News & Analysis

College Football: 2019 PFF All-AAC Team

The dust has settled on the 2019 regular season at the FBS level and it's time to take a look back. Ahead of the AAC championship, we take a look at the best players at their respective positions with an in-depth look at how they graded over the course of the full season.

Utilizing our play-by-play grades of every player on every play of every game, our All-AAC Team takes into account every player's actions on the field on Saturdays while also utilizing our wealth of signature statistics to determine the list. The strength of opponent and consistent play also factor into our selections detailed below.

The 2019 All-MAC Team

Quarterback

First Team: Shane Buechele, SMU

Buechele looked every bit the part of a former Power-5 transfer quarterback in his first season with the Mustangs. He dropped 33 touchdowns against just nine interceptions, and despite 18 dropped passes, 20 passes intentionally thrown away and a few more thrown as he was hit, his completion percentage of 63.1% was the second-best in the conference. In fact, his adjusted completion percentage of 71.8% indicates just how accurate he was over his 444 attempts. He was as exciting as they come at the quarterback position, and he led the entire country with a whopping 1,462 yards on deep passes, those targeted at least 20 yards downfield.

Second Team: Dillon Gabriel, UCF
Third Team: Brady White, Memphis
Honorable Mention: Anthony Russo, Temple

Running Back

First Team: Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis

The Tigers saw incredible production from their lead back in Gainwell as he totaled 1,386 rushing yards, including 737 yards after contact. He ripped off a conference-high 35 runs of at least 10 yards and scored 12 touchdowns with another 45 first downs on the ground. His 50 broken tackles are second in the AAC and he chipped in with another 492 yards through the air with three scores and another 16 missed tackles forced.

Second Team: Xavier Jones, SMU
Third Team: Adrian Killins Jr., UCF
Honorable Mention: Greg McCrae, UCF

Running Back

First Team: Michael Warren II, Cincinnati

Warren was a tough guy to take down on the ground, leading the conference with 884 yards after contact and breaking a conference-best 64 tackles on his 216 carries. He scored 12 times on the ground and secured another 41 first downs while scoring two more touchdowns on the ground and averaging 9.1 yards after the catch on his receptions.

Second Team: Shamari Brooks, Tulsa
Third Team: Re'Mahn Davis, Temple
Honorable Mention: Corey Dauphine, Tulane

Wide Receiver

First Team: Gabriel Davis, UCF

Davis was every bit of a breakout player in 2019, earning a nod as a Third-Team All-American on our national list after hauling in 72 catches for 1,241 yards and 12 scores. He averaged 17.2 yards per reception and gained 334 of his yards after the catch while breaking 10 tackles in the process. It didn't matter which route, where on the field or, even at the beginning stages, which quarterback was throwing him the ball, Davis simply impressed all year long.

Second Team: C.J. Johnson, ECU
Third Team: Jadan Blue, Temple
Honorable Mention: Branden Mack, Temple

Wide Receiver

First Team: James Proche, SMU

Proche set all sorts of SMU records this season as he hauled in 102 receptions for 1,151 yards and a conference-best 14 touchdowns. He benefitted greatly from Buechele's downfield throwing ability but really thrived greatly over the middle of the field, where he hauled in 49 of his catches from the slot alignment. His eight touchdowns from the slot were the most in the conference and his 2019 highlight-reel is as good as anyone in the country, including his triple-overtime game-winning reception to beat Tulsa.

Second Team: Reggie Roberson Jr., SMU
Third Team: Tyler Snead, ECU
Honorable Mention: Jalen McCleskey, Tulane

Wide Receiver

First Team: Damonte Coxie, Memphis

Coxie leads the charge for the Tigers on the outside, as he was targeted 22.6% of the time on deep passes outside, finishing with the AAC's second-highest catch rate on such passes, hauling in 11 of the 12 catchable targets thrown his way on deep shots. For the year, Coxie averaged 16.8 yards per reception, totaling 990 yards on 59 catches with nine touchdowns and 31 more first-down receptions. He led the conference with 13 broken tackles and averaged a healthy 5.2 yards after the catch per reception.

