AAC Preview: Top 10 offensive linemen
Over the next couple of weeks, we'll take an in-depth look at the upcoming American Athletic Conference football season from various angles. Players, pivotal matchups, prevailing story lines -- all will be dissected. Today: top 10 offensive linemen (in alphabetical order)
LT Kofi Amichia, Sr., USF
Amichia served as the left bookend of arguably the best Bulls offensive line ever last fall. That quintet, which started all 13 games, helped USF produce a school-record 5,741 total yards and allowed a league-low 1.12 sacks per game in American Athletic Conference play. Three of those starters -- and position coach Danny Hope -- are gone, meaning Amichia must emerge as both a leader and left-side anchor in 2016.
TE Alec Bloom, Jr., Connecticut
Bloom, who pretty much had his way with USF (five catches, 97 yards) last October, doubles as a rangy blocker (6-foot-6, 257 pounds) in UConn's two-tight formations. If he can gain more consistency as a pass catcher, Bloom could really break through in '16.
C Deyshawn Bond, R-Sr., Cincinnati
Bond, literal centerpiece of Cincinnati's most experienced unit, likely will make the Rimington Trophy Preseason Watch List for a third consecutive year. Athlon and Sporting News already have bestowed him with first-team preseason all-conference honors.
RG J.T. Boyd, Sr., East Carolina
Boyd, who helped ECU amass 400 or more yards in nine games last season, already has 23 career starts -- and a degree. Boyd will spend the fall working on his MBA in business administration, but we have a hunch he could earn some NFL employment. The dude set a record for Pirate offensive guards with a 670-pound squat lift.
LT Dion Dawkins, Sr., Temple
This New Jersey-born behemoth (6-foot-5, 318 pounds) would've long since earned one of Temple's single-digit jerseys (awarded to the Owls' toughest players) if the NCAA didn't prohibit offensive linemen from wearing them. Dawkins anchored a unit that allowed only 1.29 sacks a game last season (21st nationally).
LT Aaron Evans, R-Jr., UCF
This former Armwood High standout was the only Knights offensive player to start all 12 games last season. Granted, UCF's offense reeked, but the pass protection was respectable in allowing 23 sacks (55th nationally). Don't be misled by Evans' choirboy countenance; he can elicit all the ruthlessness his job demands.
RT Andreas Knappe, R-Sr., Connecticut
A 25-year-old Denmark native and former member of that country's national archery team, Knappe oozes NFL upside (6-foot-8, 320 pounds). He enters the 2016 season with 20 consecutive starts at right tackle. Put Bloom next to him and, well, the Huskies may be inclined to sweep right periodically.
RG Ryan Leahy, Sr., Cincinnati
A co-winner of the 2015 AAC Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award, Leahy (3.62 GPA) started all 13 games last season for a Bearcats offense that ranked sixth nationally (537.8 ypg). While UC will be young at most skill spots, the line could feature four starting upperclassmen. Leahy may be the best of that veteran bunch.
C Will Noble, So., Houston
Noble started the final eight games of his rookie season, graded out at a team-best 86 percent, and earned freshman All-America honors from three major news organizations. A 290-pound package of brute strength and brains, he amassed a 5.09 weighted GPA at Rouse High in Leander, Texas, graduating 15th in a class of 477.
RG Dominique Threatt, Sr., USF
Is there a more unheralded Bull on the roster? Threatt, who enters the season with 20 career starts, and Amichia are the lone returning starters from last season's durable quintet that paved the way to a record-setting season for the offense.