Hope everybody had a Happy Fourth of July! Enjoy the inaugural American Athletic Conference preview!
Returning QB Brendon Kay looks to lead a competitive Bearcats squad in 2013
Tommy Tuberville begins his first season as the Bearcats coach. He has two QB’s capable of winning the conference. Munchie Legaux, last seasons starter, was benched after accuracy issues going 6-2 over the first eight games in favor of Brendon Kay, who led the Bearcats to a 4-1 record the last five games and looks to be the 2013 starter. In the backfield the Cats look to replace George Winn (1,334 yards 13 TD in 2012) with four talented backs; returnees Tion Green and Ralph Abernathy IV, and JUCO transfers Rodriguez Moore and Hosey Williams. Great news for Tuberville and his squad is that the entire starting offensive line returns led by last season’s first-team All-Big East selections Eric Lefeld and Austen Bujnoch. On the defensive side of the ball, the Cats will look to improve what was a quite successful unit in 2012 as they gave up an average of 18.5 points per game ranking 14th nationally. FSU LB transfer Jeff Luc is one to keep an eye out for as he was rated the number one ILB in the nation coming out of high school, though he will play outside for UC. Anchoring the secondary will be senior DB’s Deven Drane and Arryn Chenault. According to Tuberville, the Bearcats will stay with a 4-3 defense with a heavy emphasis on gap control to take advantage of speed.
RB Lyle McCombs hopes to return to 2011 form and have a breakout season for the Huskies.
Paul Pasqualoni‘s first two seasons had question marks at the quarterback position, but through spring ball Chandler Whitmer emerged and proved he should be the starter yet again this coming year. The Huskies top two pass grabbers from 2012 return in Geremy Davis and Shakim Phillips. Both worked to create a great on-field relationship with Whitmer in 2012 and hope to carry it into 2013. Junior running back Lyle McCombs is looking to return to his 2011 form when he was named a Freshman All-American. UConn may be ready to mix in sophomore RB Joseph Williams to create a “thunder and lightning” backfield between he and McCombs. The defense looks to replace six starters on a unit that ranked ninth nationally in total defense last season. CB Byron Jones has been moved from Safety while Ty-Meer Brown brings in 24 previous starts in the secondary. Two LB transfers, Ryan Donohue from Maryland and Graham Stewart from Florida) could make an immediate impact. The schedule is tough for UConn this season so don’t expect the first AAC season to be a great one.
QB David Piland hopes to be the nation’s sleeper pick and lead the Cougars to a big 2013.
Don’t overlook the Cougars this season. They may have gone 5-7 last season but they averaged over 30 points a game while gathering nearly 500 yards. A good majority of all those playmakers return, including QB David Piland who threw just shy of 3,000 yards his sophomore season (2,944). Protection wise, four starters return including Ty Cloud. Hopefully with the experience coming back up front, Piland will be able to cut down on his interceptions and lead what could be a AAC sleeper. The defensive secondary is anchored by two athletic seniors in Zach McMillian and Thomas Bates. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Cougars make a run for the AAC this season, they have a very favorable schedule that could benefit them, with the exception of going to Louisville.
Teddy Bridgewater looks to build off of an impressive bowl victory over the Gators, and make a push for Pasadena.
Well, the team that EVERYONE is predicting to win the AAC; Louisville. I’m not arguing. The performance against UF in the Sugar Bowl where he had a broken wrist was Teddy Bridgewater‘s growing up game. He is a legit Heisman candidate, and with the somewhat lack of talent in the conference, he could shine. He gets the speedy Eli Rogers back along with DeVante Parker creating multiple weapons for TB to throw to. On the ground, look for Senorise Perry to share carries with the bruiser Dominique Brown. The defense only has to replace one starter, CB Adrian Bushell. With that being said, expect Coach Strong to put together an experienced and very, very fast defense.
QB Jacob Karam looks to start the season under center, but he may make way for Paxton Lynch.
Welcome to the bunch, the old Big East. Senior Jacob Karam returns as the QB, but expect to see R-Fr Paxton Lynch get some time. The young-gun had a consistent spring and showed he could be the answer once Karam departs. Wide receiver Joe Craig comes to the Tigers’ squad from Clemson which should help the receiving game a little bit. The defense ranked first in Conference-USA last season in total defense, and expect DC Barry Odom to keep a strong unit in the AAC. Unfortunately, if you can’t score, you can’t win. Bad year for the Tigers..
QB Gary Nova comes back with an AAC Championship on his mind.
Big news for Scarlet Knights’ fans: Gary Nova is back! Joining him is a WR I talked about last season who is on the edge of being great; Brandon Coleman. Nova didn’t finish the season as great as he started, so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt and going to assume he learned over his last six games and got better. I know, I know, you shouldn’t assume, but the leadership, athleticism, and arm ability is too great to ignore. Jawan Jamison leaving hurts, but sitting in his shadow was Savon Huggins, who possesses big play ability and the potential to be All-AAC. Returning are four lineman who helped Jamison rush for 1,000+ in 2012 which means Huggins could have a huge season. Replacing the 2012 Big East Defensive POY Khaseem Greene is never easy, but Kevin Snyder is up for the challenge. He has seen some time and gotten some experience, but being “the man” full-time on defense is a huge role that many cannot handle after their predecessor did it so naturally.
