UCF's McKenzie Milton is the AAC's No. 1 quarterback for 2018.
With McKenzie Milton back at quarterback, UCF is poised for another run at an undefeated record and American Athletic Conference title. Milton averaged 357.7 total yards a game last season, and his continued development will certainly ease the transition for new coach Josh Heupel. The AAC has a solid group of quarterbacks competing for the No. 2 spot, but Navy’s Malcolm Perry gets the nod in the post-spring rankings. Tulane’s Jonathan Banks, Houston’s D’Eriq King and SMU’s Ben Hicks round out the next tier.
To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2018. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, having a clear hold on the No. 1 position, previous production, 2018 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the American Athletic Conference for 2018.
Ranking the AAC's Quarterbacks for 2018
12. Reid Herring, East Carolina
Gardner Minshew left East Carolina as a graduate transfer to Washington State, leaving Herring and true freshman Holton Ahlers to compete for the starting job. Herring played in two games last fall and connected on his only pass for 20 yards and a touchdown versus Cincinnati. Ahlers was considered as the No. 17 dual-threat quarterback by the 247Sports Composite in the 2018 signing class.
11. David Pindell, UConn
UConn’s offense showed signs of progress last fall, increasing its scoring average to 23.6 a game (up from 14.8 in 2017). New coordinator John Dunn has the necessary pieces to improve upon that total this year, including a talented receiving corps and a quarterback with experience in Pindell. The former junior college transfer threw for 937 yards (52.8 percent) and four touchdowns to six interceptions in his first season on campus. Additionally, Pindell added 289 yards and three scores on the ground. Pindell should be more comfortable in his second year on campus, but he needs to show progress as a passer.
10. Luke Skipper, Tulsa
After owning one of the nation’s top offenses in 2016, Tulsa took a step back on this side of the ball in ’17. A drop-off from 2016 was inevitable with the departure of quarterback Dane Evans, two 1,000-yard receivers and running back James Flanders. However, the Golden Hurricane averaged just 24.8 points and 5.7 yards a play in conference-only matchups in 2017. Better production out of the quarterback spot is a must for coach Philip Montgomery in 2018. Skipper showed flashes of promise last year but only finished with 1,141 passing yards and three touchdowns. The sophomore should improve with a full offseason to work as the No. 1 quarterback under Montgomery.
9. Chris Oladokun, USF
Oladokun is listed here, but don’t count out junior Brett Kean from winning the job. Regardless of which quarterback wins the starting nod, Quinton Flowers leaves big shoes to fill in Tampa after finishing his career with over 11,000 yards of total offense. Kean connected on 7 of 11 passes for 64 yards as Flowers’ backup last fall, while Oladokun played in two contests and completed his only pass for 12 yards. Oladokun has more upside than his ranking among AAC quarterbacks would indicate. However, he’s far from guaranteed the starting job with Kean in the mix.
8. Hayden Moore, Cincinnati
Bright spots on Cincinnati’s offense were hard to find in 2017. The Bearcats averaged only 20.9 points a game and 5.24 yards a play last fall. However, Moore had his moments in guiding the offense and finished the year with 2,562 yards and 20 touchdowns. The senior needs to be more consistent in 2018, along with increasing his completion percentage (56.4 in 2017) and limiting the turnovers (nine picks last year). Redshirt freshman Desmond Ridder's progress is worth watching in the fall.
7. David Moore, Memphis
Replacing Riley Ferguson at quarterback is the top priority for coach Mike Norvell this offseason. Ferguson leaves big shoes to fill, but the Tigers have two talented and intriguing candidates vying for the starting job. Moore redshirted in his first year on campus and connected on 7 of 10 passes for 63 yards and a touchdown as Ferguson’s backup last fall. Moore also rushed for 47 yards in limited snaps, indicating he will bring more to the ground game than Ferguson did as the starter. The sophomore is set to compete with Arizona State transfer Brady White for the starting job in the fall. Regardless of who starts, Memphis should be explosive once again on offense.
6. Frank Nutile, Temple
Coach Geoff Collins’ decision to insert Nutile into the starting lineup paid dividends for Temple last fall. The Owls went 4-2 with Nutile as the starter, including a win over FIU in the bowl game. The senior is the unquestioned No. 1 quarterback headed into 2018 and could help Temple emerge as the biggest threat to UCF in the AAC East. Nutile threw for 1,600 yards and 12 touchdowns in eight appearances last fall and connected on 61.3 percent of his passes.
5. D’Eriq King, Houston
The quarterback situation in Houston got a little more interesting with the late addition of Tennessee transfer Quinten Dormady this spring. However, King is still expected to be the starter, especially since his athleticism and ability to direct an up-tempo attack is a good fit for new coordinator Kendal Briles. King received snaps at quarterback and receiver in 2016 but moved to a full-time role under center last fall. Over 10 appearances (with five starts), King threw for 1,260 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 379 yards and eight scores.
4. Ben Hicks, SMU
SMU’s offense is still likely to rank among the best in the American Athletic Conference this year, but there are some big changes to navigate this offseason. The Mustangs have a new coach (Sonny Dykes) and a different scheme under new coordinator Rhett Lashlee to implement on offense. Also, receivers Courtland Sutton and Trey Quinn decided to bolt to the NFL. Hicks posted career highs in passing yards (3,569) and passing touchdowns (33) last fall. He will be in the mix once again for All-AAC honors.
3. Jonathan Banks, Tulane
Putting Banks over SMU’s Ben Hicks and Houston’s D’Eriq King might come as a surprise to some, but we think Banks is headed for a huge 2018 season. The Texas native came to New Orleans after a season at Independence Community College. In his first year at the controls for coach Willie Fritz, Banks threw for 1,797 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 592 yards and seven scores. With another offseason to work as the starter, Banks should thrive under the direction of Fritz and coordinator Doug Ruse.
2. Malcolm Perry, Navy
Perry opened the 2017 season at slot back but closed out the year as Navy’s starting quarterback for three out of the last five games. In Perry’s three starts, he accumulated 646 rushing yards (including 250 against Army) and recorded seven scores. The Tennessee native finished 2017 with 1,182 yards and 11 scores on the ground, while accumulating five passing yards. And here’s an interesting stat: Perry attempted only one pass in his three starts last year. He’s due for a breakout campaign as Navy’s No. 1 quarterback in 2018.
1. McKenzie Milton, UCF
Milton was the catalyst behind UCF’s high-powered offense last season and is expected to push for All-America honors in 2018. In 13 games in 2017, Milton threw for 4,037 yards (a school record for a single season) and 37 touchdowns. He also finished second on the team with 613 rushing yards and eight scores. Milton posted two appearances of more than 400 passing yards and also led all AAC quarterbacks by completing 67.1 percent of his throws. New coach Josh Heupel should keep UCF’s offense performing at a high level, allowing Milton an opportunity to match or exceed last year’s totals.
(Top inset photo and main image courtesy of @UCF_Football)