IRVING, Texas – Standout student-athletes from Tulane, Cincinnati and Temple claimed major individual awards as the American Athletic Conference announced its 2022 players of the year and all-conference selections as chosen by the league’s 11 head coaches.
Tulane saw running back Tyjae Spears chosen as The American’s Geico Offensive Player of the Year, while Green Wave coach Willie Fritz was unanimously chosen as Coach of the Year. Cincinnati had two individual award-winners as linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. was named the RoofClaim Defensive Player of the Year, while punter Mason Fletcher was tabbed as Special Teams Player of the Year. Temple freshman quarterback E.J. Warner was the coaches’ choice as Rookie of the Year.
In addition to the individual awards, Tulane and Cincinnati both had a league-leading six players chosen to The American’s all-conference first team. UCF and Houston had five first-team players each.
Spears becomes the first Tulane player, and the first non-quarterback, to be named as American Offensive Player of the Year. Spears finished the regular season with 1,177 rushing yards, good for third in The American, and a league-leading 14 rushing touchdowns. He registered a conference-best 972 yards and eight TDs in conference games, helping the Green Wave to a 7-1 league record (10-2 overall) and its first appearance in The American Championship Game.
Pace is the second consecutive Cincinnati player to be named as The American’s Defensive Player of the Year, following cornerback Sauce Gardner’s honor in 2021. This year’s selection also marks the second consecutive conference player-of-the-year honor for Pace, who was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year at Miami (Ohio) last season. An Associated Press Mid-Season All-America choice and a finalist for the Butkus Award and the Bednarik Award, Pace leads The American with 120 tackles and 19.5 tackles for loss and is second in the conference with 9.0 sacks.
Fletcher is Cincinnati’s first player to win American Special Teams Player of the Year honors. The sophomore leads The American and is fourth nationally with a 46.7-yard punting average and 28 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. He hit 14 punts of at least 50 yards, including an 84-yard punt that shattered The American’s distance record. A Ray Guy Award finalist, Fletcher helped Cincinnati finish the regular season ranked second nationally in net punting at 44.7 yards.
Warner becomes the first Temple player to be chosen as The American’s Rookie of the Year. The true freshman took over as the Owls’ starter in the third game of the season and finished the 2022 campaign with 3,028 passing yards and 18 touchdown passes, capped by a 527-yard, five-touchdown effort in the season finale against East Carolina. Warner finished fourth in The American in passing, averaging 275.3 yards per game in his debut season.
Fritz was the unanimous choice of his peers as American Coach of the Year after he orchestrated Tulane’s turnaround from a 2-10 season in 2021 to a 10-2 showing and a first-place finish in The American’s regular-season standings. The Green Wave is ranked No. 18 in this week’s Associated Press poll as Tulane earned its first 10-win season and top-25 rankings since 1998. He is the third coach to be unanimously chosen as American Coach of the Year, joining Justin Fuente of Memphis in 2014 and Scott Frost of UCF in 2017.
In addition to the major award-winners, The American also named its first, second and honorable mention all-conference teams. East Carolina running back Keaton Mitchell, Houston wide receiver Nathaniel Dell and Houston offensive tackle Patrick Paul were repeat first-team selections. Navy linebacker John Marshall was the lone unanimous first-team all-conference selection.