Mustangs Coach June Jones is known for high powered, air-attack offenses. Can he rebound from 2012?
The Mustangs are going to hurt at WR this season so look for the work load to be even heavier on QB Garrett Gilbert. June Jones, known for his creative passing attack, coached an offense that finished 62nd in passing? What? Good thing they had Zach Line in the backfield. 2013, though, means no more Line. Former Longhorn Traylon Shead will be the one taking over the majority of the carries. The defense will be in a rebuilding year as the entire defensive line has graduated, along with two linebackers. Just bad news for the front seven and the defense as a team.
LB Tyler Matakevich looks to keep opponents from excelling on the ground.
Week one, at Notre Dame. Not what many teams want to see to start the season; a team that just competed for the National Championship last season. BUT! What if… What if Temple starts the season off with an upset of the Irish? What if Tommy Rees chokes in place of the academically ineligible Everrett Golson? What if… I’m just kidding. Temple will suck. Realistically, I think they may look competitive for a couple games. Army… maybe? Their best bet would be to build for the future and start P.J. Walker at QB. With the addition of playing Walker, they will be trying to build on the losses of Montel Harris and Matt Brown. Maybe a decent team to watch grow if freshman RB Zaire Williams gets a shot in the backfield. First year QB, first year RB, and first year head coach. On the other side of the ball, LB Tyler Matakevich returns. He was the 2012 Big East ROY. The secondary is older and should start all juniors and seniors while likely being the anchor for the defense. Well, try to anyways..
QB Blake Bortles brings in a lot of hype for 2013. Can he live up to it?
The story for the Knights going in to 2013 is the same it was when 2012 ended: QB Blake Bortles. Throwing for over 3,000 yards (3,059) and 25 TD’s, he will have a variety of targets to throw to, most notably Breshad Perriman. RB Storm Johnson will finally get the time he’s been itching to see since his transfer from Miami (FL). The defense should be solid compared to other AAC teams returning Terrance Plummer at MLB who had 108 tackles last season. The loss of S Kemal Ishmael could be a key to the pass defense as it looks like a freshman will have to step up. If Bortles lives up to expectations, expect to hear about the Knights a lot this coming season.
LB DeDe Lattimore had high expectations going in to 2012. He hopes to show the defensive unit as a whole has grown.
It seems like QB B.J. Daniels has been there FOREVER. Well, he’s gone and former Western Kentucky Head Coach Willie Taggart is running the show. Who will be running his offense, though? Competing for the job is senior Bobby Eveld, sophomore Matt Floyd, Penn State transfer Steven Bench, and Taggart‘s first QB recruit in Mike White. Behind the QB, questions remain at RB as well, as freshman Sta’fon McCray and Darius Tice will battle Marcus Shaw for the action. Defensively, LB DeDe Lattimore will lead a unit that quite frankly couldn’t be much worse. They couldn’t hold a lead to save their lives. Brand new secondary, same old issues. Rough one for the Bullies.
|American Athletic Conference Final Standings|
AAC Football Champion:
AAC Football Games to Watch:
Oct. 5: Cincinnati @ USF
Oct. 10: Rutgers @ Louisville
Oct. 18: UCF @ Louisville
Oct. 19: SMU @ Memphis
Nov. 16: Houston @ Louisville
Nov. 16: Cincinnati @ Rutgers
Nov. 21: Rutgers @ UCF
Dec. 5: Louisville @ Cincinnati
Ninja Sports Preseason All AAC Football Team 2013
|WR Brandon Coleman, Rutgers||DE Jamil Merrell, Rutgers||K Tony Miliano, Cincy|
|WR DeVante Parker, UL||DE Ryne Giddins, USF||P Tom Hornsey, UM|
|TE Gerald Christian, UL||DT Darius Hamilton, Rutgers||KR JJ Worton, UCF|
|T Eric Lefeld, Cincy||DT Jamaine Brooks, UL|
|T Rowdy Harper, UH||LB Derrick Mathews, UH|
|G Sam Longo, Cincy||LB Tyler Matakevich, Temple|
|G Antwan Lowery, Rutgers||LB DeDe Lattimore, USF|
|C Taylor Lasecki, SMU||CB Byron Jones, UConn|
|QB Teddy Bridgewater, UL||CB Terell Floyd, UL|
|RB Storm Johnson, UCF||S Calvin Pryor, UL|
|RB Lyle McCombs, UConn||S Trevon Stewart, UH|
AAC Football Offensive Player of the Year: Teddy Bridgewater, QB Louisville
AAC Football Defensive Player of the Year: Calvin Pryor, S Louisville