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This article examines two quarterbacks in the American Athletic Conference who are primed for breakout seasons in 2023.
The 2022 American Athletic Conference football season ended on a high note. Conference champion Tulane upset the USC Trojans in the Cotton Bowl, a Trojan team led by Heisman winner Caleb Williams.
The bowl victory marked the third time an AAC team defeated a “Power-5” team in a New Year’s Six Bowl during the College Football Playoff era. It also capped one of the greatest one-year turnarounds in college football history.
The 2022 Green Wave had a 12-2 (7-1) record and finished the season ranked No. 9 in both the AP and Coaches Poll. In 2021, Tulane went 2-10 (1-7) and was tied for last in the conference standings.
Much of the credit for the team’s quick turnaround can be attributed to the breakout season of quarterback Michael Pratt. Pratt eclipsed 3,000 yards passing for the first time while accounting for a career-best 37 total touchdowns.
As we gear up to start the 2023 season, here are two quarterbacks primed for a breakout year that could lead their teams to a similar turnaround as the 2022 Tulane squad.
Braylon Braxton had a stellar performance in 2022 for the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. Even though his opportunities were limited, and his team finished 5-7 (3-5), Braxton did not disappoint.
In only three starts, Braxton threw for 1,133 yards and 10 touchdowns with just two interceptions. He concluded the season leading his team to back-to-back victories in which he accounted for 7 total touchdowns, one of which was an upset over Houston.
Braylon showed flashes of his dual-threat ability rushing for 5 touchdowns on the ground, including a few “Sportscenter-worthy” highlight runs. He also proved he has the intangibles to lead his team and take control of games.
At AAC Media Days, Tulsa first-year head coach Kevin Wilson referenced Braxton’s playmaking skillset when he said, “I think [Braylon’s] got the ability to make a little chicken salad when it’s not always the best piece of chicken out there, you know?”
I spoke with Braylon at AAC Media Days, and he seemed confident and poised headed into the fall. If he can pick up where he left off last season, college football fans better not sleep on Tulsa in 2023.
E.J. Warner had an impressive year in 2022 for the Temple Owls. He began the season as the backup quarterback but was quickly named the starter entering the second game. Warner, a true freshman in 2022, never looked back after earning the starting role.
E.J. is next in line to carry on the notable Warner football legacy. His father, Kurt, is an NFL Hall of Famer, while his brother, Kade, helped Kansas State win the Big 12 championship last season and is currently with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Last season Warner passed for an impressive 3,028 yards and 18 touchdowns, with a completion percentage over 60%. He set multiple records throughout the course of the season, ultimately earning himself the AAC Rookie of the Year award. He was a bright spot for Temple in what was otherwise a disappointing season.
The Owls finished 3-9 (1-7) in head coach Stan Drayton’s first season at the helm.
However, Warner’s 500-yard, 5-touchdown performance in the season’s finale certainly gave Temple fans hope for the future. The future is now, and Warner is primed and ready to help his team take a big step forward in 2023.
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