, like I don't know, KEENAN REYNOLDS, should get an invite to NYC for the Heisman ceremony. Those days have passed. And, so have any excuses for the College Football Playoff committee.
Here are your final rankings for the American Athletic Conference:
1. University of Houston (same), 40th Nationally
Class of 2016 is in the books. Now we are coming after the best of 2017. And we're bringing all of HTown with us. https://t.co/aL2PZcX6Y8— Tom Herman (@CoachTomHerman) February 3, 2016
Because it wouldn't complete without a message from J.J. Watt. Anytime I see Watt do anything it makes me want to go to the gym and throw up some steel. Then once I get to the gym I realize I am, in fact, what some would deem "overweight" and I injure myself. The moral the story here is J.J. Watt is better than you. Which is why Houston's recruiting campaign was so darn cool. They had messages to commits from Slim Thug and Paul Wall (The People's Champ!) too.
Recruiters Corby Meekins and Oscar Giles just made history. Oliver is the highest rated recruit ever to commit to a G5 school, much less an AAC program. Houston could seemingly do no wrong yesterday and it showed in their recruiting class. They were also able to snag two 4-star studs, WR Courtney Lark (Bellaire, TX) and community college transfer OT Na'Ty Rodgers. What a class!
2. Temple Owls (⇧ +3)
Matt Rhule came up big time. 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.
Mood right now...— Matt Rhule (@CoachMattRhule) February 4, 2016
3. South Florida Bulls (⇩ -1), 63rd Nationally
Although the Bulls lost a spot, they still had a fantastic National Signing Day. I would say that the Bulls class may even be better than Temple's due to 4-star recruits WR Darnell Salomon and S Craig Watts joining them for 2016, tying them with Houston's total of 4-star talent. Willie Taggert has to be proud of this class. USF was flirting with taking the conference championship last year by rattling off 4 wins in a row to end the season, including a 44-23 beat down of Temple. Also, Quinton Flowers and Marlon Mack are only Sophomores, adding Salomon to USF's already electric offense has to be exciting. USF might be the biggest threat to Houston's crown this season.
4. Memphis Tigers (⇩ -1), 64th Nationally
Recruiting after a successful coach has gone to take a "better" job elsewhere is tough. But, first year Head Coach Mike Norvell has performed admirably. They finished just behind USF in the final tally, but really it could go either way. Memphis' glaring loss this off-season is obviously Paxton Lynch. Lynch is NFL caliber talent that will be tough to replace or even replicate. Regardless, Norvell came into a program on an upward trajectory and got the talent that he needs to continue that.
Junior college transfer Riley Ferguson should be able to come in right away and compete for the starting quarterback position. And I love what I see from CB Johnathan Cook. Norvell was able to get really, really good athletes to commit to his program in his first year and plug holes on both sides of the ball.
Side note: "#StripeEmUp" is not good. Memphis' PR team, do better.
5. UCF Knights (⇧ +7), 65th Nationally
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.
This is what Coach Frost had to say about his recruiting class:
UCF started off National Signing Day ranked 11th. And then went on a tear, tying Memphis with 18 3-star athletes.
6. Southern Methodist Mustangs (⇩ -1), 72nd Nationally
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.
Coach Morris is coming for you...
7. Cincinatti Beartcats (⇩ -1), 76th Nationally
Cincinatti was in the conversation early in the season to take the AAC championship before getting utterly destroyed by USF, 65-27 late in the season. Offensive lineman Zach Bycznski lead this class.
8. East Carolina Pirates (⇧ +2), 77th Nationally
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. Also, my new favorite Pirate is OT Jared Dorton from Bakersfield throwing up the "X":
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), 92nd Nationally
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.
Here's Tulsa's top recruit dabbing:
12. Connecticut Huskies (⇩ -1), 98th Nationally
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 they're the worst in the AAC, there isn't much you can do but hope.
My new favorite football mascot is the "Nutmegger":