Pre-Preseason Rankings: AAC West
The Ten Pre-Preseason American Athletic Questions
If you liked what Gunner Kiel did his first time around, you’ll probably love the next act for an offense that should rock and roll from the start with a senior-loaded receiving corps ready to explode. The left side of the line is done, but Ryan Leahy should be ready to take over at left guard full-time. Mike Boone will get even more of the rushing workload, but the attack will be all about Kiel.
Two of the top three tacklers are gone – LBs Nick Temple and Jeff Luc – but the secondary is almost all back full only losing CB Howard Wilder. The line is the big problem with three starters gone and only Silverberry Mouhon back at one end – four of the top five pass rushers have to be replaced. P Sam Geraci is back after averaging 39 yards per punt, and PK Andrew Gantz returns after a strong freshman year.
The UCF defense that was such a killer at times this year welcomes back three starters up front and a potentially deadly rotation. The linebacking corps loses Terrance Plummer and has to replace Troy Gray, but Errol Clarke is back on the outside. The secondary is the problem with all four starters gone including corner Jacoby Glenn, who left early for the NFL.
The offense has its quarterback in Justin Holman, and it has the running backs with several good options around William Stanback. While leading target Breshad Perriman is back, three of the top four receivers are gone. The line has to replace the left side with tackle Torrian Wilson and guard Tarik Milner done. UCF’s all-time leading scorer, PK Shawn Moffitt is gone, but P Caleb Houston returns.
The woeful offense needs more from the passing game, and it starts with QB P.J. Walker becoming more of a passer. Losing top receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick won’t help, but John Christopher and Romond Deloatch are veteran targets with upside. RB Kenneth Harper is gone, but Jahad Thomas was the leading rusher and one of the top targets, and Jamie Gilmore could make a bigger impact behind a potentially great line that gets back all five starters including all-star center Kyle Friend.
Tackling machine Tyler Matakevich leads a great-looking linebacking corps, but that’s just the start of the excitement – all 11 starters are back to the nation’s No. 4 scoring D. To take it one step further, ten of the 11 main backups return, too. Tavon Young is one of the league’s best corners, while DT Matt Ioannidis and end Praise Martin-Oguike form the base of a loaded line. PK Austin Jones is back after making 13-of-22 field goals, while P Alex Starzyk returns after averaging just 38.4 yards per kick.
4. East Carolina
How do you replace pitch-catch combination of Shane Carden to Justin Hardy? Forget it – you don’t. Kurt Benkert will get the first look at the starting quarterback gig, but finding someone to replace Hardy will be tough, and losing Cam Worthy doesn’t help, either. Isaiah Jones should be the new star of the attack, and there are plenty of promising weapons ready to start doing more. Leading rusher Breon Allen is done, but Chris Hairston and Marquez Grayson are veterans who can take over. The O line loses C Taylor Hudson, but everyone else is back along with all the depth.
The defensive interior loses massive Terry Williams on the nose and 3-4 veteran Chrishon Rose, but linebackers Zeek Bigger and Montese Overton are back after big seasons. Brandon Williams is gone off the linebacking corps, and Maurice Falls is done, but the front seven should be fine. The secondary takes a huge hit losing key tacklers Lamar Ivey and corner Detric Allen, but three starters from the bowl game are back. P Worth Gregory is one of the American Athletic’s best after averaging well over 43 yards per kick, but veteran PK Warren Harvey is gone.
5. South Florida
There’s hope. 1,041-yard running back Marlon Mack returns after a great freshman season, and everyone who finished with a positive rushing yard is back, too. However, top receiver Andre Davis is done along with No. 4 man Deonte Welch and TE Mike McFarland – Rodney Adams has to blossom. Can the Bulls decide on a quarterback? Mike White is back, as are Quinton Flowers and veteran Steven Bench. Only two starters – both guards Thor Jozwiak and Brynjar Gudmundsson – are back up front.
The defensive front also takes a bit hit with three key starters gone including two from the front three – only DT Eric Lee is back. Linebackers Nigel Harris and Auggie Sanchez should once again be two of the team’s top tacklers, and leading hitter Jamie Byrd is back after making 95 tackles. Corner Chris Dunkley is the only starter lost in the secondary. Punter Mattias Ciabatti is back after earning all-star honors averaging 44.4 yards per kick, but PK Marvin Kloss is done after hitting 13-of-17 field goals.
The offense that struggled so much to score and couldn’t put up points gets back four starters on the line and most of the top skill players back. Running backs Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson return after freshmen campaigns, and Tim Boyle appears ready to be the main man at quarterback. The top two receivers are gone, but Noel Thomas and tight end Sean McQuillan are back.
The top 11 tacklers return, but two starters are gone off the line – everyone returns in the back seven including linebackers Marquise Vann and Graham Stewart. Julian Campenni is back on the nose and Kenton Adeyemi returns on the end. Punter Justin Wain is back after a rocky year, averaging under 39 yards per kick, and PK Bobby Puyol returns after hitting 9-of-12 field goals.
2015 Pre-Preseason AAC East Rankings
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