What you need to know ...
The one dimensional attack should be more
diverse as speedy new backs Eugene Jarvis and Tony Howard should do
wonders for a ground game that averaged a nation-worst 45.9 yards per
game. Even with the night-and-day improvement in the backfield, it'll be
hard not to wing it around with big bomber Michael Machen back at the
helm for the second straight season and with a deep and talented group of
receivers to work with. The line should be better if everyone can stay
healthy and tackle Augustus Parrish and center Josh Perry blossom into
the stars they appeared to be this spring.
Passing: Michael Machen
200-365, 2,078 yds, 11 TD, 18 INT
Rushing: Jerry Flowers
96 carries, 304 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Najeh Pruden
33 catches, 688 yds, 5 TD
Star of the offense: Senior WR Najah Pruden
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior OT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Tony Howard
Best pro prospect: Pruden
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Pruden, 2) QB Michael
Machen, 3) Howard
Strength of the offense: Receiver
Weakness of the offense: Proven running backs
The offense underwent a major transformation from Josh
Cribbs' running style to Michael Machen and a pure passing
attack. Machen wasn't horrible in his first season as a starter,
but he has to be a better decision maker and has to be far more
consistent. While there wasn't a Cribbs-like runner to offer a
different option this spring, that'll change this fall when JUCO
transfer Julian Edelman comes to camp. Anthony Magazu showed
flashes this spring that he could be the top backup for the next
The key to the unit: Michael Machen has to have a
better command of the offense. He'll throw for big yards, and
now he has to put points on the board.
Quarterback Rating: 5
- Michael Machen, Jr. - 200-365, 55%, 2,078 yds, 11 TD,
Machen had to handle the entire offense with no run support to
help him out, and it showed. He pressed too much forcing too
many plays that weren't there trying to make something happen.
Even with the 18 interceptions, including five against Ohio, he
had some great moments throwing for over 300 yards against Miami
University and Western Michigan, but those were both losses. He's a big 6-6, 235-pound passer with a
huge arm and plenty of maturity starting out at Alabama and
playing minor league baseball before going the JUCO route to
- Anthony Magazu, RFr.
The former North Carolina high school passing star had a
nice spring showing good command of the offense cementing
himself as the team's number two quarterback. While he's not the
bomber Michael Machen is, he's a natural passer with a good
enough arm to make all the throws.
- Tony Pastore, RFr.
The 6-2, 200-pound Pastore wasn't as sharp as Anthony Magazu
this spring, but he shows enough skills to be a part of the
backup mix. He can move a little bit and isn't a bad passer; now
he has to improve his decision making.
- Jon Brown, Soph. - 60-97, 62%, 474 yds, 2 TD, 4 INT
The likely odd man out of the mix, Brown has the most experience
of the backups after seeing time in seven games and starting
against Eastern Michigan throwing for 243 yards and a touchdown
with two interception. He took way too many sacks and will have
to fight to see playing time.
The Golden Flashes got two bolts of lighting for the
nation's worst running game with Michigan State transfer Tony
Flowers and 5-5 Eugene Jarvis adding a speed element to the
backfield that hasn't been there in years. Jerry Flowers was the
team's leading rusher last season and will be in the mix as a
number three back. Jon Draper is back from a torn ACL and wide
receiver Linwood Jenkins can handle the workload if needed.
The key to the unit: Hope for Tony Flower and Eugene
Jarvis to be able to crank out yards in chunks to help an attack
that averaged 1.8 yards per carry and and netted 505 yards.
Running Back Rating: 5
- Eugene Jarvis, RFr.
Jarvis will combine with Tony Howard to try to put a charge in
the ground attack. Only 5-5 and 158 pounds, Jarvis is almost
impossible to see when he gets behind his linemen. With his
speed burst, all he needs a little bit of a hole and he'll crank
out big gains. At his size he won't be a workhorse.
- Tony Howard, Soph.
The Michigan State transfer brings top-end speed to the
backfield and more size than Eugene Jarvis. While he's not a
power back, he's 200 pounds and can run with some pop.
- Jerry Flowers, Soph. - 96 carries, 304 yds, 3.2 ypc, 3 TD, 20
catches, 85 yds, 4.2 ypc
Flowers led the team in rushing last season and was the only
semblance of a running game the team had with double-digit
carries in eight of the last nine games. He's not a speed back even though he's only 5-8 and 180
pounds; he runs up the middle. He's not going to tear off any
big runs or come up with big plays as a receiver, but he can
- Jon Drager, Jr. - 2 carries, 34 yds
Drager has had no luck with knee injuries. He showed great promise in
2003, but he hurt his knee early and then missed most of last year
with torn ACL. He's back to provide a good backup option.
This should be the team's strength even after
the loss of leading receiver Derrick Bush. Several reliable
veterans return led by deep threat Najah Pruden and his career
average of 17.9 yards per catch. 6-5 Cameron Bobb and big Marcus
Hill provide huge targets to work with, while Luke Tillman and
Shawn Lewis are steady receivers who'll give the offense several
more options and weapons. The tight ends should be improved with
former quarterback Tom Sitko looking like a tight end now and
Jake Parsons an improving receiver.