2022 AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE FOOTBALL AWARDS
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE GEICO OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE ROOFCLAIM DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ivan Pace Jr., LB, Cincinnati
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Mason Fletcher, P, Cincinnati
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
E.J. Warner, QB, Temple
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE COACH OF THE YEAR
Willie Fritz, Tulane *
ALL-CONFERENCE FIRST TEAM
Pos. Player School Cl. Ht. Wt. Hometown WR Nathaniel Dell 1 Houston Jr. 5-10 165 Daytona Beach, Fla. WR Rashee Rice H SMU Sr. 6-2 203 North Richland Hills, Texas WR Keylon Stokes 2 Tulsa Gr. 5-10 202 Manvel, Texas OT Ryan Swoboda UCF Gr. 6-10 325 Clermont, Fla. OT Patrick Paul 1 Houston So. 6-7 310 Houston, Texas OG Lokahi Pauole 2 H UCF Sr. 6-4 305 Kapolei, Hawaii OG Cam’Ron Johnson Houston So. 6-4 305 Houston, Texas OG Prince Pines Tulane Jr. 6-5 345 Baton Rouge, La. C Sincere Haynesworth 2 Tulane Sr. 6-1 300 Pearland, Texas TE Josh Whyle H Cincinnati Sr. 6-6 250 Cincinnati, Ohio QB Clayton Tune Houston Sr. 6-3 220 Carrollton, Texas RB Keaton Mitchell 1 East Carolina So. 5-9 184 McDonough, Ga. RB Tyjae Spears Tulane Jr. 5-11 195 Ponchatoula, La. DL Ricky Barber UCF Jr. 6-3 295 Louisville, Ky. DL Tre’mon Morris-Brash UCF Sr. 6-2 245 Richmond, Va. DL Jowon Briggs Cincinnati Sr. 6-1 313 Cincinnati, Ohio DL Dontay Corleone Cincinnati RFr. 6-2 320 Cincinnati, Ohio DL D’Anthony Jones Houston Sr. 6-2 270 Lawndale, Calif. DL Darian Varner Temple So. 6-2 260 Norfolk, Va. LB Jason Johnson UCF Jr. 6-2 200 Matteson, Ill. LB Ivan Pace Jr. Cincinnati Sr. 6-0 235 Cincinnati, Ohio LB John Marshall * Navy Sr. 6-2 209 Highland, Md. LB Dorian Williams 2 H Tulane Sr. 6-2 230 Indian Land, S.C. CB Ja’Quan Sheppard Cincinnati Sr. 6-2 200 Zephyrhills, Fla. CB Jarius Monroe Tulane Jr. 6-1 205 LaPlace, La. S Quindell Johnson 2 2 Memphis Sr. 6-0 205 New Orleans, La. S Macon Clark H Tulane Sr. 6-1 205 St. Rose, La. K Chris Howard Memphis Sr. 6-2 210 Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. P Mason Fletcher Cincinnati So. 6-7 213 Melbourne, Australia RS Jimmy Horn Jr. South Florida So. 5-10 174 Sanford, Fla.
* unanimous selection
ALL-CONFERENCE SECOND TEAM
Pos. Player School Cl. Ht. Wt. Hometown WR Ryan O’Keefe 2 UCF Sr. 5-10 175 Austin, Texas WR Tyler Scott Cincinnati Jr. 5-11 185 Norton, Ohio WR C.J. Johnson East Carolina Jr. 6-2 222 Greenville, N.C. WR Xavier Weaver South Florida Jr. 6-1 180 Orlando, Fla. OT James Tunstall Cincinnati Sr. 6-5 320 Indian Head, Md. OT Joey Claybrook Tulane Sr. 6-7 300 Starkville, Miss. OG Sam Jackson UCF Gr. 6-6 325 Bradenton, Fla. OG Justin Osborne SMU Jr. 6-5 309 Flower Mound, Texas C Matt Lee 1 UCF Jr. 6-4 295 Oviedo, Fla. TE Caden Prieskorn Memphis Jr. 6-5 255 Lake Orion, Mich. QB Michael Pratt Tulane Jr. 6-3 220 Boca Raton, Fla. RB Isaiah Bowser UCF Gr. 6-1 220 Sidney, Ohio RB Brian Battie South Florida So. 5-8 165 Sarasota, Fla. DL Elijah Chatman 2 SMU Sr. 6-0 291 Shreveport, La. DL Darius Hodges Tulane So. 6-2 280 Montgomery, Ala. DL Patrick Jenkins Tulane So. 6-2 286 New Orleans, La. DL Anthony Goodlow Tulsa Sr. 6-5 286 Del City, Okla. LB Xavier Cullens Memphis Gr. 5-11 225 Ecru, Miss. LB Layton Jordan Temple Jr. 6-2 220 McKeesport, Pa. LB Nick Anderson Tulane Sr. 5-11 230 Vicksburg, Miss. LB Justin Wright H Tulsa Sr. 6-2 244 Abilene, Texas CB Malik Fleming East Carolina Jr. 5-10 184 Fairburn, Ga. CB Art Green Houston Sr. 6-2 200 Chesterfield, Mo. S Ja’Von Hicks Cincinnati Sr. 6-2 210 Cincinnati, Ohio S Gervarrius Owens 1 Houston Sr. 6-0 200 Moore, Okla. K Ryan Coe Cincinnati Sr. 6-3 227 McDonald, Pa. P Casey Glover Tulane Jr. 6-5 205 Jericho, N.Y. RS Jha’Quan Jackson Tulane Jr. 5-10 185 Luling, La.