Second Team: Marquez Stevenson, Houston
Third Team: Keylon Stokes, Tulsa
Honorable Mention: Cameron Ross, UConn

Tight End

First Team: Kylen Granson, SMU

A touchdown machine, Granson hauled in nine scores and moved the chains on another 19 receptions as his 28 combined receiving conversions led the conference by a comfortable margin. He rattled off 628 yards on 36 catches and also led the conference with 263 yards after the catch and five broken tackles. Continuing the trend, his 138.0 passer rating when targeted was also the highest figure for a tight end in the AAC.

Second Team: Kenny Yeboah, Temple
Third Team: Josiah Deguara, Cincinnati
Honorable Mention: Joey Magnifico, Memphis

Offensive Tackle

First Team: Josh Jones, Houston

In what almost became a throwaway year for the Cougars, Jones was a glaring bright spot in Houston. In his nine games, he was the highest-graded Houston player in all but one of them (D'Eriq King's final game) as Jones allowed just four total pressures on 325 pass-blocking snaps. He finished second in run-blocking grade and second in overall grade, dominating any defensive linemen placed in front of him.

An underrated aspect of any left tackle's repertoire is reliability, and Jones was only penalized twice all season long. He capped the 2019 year with elite grades across the board as he most certainly made huge strides on everyone's 2020 NFL Draft rankings.

Second Team: Billy Honaker, Navy
Third Team: Jaylon Thomas, SMU
Honorable Mention: D'Ante Smith, ECU

Offensive Guard

First Team: Jovahn Fair, Temple

Fair was the only AAC guard to finish the 2019 regular season with an elite pass-blocking grade, finishing with just eight total pressures allowed on a whopping 439 pass-blocking snaps. His play in the run game was solid for Temple all year long, but he stole the show with his prowess in pass protection.

Second Team: Cam DeGeorge, UConn
Third Team: Peter Nestrowitz, Navy
Honorable Mention: Chris Paul, Tulsa

Center

First Team: Matt Hennessy, Temple

Hennessy was one of the nation's top-graded centers this season and finished with the AAC's top individual grades in pass-blocking, run-blocking and overall. He allowed just four total pressures on 454 snaps in pass protection while finishing with an elite 86.9 run-blocking grade.

Second Team: Dustin Woodard, Memphis
Third Team: Jordan Johnson, UCF
Honorable Mention: Ford Higgins, Navy

Offensive Guard

First Team: Vincent Picozzi, Temple

When in the lineup, Picozzi gave Temple perhaps the nation's best interior trio of linemen, logging 669 snaps over nine games. He finished with the conference's best overall grade and second-highest run-blocking grade, as he was just dominant up front.

Second Team: Manuel Orona-Lopez, Memphis
Third Team: Dylan Parham, Memphis
Honorable Mention: Morgan James, Cincinnati

Offensive Tackle

First Team: Matt Peart, UConn

Peart was the only other AAC tackle to finish with elite grades overall, as he was equally as dominant over the course of 12 games for the Huskies. He allowed 10 total pressures on the year across 415 pass-blocking snaps and had an 88.0 run-blocking grade that was by far the second-highest in the conference.

Second Team: Scottie Dill, Memphis
Third Team: Isaac Moore, Temple
Honorable Mention: Ryan Van Demark, UConn

Edge Defender

First Team: Quincy Roche, Temple

The nation's leader in total QB pressures this season, Roche recorded a whopping 67 on his 364 pass-rushes. He recorded the pass-rush triple-double in which he had 13 sacks, 13 QB hits and 41 QB hurries, winning his pass-rushes at an absurd rate. With four passes batted at the line of scrimmage, he finished third behind only Chase Young and Chris Rumph in pass-rushing grade among all FBS edge defenders.

