Preseason Lookaheads - MAC
Posted Jan 19, 2007

Looking far ahead to the MAC season and what every team should be excited about.

The numbers are the CFN pre-preseason national rankings. 

78. Central Michigan   2006 Record: 9-4
Why to get excited: New head coach Butch Jones gets enough stars back to expect another MAC championship. The offense should explode again with QB Dan LeFevour, RB Ontario Sneed, and receivers Bryan Anderson and Justin Gardner all among the best in the league. The defense gets seven starters back and PK Rich Albreski.
Why to be grouchy: Brian Kelly was something special. He was one of the best young coaches in the business and he took the team to another level with his game planning. Replacing DE Dan Bazuin, along with Mike Ogle on the other side, will be tough.
The number one thing to work on is: Returns. Damien Linson didn't do much as a punt returner, so Jean Pitts, who should get the first look this year, has to provide more pop. CMU only averaged 18.79 yards per kickoff return.
Biggest offensive loss: OT Joe Staley
Biggest defensive loss: DE Daniel Bazuin

80. Western Michigan   2006 Record: 8-5
Why to get excited: The Broncos proved they could overcome the loss of NFL targets Greg Jennings and Tony Scheffler last season, and now there are plenty of exciting playmakers to go along with eight returning defensive starters. Tim Hiller returns from an injury to replace QB Ryan Cubit to keep the offense humming. 
Why to be grouchy: The offense wasn't always consistent and was saved time and again by PK Nate Meyer, who's gone now. All-America pass rusher Ameer Ismail is gone off the weakside, while solid Paul Tithof is gone off the strongside.
The number one thing to work on is: Punting. Jim Laney wasn't consistent, and the coverage didn't do enough to help him out. The Broncos finished 111th in the nation averaging 30.62 yards per boot. That wasn't a plus considering the offense needed good field position to produce.
Biggest offensive loss: QB Ryan Cubit
Biggest defensive loss: LB Ameer Ismail

88. Kent State   2006 Record: 6-6
Why to get excited: QB Julian Edelman. He's generously listed at 6-0 and 195 pounds, but he's big enough to carry the Kent State offense providing a big improvement to the team's explosiveness when combined with 5-5, 178-pound RB Eugene Jarvis. The defense was one of the best in the MAC last year led by a tremendous pass rushing front seven and a tight secondary. Eight starters come back.
Why to be grouchy: Will the team be even more one-dimensional? Najeh Pruden was the home-run hitter and the main target catching 39 passes and six of the team's ten touchdown passes, and now he's gone. Edelman completed 55% of his passes, but he threw 11 interceptions and wasn't always consistent. It might be too easy to rely solely on the ground game.
The number one thing to work on is: Finding the scoring offense. Just when it looked like the Golden Flashes were going to kick it in and win the MAC walking away, the offense stopped scoring. After hanging 40 on Toledo in a mid-October win, the offense scored 41 over the last five games struggling against awful Buffalo, Eastern Michigan and Ball State defenses. It wouldn't hurt to beef up the punting game after finishing 116th in the nation averaging 29.86 yards per boot.
Biggest offensive loss: WR Najeh Pruden
Biggest defensive loss: DE Daniel Muir

89. Toledo   2006 Record: 5-7
Why to get excited: Think of it this way. Toledo had about as bad a year as it can have under head coach Tom Amstutz and still finished 5-7. The entire backfield returns with plenty of experience, so the growing pains the Rockets went through with quarterbacks Clint Cochran and Aaron Opelt should subside. There might not be a better trio of MAC backs than Jalen Parmele, Richard Davis and DaJuane Collins. Nine starters return on defense.
Why to be grouchy: Three starters are gone off the offensive line that never quite put it all together last year. While quarterback controversy might be overstating it, Cochran and Opelt are each capable of leading the offense and will each want to lead the attack. Will this create any problems this spring? The coaching staff will have to pick one player and stick with him.
The number one thing to work on is: More offense. How the Rockets only scored 13 against Eastern Michigan and 17 on Ball State is a mystery. After opening things up early on scoring 37 points or more in three of the first four games, the offense struggled the rest of the way and was lousy in MAC play.
Biggest offensive loss: WR Steve Odom
Biggest defensive loss: LB Mike Alston