ALL-CONFERENCE HONORABLE MENTION
Pos. Player School Cl. Ht. Wt. Hometown CB Arquon Bush Cincinnati Sr. 6-0 198 Cleveland, Ohio OT Joe Huber Cincinnati So. 6-5 310 Dublin, Ohio OG Dylan O’Quinn 1 Cincinnati Sr. 6-4 305 Toledo, Ohio WR Isaiah Winstead East Carolina Gr. 6-4 213 Richmond, Va. RS Jayce Rogers Houston Sr. 5-8 175 Valdosta, Ga. DL Jaylon Allen Memphis Sr. 6-3 240 Humble, Texas CB Davion Ross Memphis Jr. 5-10 175 Warner Robins, Ga. DL Jacob Busic Navy Jr. 6-4 256 Westminster, Md. LB Dwayne Boyles Jr. South Florida Gr. 6-3 230 Miami, Fla. C Brad Cecil South Florida Gr. 6-4 294 Jacksonville, Fla. OG Jaylon Thomas 2 SMU Sr. 6-5 311 Lubbock, Texas S Larry Brooks Tulane Sr. 6-1 200 Fort Worth, Texas TE Tyrick James Tulane Sr. 6-2 235 Waco, Texas CB Tyon Davis Tulsa Gr. 6-0 186 Putnam City, Okla.
1 2 H indicates previous selections to the first, second or honorable mention all-conference teams
American Athletic Conference Offensive Players of the Year
2013 Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
2014 Shane Carden, QB, East Carolina
2015 Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy
2016 Quinton Flowers, QB, USF
2017 McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF
2018 McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF
2019 Malcolm Perry, QB, Navy
2020 Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
2021 Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
2022 Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane
American Athletic Conference Defensive Players of the Year
2013 Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville
2014 Jacoby Glenn, CB, UCF
Tank Jakes, LB, Memphis
2015 Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple
2016 Shaquem Griffin, LB, UCF
2017 Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
2018 Nate Harvey, DE, East Carolina
2019 Quincy Roche, DE, Temple
2020 Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa *
2021 Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati *
2022 Ivan Pace Jr., LB, Cincinnati
American Athletic Conference Special Teams Players of the Year
2013 Demarcus Ayers, WR/KR, Houston
Tom Hornsey, P, Memphis
2014 Jake Elliott, K, Memphis
2015 Jake Elliott, K, Memphis
2016 Tony Pollard, WR/RS, Memphis
2017 Tony Pollard, WR/RS, Memphis
2018 Isaiah Wright, WR/RS, Temple
2019 Dane Roy, P, Houston
Antonio Gibson, WR/RS, Memphis
2020 Chris Naggar, K, SMU
2021 Marcus Jones, CB/RS, Houston
2022 Mason Fletcher, P, Cincinnati
American Athletic Conference Rookies of the Year
2013 John O’Korn, QB, Houston
2014 Marlon Mack, RB, USF
2015 Tre’Quan Smith, WR, UCF
2016 Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
2017 T.J. Carter, CB, Memphis
2018 Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
2019 Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis
2020 Rahjai Harris, RB, East Carolina
Ulysses Bentley IV, RB, SMU
2021 Alton McCaskill, RB, Houston
2022 E.J. Warner, QB, Temple
American Athletic Conference Coaches of the Year
2013 George O’Leary, UCF *
2014 Justin Fuente, Memphis *
2015 Tom Herman, Houston, Ken Niumatalolo, Navy
2016 Ken Niumatalolo, Navy
2017 Scott Frost, UCF *
2018 Luke Fickell, Cincinnati
2019 Ken Niumatalolo, Navy
2020 Luke Fickell, Cincinnati
2021 Luke Fickell, Cincinnati
2022 Willie Fritz, Tulane *