Second Team: Delontae Scott, SMU
Third Team: Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati
Honorable Mention: David Anenih, Houston

Edge Defender

First Team: Bryce Huff, Memphis

Huff was the AAC's second-best pass-rusher behind only Roche in total pressures and pass-rush grade. He brought down 54 total pressures, including seven sacks and 12 more QB hits to go with his 35 total hurries. His 24 defensive stops saw 17 of them come against the run, and he did so by limiting missed tackles very well. Huff obtained an elite grade when rushing the passer and overall for the season, as he was one of just four edge defenders in the conference to finish with elite grades in both.

Second Team: Trevis Gipson, Tulsa
Third Team: Kendal Futrell, ECU
Honorable Mention: Malik Vann, Cincinnati

Interior Defender

First Team: Ifeanyi Maijeh, Temple

An almost unblockable force, Maijeh racked up 34 total QB pressures, including seven sacks, eight QB hits and 19 more pressures up the middle. His 34 defensive stops tied for the most among interior defensive linemen in the conference as he moved terrifically well for a man his size. He made 34 solo tackles, as well, and he chipped in with a batted pass at the line and a fumble forced to round out his season.

Second Team: Curtis Brooks, Cincinnati
Third Team: Travis Jones, UConn
Honorable Mention: Daniel Archibong, Temple

Interior Defender

First Team: Kalia Davis, UCF

Davis racked up 23 total pressures on just 183 pass-rush attempts this season, bringing down four sacks with another two QB hits, as he was a tough dude for any offensive lineman to block. He recorded 17 defensive stops, 13 of which came against the run, as he was one of the AAC's best run defenders whenever he was on the field.

Second Team: Elijah Ponder, Cincinnati
Third Team: Zach Abercrumbia, SMU
Honorable Mention: Kenny Turnier, UCF

Linebacker

First Team: Bryan Wright, Cincinnati

A true three-down threat, Wright was the only AAC linebacker to log at least 100 snaps against the run, in coverage and as a blitzer. He brought down a ridiculous set of production numbers in each category, as well, finishing with 24 total pressures to lead the league's linebackers, 38 total defensive stops and 63 solo tackles and limiting receivers to just 73 yards in his coverage. He didn't allow a touchdown and gave up just 55 yards after the catch all year long, as he was stalwart in all three facets.

Second Team: Zaven Collins, Tulsa
Third Team: Jarell White, Cincinnati
Honorable Mention: Perry Young, Cincinnati

Linebacker

First Team: Xavier Cullens, Memphis

Cullens led all AAC linebackers in overall grade, run-defense grade and tackling grade as he missed just two total tackles on 52 attempts. He was terrific against the run and great against the pass, as well, allowing fewer than 1.0 yard per snap he spent in coverage and racking up an interception with two more pass breakups on just 15 targets as the primary coverage defender.

Second Team: Nate Evans, UCF
Third Team: Diego Fagot, Navy
Honorable Mention: Diamon Cannon, Tulsa

Cornerback

First Team: K.J. Sails, USF

Sails was regularly tasked with guarding the opposing team's No. 1 wide receiver and was targeted 46 times in the process. While he did allow 28 receptions on the year, he wasn't beat for a pass longer than 35 yards and made twice as many plays on the ball as he allowed touchdowns, with three interceptions and another five pass breakups with two more forced incompletions due to tight coverage to his credit. He led the conference in run-defense grade and missed just four of the 46 total tackle attempts on the year as he was a dominant player on the outside for the Bulls' defense.

Second Team: Tay Gowan, UCF
Third Team: Jaylon Monroe, Tulane
Honorable Mention: Ja'Quan McMillian, ECU

Cornerback

First Team: Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati

The highest-graded cornerback in the country for some time, Gardner finished as the sixth-highest-graded cornerback in the regular season among all FBS corners. He was targeted 43 times yet allowed just 17 receptions for all of 230 yards. He didn't allow a touchdown all year long and had three interceptions with another five pass breakups to see only a 28.2 passer rating on throws into his coverage. For context, a quarterback receives a 39.6 passer rating by just throwing the pass into the ground every time, meaning quarterbacks were statistically better by just simply avoiding Gardner's coverage.

