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MAC Preview 2006 - Unit Rankings

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 9, 2006


CollegeFootballNews.com 2006 MAC Preview Unit Rankings

Offenses
1. Northern Illinois
The nation's 16th ranked offense last season won't be quite as explosive without top receivers Sam Hurd and Shatone Powers, and the ground game might not be the same after losing a few star linemen, but there's more than enough talent returning to hang some big numbers on the board. Garrett Wolfe is one of the nation's best running backs and will be the focal point of the attack. The quarterback situation is tremendous with Phil Horvath and Dan Nicholson each good enough to win All-MAC honors. Receiver Britt Davis is a rising star who has to blow up to open things up for Wolfe and the ground game. The tackles are the MAC's best with future NFLer Doug Free on the left side and sophomore Jon Brost on the other.
2. Toledo
3. Central Michigan
4. Akron
5. Miami Univ.
6. Bowling Green
7. Western Michigan
8. Ball State
9. Eastern Michigan
10. Ohio
11. Kent State
12. Buffalo

Quarterbacks  
1. Northern Illinois
It's the best situation in the MAC with two bona fide number one quarterbacks in Phil Horvath and Dan Nicholson. The competition is supposedly open for the starting job though the fall, but it'll be a shock if Horvath, the nation's leader in completion percentage before going down with a broken arm, isn't the main man when the Ohio State game comes around. Ryan Morris will be the emergency quarterback, but top recruit Billy Lowe will likely be the number three man sooner than later.
2. Akron
3. Ball State
4. Western Michigan
5. Toledo
6. Miami Univ.
7. Bowling Green
8. Kent State
9. Eastern Michigan
10. Central Michigan
11. Buffalo
12. Ohio

Running Backs
1. Northern Illinois
It's all about keeping Garrett Wolfe fresh. While Wolfe might be one of the toughest backs in the country, he wore down last year with knee and shoulder injuries. It's too tempting not to get him the ball 30 times a game, but the backups need to be a steady part of the offense early on. With Adrian Davis and A.J. Harris gone, it'll be up to the speedy Montrell Clenson and the big Cas Prime to be effective enough to keep things rolling when No. 1 is getting a rest.
2. Central Michigan
3. Ohio
4. Toledo
5. Miami University
6. Ball State
7. Western Michigan
8. Ball State
9. Akron
10. Bowling Green
11. Buffalo
12. Eastern Michigan

Receivers
1. Toledo
The potential is there for the Rockets to be really, really good here. Steve Odom is a rock-solid number one receiver who'll make all the big catches and be the consistent player the rest of the corps can work around. Nick Moore and David Washington are rising stars, while lightning fast Trumaine Smith and veteran Andrew Hawkins will each see starting time at some point. The tight end situation is even better with Chris Hopkins, John Allen and Josh Powell forming a three-headed monster that'll likely combine for around 70 catches.
2. Eastern Michigan
3. Central Michigan
4. Bowling Green
5. Kent State
6. Miami University
7. Northern Illinois
8. Ball State
9. Akron
10. Western Michigan
11. Ohio
12. Buffalo

Offensive Lines
1. Toledo
The line was the best in the MAC last season allowing a mere 13 sacks while paving the way 2,602 rushing yards and a 5.3 yard per carry average. Most of the reason was continuity with all five starters playing in the same spot in every game. Four starters return with the only opening at right guard where Jesse Anderson will fill in for Chris Wakeman. John Greco is an All-MAC performer at left tackle while guard David Perkins isn't far behind. 
2. Northern Illinois
3. Akron
4. Bowling Green
5. Western Michigan
6. Eastern Michigan
7. Ohio
8. Miami University
9. Central Michigan
10. Ball State
11. Kent State
12. Buffalo

Defenses
1. Toledo
Defensive coordinator Tim Rose did wonders in his first season turning around an awful defense. The Rockets have a flexible 3-4 alignment with the speedy outside linebackers used as pass rushing ends and the front three mostly used to stop the run. Seven starters return to the MAC's best defense, but there are leadership holes to fill losing top linebacker Anthony Jordan and longtime star safety Keon Jackson. Linebacker Mike Alston is one of the league's best pass rushers while safety Tyrrell Herbert is on the verge of all-star honors.
2. Akron
3. Northern Illinois
4. Kent State
5. Miami University
6. Western Michigan
7. Bowling Green
8. Ohio
9. Central Michigan
10. Eastern Michigan
11. Ball State
12. Buffalo


Defensive Lines
1. Toledo
This is an unheralded group that worked well together helping the Rockets hold teams to 125 rushing yards per game. There isn't a dominant pass rusher in the front three, but that's not necessarily a role that needs filling with all the pressure applied from the linebacking corps. Even so, Sean Williamson and Seth Thitoff are good at getting into the backfield and J.P. Bekasiak is a good anchor in the middle. The only concern is size with the line relying on quickness rather than bulk.
2. Northern Illinois
3. Akron
4. Western Michigan
5. Kent State
6. Miami University
7. Bowling Green
8. Central Michigan
9. Eastern Michigan
10. Ohio
11. Ball State
12. Buffalo

Linebackers
1. Toledo
The Toledo defensive system will help this group succeed despite the loss of leading tackler Anthony Jordan and third leading tackler David Thomas. This is a versatile unit with a bunch of safeties being used to make plays both as linebackers and as defensive ends. Mike Alston does a little of everything well at one outside spot as the team's best pass rusher and an improving run stopper. There aren't any huge prototype linebackers, but they can all run.
2. Ohio
3. Northern Illinois
4. Western Michigan
5. Central Michigan
6. Akron
7. Eastern Michigan
8. Ball State
9. Bowling Green
10. Miami University
11. Buffalo
12. Kent State

Defensive Backs
1. Akron
Akron finished second in the MAC in pass defense after allowing 181 yards per game and 18 touchdowns, but there's still room for improvement after giving up too many short to midrange passes and only coming up with seven interceptions. Four starters return led by playmaking Rover John Mackey and longtime starting corner Reggie Corner. There's hope for a bigger all-around season with the healthy return of safeties Chris Brown and Chevin Pace after each was banged up throughout last season. The group is so deep that Dionte Henry, a 21-game starter, will likely start the season as a reserve.
2. Toledo
3. Kent State
4. Miami University
5. Northern Illinois
6. Bowling Green
7. Buffalo
8. Western Michigan
9. Ohio
10. Central Michigan
11. Ball State
12. Eastern Michigan

Special Teams
1. Miami University
If Nathan Parseghian can be a reliable placekicker, special teams will be one of Miami's strengths. Jacob Richardson needs to boost up his average, but that'll come in time. Ryne Robinson is one of the nation's best punt returners who could finish his career as the best in college football history yardage-wise. Speedy Sean McVay is a dangerous kickoff returner.
2. Western Michigan
3. Ball State
4. Northern Illinois
5. Central Michigan
6. Eastern Michigan
7. Bowling Green
8. Toledo
9. Kent State
10. Akron
11. Ohio
12. Buffalo