Spring Practice Preview: AAC

Spring Practice Preview: AAC

This article is part of our Spring Practice Preview series.

The American Athletic Conference has been the biggest of the "non-power" conferences for years. They took that to the next level last season, as the Cincinnati Bearcats bucked the odds and made it to the playoffs. Of course, they aren't long for the AAC. Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF are all headed to the Big 12 in the near future. For now, though, they are standouts in the American.

Change happens every season in college football, especially in the era of the transfer portal. Coaches have been swapped (though not Luke Fickell in Cincy, it should be noted) and some big-time players have moved on to the professional realms. Not everything is locked into place, and questions abound. Thus, it's time to check out the AAC as we delve into spring practice to check out some interesting positions for each team. Let's start with the kings of the conference, who have a big hole to fill.

Cincinnati

Position of Interest: Quarterback

Desmond Ridder wasn't the best quarterback in college football, but he was the man in Cincinnati, and he is no longer around. That's big for the team in terms of wins and losses, but also for fantasy players. 36 total touchdowns from 2021 need to be accounted for. Ben Bryant left Cincinnati for Eastern Michigan, where he threw 14 touchdowns against seven interceptions in 2021. Now, he's back with the Bearcats with the starting job under center open. Last year's backup, Evan Prater, is around as well and is

The American Athletic Conference has been the biggest of the "non-power" conferences for years. They took that to the next level last season, as the Cincinnati Bearcats bucked the odds and made it to the playoffs. Of course, they aren't long for the AAC. Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF are all headed to the Big 12 in the near future. For now, though, they are standouts in the American.

Change happens every season in college football, especially in the era of the transfer portal. Coaches have been swapped (though not Luke Fickell in Cincy, it should be noted) and some big-time players have moved on to the professional realms. Not everything is locked into place, and questions abound. Thus, it's time to check out the AAC as we delve into spring practice to check out some interesting positions for each team. Let's start with the kings of the conference, who have a big hole to fill.

Cincinnati

Position of Interest: Quarterback

Desmond Ridder wasn't the best quarterback in college football, but he was the man in Cincinnati, and he is no longer around. That's big for the team in terms of wins and losses, but also for fantasy players. 36 total touchdowns from 2021 need to be accounted for. Ben Bryant left Cincinnati for Eastern Michigan, where he threw 14 touchdowns against seven interceptions in 2021. Now, he's back with the Bearcats with the starting job under center open. Last year's backup, Evan Prater, is around as well and is a promising prospect within the program.

East Carolina

Position of Interest: Wide receiver

Honestly? The Pirates bring back all their weapons from last season. Holton Ahlers is back at quarterback. The top two running backs, top three receivers, and top tight end are all returning as well. So why did I mention the receiver position? Jaylen Johnson has transferred in from Georgia. Could he alter the dynamic at that position? Will he push Audie Omotosho or C.J. Johnson down the depth chart? C.J. Johnson was suspended indefinitely in February. There is an opportunity there.

Houston

Position of Interest: Wide receiver

Like with East Carolina, most of the weapons are returning for the Cougars, though this was a team driven by defense last season. One guy who is gone, though, is Jeremy Singleton, who was second on the squad in receiving yards and tied for second in receiving touchdowns in 2021. Will Jake Herslow step up and take some of his targets, making him the clear number-two receiver? That could be big for fantasy players. However, KeSean Carter is working his way back from season-ending surgery last December. He had 331 yards in only nine games. Perhaps he's in line for a bigger role.

Memphis

Position of Interest: Running back

It's a do-or-die season for Ryan Silverfield, who has not kept the momentum Mike Norvell built going. Calvin Austin is gone, and that's big, but I want to look at the running back position. Brandon Thomas is the incumbent, and he rushed for 669 yards and eight touchdowns in nine games last season before going down with an undisclosed injury. However, Jay Ducker is around now. Once Northern Illinois realized what they had in the freshman he was a nightmare for MAC opponents. Over his last eight games, Ducker rushed 194 times for 1,099 yards. He's transferred to Memphis, and he didn't do that to sit behind Thomas. This is a real battle.

Navy

Position of Interest: Running back

Obviously, this isn't your typical fantasy analysis. Navy runs the triple option, and guys don't exactly transfer in all that often. Players stick around a full four seasons in Annapolis time and time again. There is some intrigue among the backs, though. Isaac Ruoss was given 166 carries, so he'll get his share of the load. However, after averaging 3.8 yards per carry on 99 totes in 2021, I think James Harris could move down the depth chart. The guy I'm watching? Carlinos Acie. He averaged 8.8 yards per carry on 66 attempts. Also watch Chance Warren, who averaged 6.0 yards per carry.

SMU

Position of Interest: Wide receiver

The Mustangs have a new head coach in first-timer Rhett Lashlee. He was the OC in Highland Park before spending the last couple of seasons in Miami. Rashee Rice is back, and I expect him to be the lead receiver for SMU. Last year's top receiver, Danny Gray, is gone, and so is Reggie Roberson. Those two combined for exactly 100 receptions. Dylan Goffney didn't play much as a freshman, but he had 10 catches for 88 yards against UCF. Jordan Kerley only had 12 catches after transferring from Arizona State, but four of them went for touchdowns.

South Florida

Position of Interest: Wide receiver

The Bulls really need to turn it around offensively, especially in the passing game. They had a total of six receiving touchdowns in 2021. Unfortunately for South Florida, the quarterback situation features the same names. What's going to happen at receiver, though? Xavier Weaver did have 715 receiving yards, but he only had two receiving touchdowns. Keep an eye on Jimmy Horn Jr. and Omarion Dollison behind him on the depth chart.

Temple

Position of Interest: Quarterback

Temple has a new head coach in Stan Drayton. It will also have a new quarterback. D'Wan Mathis is no longer around, and the only quarterback on the roster who threw a pass is Mariano Valenti, who threw all of14 passes in 2021. He will be competing with Matt Duncan, who was buried on the depth chart prior to this season. The Owls didn't bring in a notable transfer, so somebody is going to have to step up. That, or they are going to add a transfer after spring practices.

Tulane

Position of Interest: Wide receiver

The top three receivers for Tulane in 2021 are all back, and they all put together strikingly-similar seasons. Shae Wyatt had 376 receiving yards, Jaetavian Toles had 338 yards, and Duece Watts had 331 yards. They all had exactly three receiving touchdowns. Will the wealth be shared to the same degree in 2022? Or will somebody break through?

Tulsa

Position of Interest Running back

Shamari Brooks rushed 218 times for 1,029 yards and seven touchdowns in 2021. He's no longer around. This will be a battle between Deneric Prince and Anthony Watkins. Prince got more carries with 100 to Watkins' 86, and Prince also rushed for one more touchdown, five to four. On the other hand, Watkins rushed for 634 yards to Prince's 524 yards. Will the split be flipped in 2022? If so, and if Watkins keeps up this pace, he could replace Brooks as a 1,000-yard rusher.

UCF

Position of Interest: Wide receiver

Ryan O'Keefe had 84 catches for 812 yards in 2021. Surely he's in line to be the lead receiver again. Not so fast. Jaylon Robinson had 979 yards and six touchdowns in 2020, but last year injury held him to six games. Auburn's lead receiver from last season, Kobe Hudson, has transferred to Central Florida as well. Mikey Keene is locked in under center now. This offense could be prolific. How will the targets be divvied up? The Golden Knights should be able to support at least two high-level fantasy receivers, but which two will it be?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Morgan
Chris Morgan is a writer of sports, pop culture, and humor articles, a book author, a podcaster, and a fan of all Detroit sports teams.
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