December 01, 2021
Fickell collects AAC Coach of the Year for third time, Ridder named AAC Offensive POTY again, Gardner unanimous AAC Defensive POTY
IRVING, Texas – Led by unanimous Defensive Player of the Year junior cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and repeat Offensive Player of the Year senior quarterback Desmond Ridder, the No. 3/4-ranked Cincinnati football team placed a league-high 12 Bearcats on the All-American Athletic Conference First Team on Wednesday.
Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell was also named the league’s Coach of the Year for a third time (2018, 2020, 2021).
All 12 of the league’s coaches voted on the awards, which serve as the conference’s official postseason honors.
It’s no surprise the Bearcats ran away with the conference’s honors as Cincinnati finished the regular season with a 12-0 record and an 8-0 mark in the AAC. UC earned home-field advantage for the conference championship game by having the highest ranking (No. 3 AP, No. 4 CFP) of any AAC team.
Gardner was selected to the first team for a third straight season, while Ridder, senior cornerback Coby Bryant and senior defensive end Myjai Sanders were all selected to the first team for a second straight season. Sanders joined Gardner as a unanimous pick.
UC’s other first team selections include junior tackle Dylan O’Quinn, junior guard Lorenz Metz, sophomore center Jake Renfro, junior running back Jerome Ford, senior defensive tackle Curtis Brooks, senior linebacker Joel Dublanko, senior linebacker Darrian Beavers and senior safety Bryan Cook.
Senior wide receiver Alec Pierce nabbed All-AAC Second Team accolades, while junior tight end Josh Whyle, sophomore linebacker Deshawn Pace and senior defensive tackle Marcus Brown each collected honorable mention all-conferences honors.
Cincinnati’s 12 first-team all-conference honorees are by far the most in school history, surpassing the eight selections in 2020.
Gardner has cemented himself as one of the nation’s top defensive players from his boundary cornerback position. Although he is rarely tested, the Detroit, Mich., native has 34 tackles, three interceptions, four pass breakups, two sacks and a forced fumble in 2021. He is the first Bearcat to capture AAC Defensive Player of the Year honors and league’s second unanimous selection (Zaven Collins, Tulsa, 2020). He has never allowed a TD pass in his career, which spans over 1,000 coverage snaps.
Ridder is the first Bearcat to collect conference offensive player of the year honors in back-to-back years. This season, he has 3,000 passing yards and 27 touchdowns to go along with six rushing scores. He’s UC’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns and became the AAC’s all-time leader in total yards and touchdown responsibility against ECU. His 43 career wins are the third-most in college football history.
Fickell has guided Cincinnati to one of only two undefeated records in 2021 and to the highest rankings in school history. UC was ranked as high as No. 2 in the AP and Coaches’ Polls earlier this fall and its current No. 4 ranking in the College Football Playoff Rankings is the highest ever by a non-Power 5 school. UC’s fifth-year head coach is 47-14 during his time at Cincinnati, including a 43-6 mark since the start of 2018.
Below is the full list of honorees:
AAC Offensive Player of the Year (two-time)
QB Desmond Ridder
AAC Defensive Player of the Year (unanimous)
CB Ahmad Gardner
AAC Coach of the Year
All-Conference First Team
OT Dylan O’Quinn
OG Lorenz Metz
C Jake Renfro
QB Desmond Ridder (two-time)
RB Jerome Ford
DL Curtis Brooks
DL Myjai Sanders (unanimous, two-time)
LB Darrian Beavers
LB Joel Dublanko
CB Ahmad Gardner (unanimous, three-time)
CB Coby Bryant (two-time)
S Bryan Cook
All-Conference Second Team
WR Alec Pierce
All-Conference Honorable Mention
DL Marcus Brown
LB Deshawn Pace
TE Josh Whyle
COURTESY CINCINNATI ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS