Welcome to the 2023 American Athletic Conference college football season. This is an exciting year for AAC fans, and we here at FanBuzz will be ranking the top-five preseason quarterbacks for each conference until the season begins.
This season, the AAC has 14 teams, and the conference champion will be determined in the new 3-3-5 format replacing divisions. The top two teams with the best conference records will play for the conference championship Dec. 2.
We begin our rankings with the American Athletic Conference and its top-five preseason starting quarterbacks (in alphabetical order).
Frank Harris, USTA Roadrunners
Frank Harris returns to the Roadrunners this year after he threw 32 touchdowns for 4,063 yards plus nine interceptions last season in the team's final year in Conference USA.
While Harris is a key piece to have in the team's first year in a new conference, the team produced a 23-5 record the past two years and brings back 16 starters as it seeks to win the AAC championship.
Despite wide receiver Zakhari Franklin's transfer to Ole Miss being a huge loss for UTSA, the Roadrunners still return both Joshua Cephus and De'Corian Clark as their No. 1 and No. 2 threats on the outside. Harris also has rising star running back Kevorian Barnes to hand off the ball to, as well as an experienced offensive line to block for him.
This could be labeled by many pundits as a sleeper pick to win the AAC championship. And who knows? Maybe, if they're lucky, they'll be the second team to make the College Football Playoff from the five associated conferences since Cincinnati did so in 2021.
Seth Henigan, Memphis Tigers
A big part of the reason why the Tigers have made three bowl games in a row under head coach Ryan Silverfield has been consistency at the quarterback position. Seth Henigan is no exception, with the Memphis signal-caller returning as one of the conference's best passers to watch for this upcoming season.
He threw for 3,571 yards and 22 touchdowns along with eight interceptions in 2022, and he will look to take it up a notch in order for the Tigers to make a run at the American Athletic Conference title this year.
Silverfield has done a great job building this Tigers program as its leader. And if he and Henigan continue to build on a successful relationship, expect the Tigers to win eight or nine games and have a good chance of making the title game.
Michael Pratt, Tulane Green Wave
Last season, Michael Pratt and the Green Wave had one of the most memorable seasons in the history of both the AAC and Tulane. They went 10-2 in the regular season and clinched the American Athletic Conference championship with their win over now-former conference member University of Central Florida, which is now in the Big 12 for 2023.
They also pulled off a monumental bowl upset by defeating PAC-12 powerhouse USC 46-45 in the Cotton Bowl Classic, led by preseason Heisman candidate and potential 2024 No. 1 draft pick Caleb Williams.
Pratt threw for 3,488 yards and 37 touchdowns with five interceptions in 2022 with an offense that featured NFL Draft pick Tyjae Spears. I compare him to a faster and bigger Emmitt Smith. The receiver core was also led by Shae Wyatt and Duece Watts.
Despite Tulane losing a lot of key pieces in the offseason, you should still expect the Green Wave to be a top 20 or top 15 program barring any injuries.
Preston Stone - SMU Mustangs
Preston Stone originally came into the Southern Methodist University program as the team's highest-rated four-star recruit (No. 111) in the 2021 class. He was going to be groomed as the team's quarterback of the future after senior Tanner Mordecai lit up the stats sheet last season with 33 touchdowns and 3,524 yards with 10 interceptions.
Why do we have a returning sophomore in Stone, who only had 388 yards for two touchdowns and one interception as a freshman last year? Because Mordecai is gone, and Stone is in line to become the guy in SMU this season.
He is a tremendous dual-threat quarterback with a cannon of an arm, as was evident when he threw a 75-yard touchdown to Rashee Rice against Tulsa last season. He can also run. But most importantly, he's coming in after learning behind Mordecai.
E.J. Warner - Temple
Yes, sophomore quarterback E.J. Warner is the youngest son of NFL Hall of Famer Kurt Warner — who, like him, had a hard struggle before success in football. To start out, E.J. began the season with the Owls last year as a backup in his true freshman year behind incumbent starter D'Wan Mathis.
Mathis was then hurt, and Warner ended up becoming the permanent starter and acquitted himself well in 11 games. While he threw for a topsy-turvy 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, he did pass for 3,028 yards with limited skill players around him. His efforts earned him American Athletic Conference Offensive Rookie of the Year, and he is now heading into his sophomore year as the clear starter for 2023.
Warner may not be as good as his father yet, but his father bagged groceries in a supermarket and then was in the Arena League before he got his chance with the St. Louis Rams. Even then, a 1999 preseason injury by supposed starter Trent Green earned Warner a shot, and the rest is history.
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