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.
Rumph II collected 24 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, two quarterback pressures, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup. He is tied for 36th in the ACC in sacks and tied for second among the league’s freshmen. His 8.0 tackles for loss are the sixth most in a year by a rookie at Duke and tied for the second most by an ACC rookie this season.
*Junior LB Joe Giles-Harris LB (6-2/240)
Giles-Harris leads the Blue Devils in tackles (81) for the third consecutive season and ranks third in the ACC in tackles per game (9.00). Earlier this season, he became the 20th Blue Devil to reach 300 career tackles.
Senior TE Danny Helm (6-4/255)
Helm, from Chatham, Ill., ranks fifth on the team in receptions (22) and fourth in both receiving yards (248) and touchdowns (two). He owns three or more receptions in three games with a year-high four catches for 34 yards at Miami.
**Sophomore RB Deon Jackson (6-0/220)
Jackson, a 6-0, 220-pound sophomore from Atlanta, Ga., set the Duke single-game record for all-purpose yards with 403 at Pittsburgh, becoming just the third ACC player to reach 400 all-purpose yards in a contest.
Coach: Ed Foley
Temple Players to watch:
Senior DT Michael Dogbe (6-3/280)
Dogbe has been a force in the middle of the defensive line all season and has been in wreaking havoc in every backfield the Owls faced. Dogbe led the line with 69 tackles, 12.5 TFLs, seven sacks, and three forced fumbles. He was named First Team All-AAC for his performance this season.
Senior CB Rock Ya-Sin (6-2/190)
NFL Scouts have their eyes on Ya-Sin. The Decatur, Ga., transfer forced offenses to stay away from his side of the field all season. When they did throw his way, he made them pay. In his only 12 games with the Owls, Ya-Sin had 47 tackles, two TFLs, two interceptions, and 12 PBUs.
*Junior WR/RS Isaiah Wright (6-2/218)
Wright was named AAC Special Teams Player of the Year. He accumulated 1,428 all-purpose yards this season and scored seven total touchdowns. He returned two punts and a 99-yard kick return for a touchdown this season. He also ranks second in the nation in combined kick return yards with 976.
Senior RB Ryquell Armstead (6-11/215)
Armstead had a career year despite only playing 10 games this season. He rushed 210 times for 1,098 yards and 13 touchdowns. His best game this season was against Houston when he rushed for 210-yards and a conference-record six touchdowns on the way to victory. He sits at third all-time in Temple history with 34 rushing touchdowns.