Second Team: Christian Braswell, Temple
Third Team: Ar'mani Johnson, SMU
Honorable Mention: Michael McMorris, Navy

Safety

First Team: Antwan Collier, UCF

Collier was dominant across all levels, but coverage is where he shined for the Knights in 2019. He was the primary coverage defender on 24 targeted passes and didn't allow a reception longer than 29 yards. He intercepted three passes and broke up three more, chipping in with another 51 solo tackles and 25 defensive stops all over the field.

Second Team: Rodney Clemons, SMU
Third Team: P.J. Hall, Tulane
Honorable Mention: Quindell Johnson, Memphis

Safety

First Team: Patrick Nelson, SMU

Nelson jumps off the page whenever the Mustangs take the field, as he is perhaps one of the nation's best blitzing defensive backs since Derwin James patrolled the field for FSU. Nelson racked up a whopping 32 total pressures on just 82 blitzes, recording 13 sacks, six QB hits and 13 more hurries along the way. When he did drop back in coverage, he was also effective, bringing in an interception and another pass breakup while he made 46 total defensive stops. Against the run, Nelson finished second in the conference among safeties with a 7.4% run-stop percentage, making 27 total run stops on 366 snaps against the run.

Second Team: Darrick Forrest, Cincinnati
Third Team: Tyler Coyle, UConn
Honorable Mention: Davondre Robinson, ECU

Flex Defense

First Team: Aaron Robinson, UCF

Robinson made major plays on the ball all season long, racking up 10 total interceptions and pass breakups combined. He allowed just 56.0% of the passes thrown into his coverage to be caught and allowed a conference-best 8.3 yards per reception with 21 defensive stops to his credit. He didn't allow a reception longer than 32 yards and saw just a 49.7 passer rating when he was the primary coverage defender in 2019.

Second Team: Nick Roberts, USF
Third Team: Reggie Robinson II, Tulsa
Honorable Mention: Nevelle Clarke, UCF

Kicker

First Team: Dalton Witherspoon, Houston

Witherspoon knocked home all 40 of his extra points this season and made 20 of his 24 field goals in 2019. He was terrific from long distance, knocking home 6-of-8 from 40 or more yards out while also adding value as a kickoff man in games.

Second Team: Jake Verity, ECU
Third Team: Dylan Barnas, UCF
Honorable Mention: Sam Crosa, Cincinnati

Punter

First Team: Dane Roy, Houston

Roy's net punt average was the best in the conference, and he led the AAC with 35 punts pinned inside the opponent's 20-yard line. He knocked 54 punts for 2,529 yards, allowing just 151 return yards and averaging a hangtime of 3.21 this year.

Second Team: James Smith, Cincinnati
Third Team: Adam Williams, Memphis
Honorable Mention: Thomas Bennett, Tulsa

Kick Returner

First Team: CJ Sanders, SMU

Sanders was electric this season for the Mustangs, returning 29 kicks for 824 yards and leading the way with two kick-return touchdowns. His 100-yard long obviously topped the conference, but he also averaged 28.4 yards per return, by far the highest among returners with at least 20 attempts.

Second Team: Marquez Stevenson, Houston
Third Team: Antonio Gibson, Memphis
Honorable Mention: Art Thompkins, UConn

Punt Returner

First Team: Otis Anderson, UCF

Anderson is perhaps one of the fastest players in America, and he utilized that on punt returns, including an 87-yard long for a touchdown. Anderson totaled 254 yards and an average of 14.9 yards per return while securing 26 fair catches.

Second Team: Ryan Montgomery, Cincinnati
Third Team: James Proche, SMU
Honorable Mention: Amare Jones, Tulane

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