DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: NATE HARVEY, EAST CAROLINA
Harvey enjoyed a breakout season as a senior at ECU in 2018 after spending last season primarily on special teams. Harvey, ECU’s starting right defensive end, finished third nationally in tackles for loss with 25.5. However, he finished first in tackles for loss per game with 2.1.
Harvey broke The American’s single-season record of 23.0 tackles for loss, set by Houston’s Ed Oliver last year, and he tied Louisville’s Marcus Smith (2013) for the conference’s single-season record of 14.5 sacks. In addition, Harvey has 59 tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: McKENZIE MILTON, CENTRAL FLORIDA
Milton became the first player to repeat as The American’s Offensive Player of the Year as he served as the catalyst behind an offense that lead the conference and ranked fifth nationally at 531.5 yards per game and averaging 43.1 points per game. Milton threw for 2,663 yards and 25 touchdowns with six interceptions and rushed for 307 yards and a team-high nine TDs in 2018. He ranked 10th nationally in pass efficiency (161.0), third in yards per completion (15.57) and sixth in points responsible for per game (20.4).
McKenzie Milton led the UCF Golden Knights to 23 straight wins before suffering a season-ending leg injury.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Isaiah Wright, Temple
Wright becomes the first Temple player to earn Special Teams Player of the Year honors from The American. Wright scored a nation-leading three special teams touchdowns in 2018 and enters the postseason as the conference leader in punt return average (13.9 yards per return). Wright is third in the conference in kickoff return average (25.9 ypr) and fifth in all-purpose yards (119.0 yards per game).
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Ridder took over as the Bearcats’ quarterback in the second quarter of the season-opening win at UCLA and has led Cincinnati to a 10-2 record. He threw for 2,445 yards and 20 touchdowns with five interceptions and has rushed for 583 yards and five TDs as a redshirt freshman. He ranked fourth in The American in pass efficiency (145.7) and fifth in total offense (245.4 yards per game).
COACH OF THE YEAR: Luke Fickell, Cincinnati
Fickell was chosen by his peers as The American’s Coach of the Year after he orchestrated a six-win improvement in his second year on the Cincinnati sideline. After going 4-8 in his first year, Fickell has led the Bearcats to a 10-2 overall record, a 4-0 in mark in nonconference games and a 6-2 conference mark in 2018. The Bearcats returned to the national polls for the first time since 2013, ranking as high as No. 19 in the Nov. 11 Associated Press poll.