The key to the unit: Use all the experience and
weapons to spread the field and get more overall production and
Receiver Rating: 5.5
- Najah Pruden, Sr. - 33 catches, 688 yds, 20.8 ypc, 5 TD
A dangerous deep threat who needs the ball in his hands more,
Pruden led the team in receiving yards and was the team's most
dangerous playmaker averaging 20.8 yards per catch. He tore up
Ohio for 200 yards and two touchdowns and had two other 100-yard
games, but he wasn't consistent and fall off the map for most of
the second half of the season. The 6-3 speedster has to stay
healthy and be the number one target.
- Marcus Hill, Sr. - 33 catches, 372 yds, 11.3 ypc, 1 TD
He's 6-2 and 200 pounds with excellent speed and toughness. He
can tear off yards in chunks while also showing last season that
he can be a consistent receiver. He should flourish with all the
attention paid to Najeh Pruden on the other side.
- Shawn Bayes, Soph. - 15 catches, 182 yds, 12.1 ypc
The speedy sophomore might not have the size like the other
starters, but he's not small at 5-10 and 180 pounds and knows
how to make things happen. He'll get the inside Z position where
he was a good reserve last season.
- Tight end Tom Sitko, Jr. - 12 catches, 111 yds, 9.2 ypc
The 6-3, 248-pound junior started last season as the top backup
quarterback and then grew into a decent tight end catching four
passes in three straight games. He's still
learning the job and is still working on his blocking, but he
has the hands to be a top target for Michael Machen.
- Cameron Bobb, Jr. - 23 catches, 211 yds, 9.2 ypc
The huge 6-5, 200-pound target has plenty of starting experience
and should see time somewhere. He'll start out behind Najah
Pruden at the X and should flash more deep play ability after
being mostly a possession receiver last season.
- Luke Tillman, Sr. - 8 catches, 42 yds, 5.2 ypc, 25
carries, 90 yds, 3.6 ypc, 1 TD
The starting running back coming out of 2005 spring ball,
Tillman gets to be a full-time receiver again at the H position
behind Marcus Hill. He's a former tight end with good quickness
and should be among the best blocking receivers.
- Shawn Lewis, Soph. 21 catches, 203 yds, 9.7 ypc, 2 TD
The small, speedy Lewis grew into a good, reliable backup
throughout last year and will be a key target behind Shaun Bayes
at the inside Z position.
- Tight end Jake Parsons, Jr. - 3 catches, 11 yds, 3.7
More of a natural tight end than Tom Sitko, the 6-6, 240-pound
junior is a nice receiver who'll be used more throughout the
season. He has the starting experience to step in and be ready
The line was full of injuries and inconsistencies all last
season as it struggled to mesh. Now there's plenty of returning
experience with a little bit of depth helped by the return of guard
Travis McGraw from a torn ACL and the moving of Kiff Kinkead from center
to guard. Sophomores Augustus Parrish and Josh Perry appear to be the
new stars of the line with Perry turning in a great spring at center and
Parrish on the verge of becoming a dominant tackle. It's a big group
that has to be better for the running game and has to bring the sack
total down from the 33 allowed last year.
The key to the unit: The starting five has come
together right away and avoid the injury bug.
Offensive Line Rating: 4.5
- OT Augustus Parrish, Soph.
The team's rising star at left tackle, Parrish is 6-7 and 315 pounds
with the athleticism to quickly become the team's best lineman. He'll be
an All-MAC performer before his career is over.
- OG Michael Galassi, Sr.
The 6-4, 305-pound senior stepped in and started in ten of 11 games last
season at left guard. He struggled with his consistency, but he has a
good motor and should be better in the running game now that he knows
what he's doing.
- C Josh Perry, Soph.
Perry was moved to the starting spot in the middle with last year's
starter Kliff Kinkead moved to guard. He's 285 pounds and looked ready
this spring to be a rock in the middle of the line.
- OG Craig Rafdal, Sr.
The long-time veteran on the line with 28 career starts, the 305-pound
senior will have to battle with Travis McGraw for the starting spot on
the right side.
- OT Joe Marafine, Jr.
Marafine got bigger over the last year bulking up to 305 pounds to be
more of a force for the running game. He started ten times last season
and needs to be an all-star caliber pass blocker to keep QB Michael
- G Travis McGraw, Jr.
Expected to be a key challenger for a starting job last season, the 6-5,
320-pound junior tore his ACL and missed the entire year. He's back and
will battle all off-season with Michael Galassi on the left side
- G Kiff Kinkead, Jr.
The 300-pound junior started every game at center over the last two
seasons and now, with the emergence of Josh Perry, will move to guard
where he'll challenge Craig Rafdal on the right side. He could move back
to the middle at some point.