USF Flowers & UCF Griffin Named AAC Players of the Year

USF Quarterback Quinton Flowers and UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin were named offensive and defensive players of the year by the AAC.

USF quarterback Quinton Flowers, who has led the Bulls to their most successful season in program history, and UCF linebacker from St. Petersburg, helped the Knights to a remarkable turnaround in 2016, were honored as the American Athletic Conference’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year by the league’s 12 head coaches.

Flowers and Griffin also were members of the first team All-Conference squad named today.  USF star running back Marlon Mack, offensive lineman, Kofi Amichia, made the first team with Flowers. Meanwhile wide receiver Rodney Adams, offensive lineman Dominique Threatt and tight end, Mitchell Wilcox, took home All Conference second team honors.

Flowers was chosen as the American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year after he finished the regular season as the only player in the conference to both throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000. He set school records for total offense (3,976 yards), rushing yards (1,425), rushing touchdowns (15) and total touchdowns (37) and is the American Athletic Conference leader in pass efficiency (153.5).

Photo: USF Athletics
Photo: USF Athletics

Flowers set the American Athletic Conference single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback and ranked third among all league players in rushing, averaging 118.8 yards per game and 8.1 yards per carry. Beyond the numbers, Flowers directed a USF offense that scored at least 30 points in every game this season, and in 15 straight games, dating to 2015, helping the Bulls to 10 wins for the first time in school history. Flowers is the first USF player to win a major individual football award from the conference.

Griffin becomes the third UCF player to win a major football honor from The American, following Blake Bortles (the 2013 Offensive Player of the Year) and Jacoby Glenn (the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year). Griffin made an immediate impact in his first year as a starter, finishing as the American Athletic Conference leader in sacks (11.0) and ranking third in the conference in tackles for loss (19.0). Griffin finished the regular season with 85 total tackles along with two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, six pass breakups and an interception, helping the Knights – who went winless in 2015 – to six wins and bowl eligibility in 2016.

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Memphis return specialist Tony Pollard was chosen as The American’s Special Teams Player of the Year. Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver was the coaches’ choice as Rookie of the Year.

Pollard continued Memphis’ hold on The American’s Special Teams Player of the Year award, giving the Tigers the winner of that honor for the fourth straight year (joining punter Tom Hornsey in 2013 and kicker Jake Elliott, who won in 2014 and 2015). Pollard ranks ninth nationally in kickoff returns, averaging 28.4 yards per attempt, and had 993 yards on kickoffs as a freshman. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, finishing the regular season as the only player in The American with more than one special team’s touchdown. Prior to this season, Memphis had not scored on a kickoff return since 1996.

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, who led the Midshipmen to the outright West Division title, won The American’s Coach of the Year honor for the second straight year.

Navy - USF

Niumatalolo repeated as American Athletic Conference Coach of the Year after his Midshipmen went 7-1 in American Athletic Conference play for the second consecutive year, clinching the West Division title and home field advantage in Saturday’s conference championship game. Despite returning only one offensive starter from last year’s team, and losing this year’s starting quarterback to a season-ending injury on Opening Day, the Midshipmen have been one of the most prolific offensive teams in the nation in 2016, ranking second in the NCAA in rushing (342.0 ypg), and 11th in scoring (41.7 ppg). Along the way, Navy has committed the fewest penalties (30) and has the second-fewest turnovers (9) of any team in the nation.

The stats used in the story were provided by the AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE.