On the move: Tracking the AAC's top QBs
By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Thursday, July 18, 2019
NEWPORT, R.I. — In the lead spot to start at quarterback for American Athletic Conference preseason favorite UCF is senior Notre Dame transfer Brandon Winbush.
Veteran QBs at Memphis (Brady White) and South Florida (Blake Barnett) both were at Arizona State earlier in their careers. Barnett, a senior, actually played at Alabama in 2016, Arizona State the next year and then transferred to USF to start for the Bulls.
SMU will be looking for a spark this season from former Texas part-time starter Shane Buechele.
Some AAC schools, like East Carolina with homegrown talented sophomore Holton Ahlers and in Houston, where former receiver-turned-QB D’Eriq King has developed into a unique and speedy star, have signed and stuck with their signal-callers through the traditional process during a time when transfers continue to be prominent.
“I don’t think that is just this league, but I think that is all throughout college football,” said UCF second-year coach Josh Heupel, a former offensive coordinator at Missouri, during AAC media days earlier this week. "Guys are transferring at that position because it’s a unique position where only one guy gets to play. In today’s world, we are in a world of instant gratification, so I think that is why you see a lot of transfers happen at that position."
Winbush, a dual-threat QB, made 16 total starts at Notre Dame. He participated in spring practice in Orlando, Fla., and was a timely addition for the Knights, who are without McKenzie Milton due to a long-term leg injury and also 2018 fill-in Darriel Mack (broken ankle).
Buechele made 19 starts at Texas and has two years remaining to play for the Mustangs.
ECU first-year coach Mike Houston said the Pirates had a chance to add a QB this offseason, but he confidently opted to stay with his group that leads with Ahlers and junior Reid Herring joined by freshmen Bryan Gagg and Alex Flinn.
“We are very happy with the roster we have at that position, and I’ll also say that we are happy where we are in recruiting,” Houston said. “I don’t see us going the (transfer) route anytime soon. I told Holton that I passed up on a very good transfer quarterback from a top institution because I was happy with our roster."
Memphis coach Mike Norvell added that all transfer situations are different.
“I think all of these guys are looking for the right fit and the right opportunity,” he said. “Brady was a unique situation for us because I had recruited him at Arizona State and when he graduated, he was looking to put himself in a good situation. … Whether they were recruited on the front end or transferred in, there definitely is a diverse group of talent and some special players (in the AAC)."
The Phil Steele College Football Preview magazine projected King, who accounted for 50 total touchdowns in 11 games last year, as the American first-team quarterback. Second-team honors went to Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder and third was Buechele.
Steele ranked the Pirates' quarterbacks unit 10th among the American's 12 teams.
Contact Ronnie Woodward at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.