Who are the 12 most important players in the American?

Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. threw for 17 touchdowns and just six interceptions last season. Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports

This story appears in ESPN College Football 2016, on newsstands June 7. Order online today!

Two of the American's most important players from last season -- Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. and Temple quarterback P.J. Walker -- are back for another year. Which other players could the conference's teams not live without?

East Division

South Florida Bulls: RB Marlon Mack

Mack, a 6-foot, 205-pound junior, ran for a school-record 1,381 yards last year and led the conference in rushing, averaging 6.6 yards a carry with 13 runs of more than 20 yards.

Temple Owls: QB P.J. Walker

Walker, a senior with 33 starts, holds school records for TD passes (52) and total offense (8,237 yards), and with 7,374 passing yards, he's 121 short of the school record.

Cincinnati Bearcats: RB Mike Boone

The 5-foot-11, 201-pound Boone (7.2 yards per carry) will be the featured back this season and could be a breakout player as the Bearcats try to recommit to a running game.

Connecticut Huskies: RB Arkeel Newsome

Newsome, a 5-foot-7, 180-pound junior, led the AAC with 1,686 all-purpose yards as a sophomore, including two 100-yard rushing performances in the Huskies' final five games.

East Carolina Pirates: WR Isaiah Jones

One of the top returning receivers in the nation, the senior hauled in 98 passes for 1,099 yards and five touchdowns last season.

UCF Knights: WR Tre'Quan Smith

The 2015 AAC freshman of the year, Smith led the Knights in receptions (52), receiving yards (724) and receiving TDs (four) and was one of the team's few bright spots.

West Division

Houston Cougars: QB Greg Ward Jr.

Ward ranked second in the nation in both rushing yards (1,108) and rushing touchdowns (21) by a quarterback. He also led the AAC with a Total QBR of 80.3.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane: QB Dane Evans

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior threw 25 TDs and completed 63 percent of his passes with just eight picks. He threw for 427 yards and four TDs with no interceptions at Oklahoma.

Navy Midshipmen: QB Tago Smith

Smith, a senior, has to follow four-year starter Keenan Reynolds, but coach Ken Niumatalolo likes his athleticism. Smith has played in 19 games, tallying 294 yards on 70 rushes and nine total TDs.

Memphis Tigers: RB Doroland Dorceus

Dorceus, a junior, was Memphis' top all-around back last season, rushing for 661 yards and eight TDs while adding 217 receiving yards and three TD catches.

SMU Mustangs: WR Courtland Sutton

The 6-foot-4 sophomore ranked fifth nationally among freshmen with 862 receiving yards and tied for the conference lead with nine TD receptions.

Tulane Green Wave: RBs Sherman Badie and Dontrell Hilliard

Badie and Hilliard have both rushed for more than 600 yards in a season and each should see more carries in an offense designed to run the football with multiple backs.