90. Northern Illinois   2006 Record: 7-6
Why to get excited: The passing game has the potential to be fantastic if Dan Nicholson can find the groove he was in as a freshman two years ago. Receivers Britt Davis and Marcus Perez are keepers, while Matt Simon has the potential to be a reliable go-to target in the slot. DE Larry English is an elite pass rusher.
Why to be grouchy: Garrett Wolfe will be off to the NFL. Can Justin Anderson and Cas Prime run? They'll have the interior to move behind, but tackles Doug Free and Matt Rogers are gone. The secondary was abysmal all season long, and now it has to replace Adriel Hansbro and Dustin Utschig.
The number one thing to work on is: Kick returns. Marcus Perez and Greg Turner were fantastic at returning punts, but Perez struggled on kickoff returns averaging just 18.9 yards per try. NIU was 107th in the nation in kickoff returns averaging 17.33 yards.
Biggest offensive loss: RB Garrett Wolfe
Biggest defensive loss: FS Dustin Utschig

92. Ohio   2006 Record: 9-5
Why to get excited: Kalvin McRae. The best back in MAC play last year (and that includes Garrett Wolfe), McRae is back to carry the offense running behind a line with three returning starters. Head coach Frank Solich did wonders with last year's team, and he has enough pieces coming back to make another decent run. However ...
Why to be grouchy: ... there are enough big losses to prevent a repeat of last year. There's no replacing linebackers Matt Muncy and Tyler Russ along with CB T.J. Wright, while the two losses on the offensive line, center J.J. Knabb and tackle Matt Coppage, are big ones. There's also the continuing issue of ...
The number one thing to work on is: ... the forward pass. Brad Bower is a better passing option than Austen Everson, but this is still going to be a team that revolves around the run. If the Bobcats, who averaged a mere 129 passing yards per game, get behind, it's over.
Biggest offensive loss: OT Matt Coppage
Biggest defensive loss: LBs Matt Muncy and Tyler Russ

94. Ball State   2006 Record: 5-7
Why to get excited: All the pieces are in place for one of the MAC's most devastating passing attacks. Nate Davis proved last year that he can be a top-shelf passer, while TE Darius Hill and receivers Darius Hill and Louis Johnson will provide the targets. B.J. Hill is a capable running back to provide a bit of balance when needed.
Why to be grouchy: Will the defense be appreciably better? It finished dead last in the MAC last year allowing 433.5 yards per game with the biggest problems coming in the secondary. Losing safety Erik Keys won't help the cause. 
The number one thing to work on is: While the D was decent at keeping points off the board over the last half of the season, it gave up way too many yards. There has to be more pressure on the quarterback and far better play from the corners.
Biggest offensive loss: RB Larry Bostic
Biggest defensive loss: S Erik Keys

95. Akron   2006 Record: 5-7
Why to get excited: Head coach J.D. Brookhart is still at Akron. One of the better coaches to not get much of a sniff from the bigger boys, he's still good enough to get his team to play at a high enough level to be in the MAC title hunt. Jabari Arthur and David Harvey are promising receivers, and Dennis Kennedy is a good back to revolve the offense around, but ...
Why to be grouchy: ... does he have an offensive line to run behind? Four starters are gone, as is QB Luke Getsy. It's not like the offense was balanced last year finishing dead last in the MAC in rushing, so now the offense will have to change things around a bit unless new quarterbacks Carlton Jackson and Chris Jacquemain become bombers right off the bat.
The number one thing to work on is: Better line play. Even with a veteran offensive front five, there was no push for the running game and the pass protection was awful. The defensive line was fine against the run and got into the backfield on a regular basis, but there was no pass rush.
Biggest offensive loss: QB Luke Getsy
Biggest defensive loss: NG Kiki Gonzalez

96. Miami University   2006 Record: 2-10
Why to get excited: The team can't play any worse. Eight starters return on a defense that wasn't all that bad, while the young offensive line that was, arguably, the least productive in America, gets four starters back. QB Mike Kokal took his lumps as the starter last year and now should be far steadier.
Why to be grouchy: The passing game carried the offense throughout last year, and now do-everything veteran Ryne Robinson is gone along with R.J. Corbin and Ryan Busing. The pass defense was great (partly because everyone spent all their time running the ball), and now it loses key players Joey Card and Frank Wiwo.
The number one thing to work on is: Pass protection and overall line play. There was absolutely no push for the ground game. RB Brandon Murphy can play; now he needs space to rumble. Kokal got killed behind the sophomore-filled line that allowed 49 sacks and countless hurries.
Biggest offensive loss: WR Ryne Robinson
Biggest defensive loss: FS Joey Card
103. Bowling Green   2006 Record: 4-8
Why to get excited: A slew of experience returns on both sides with the potential for killer ground game if two new starting guards can quickly emerge. Anthony Turner and Chris Bullock should help the Falcons crank out close to 200 rushing yards per game. Leading tackler Terrel White is gone, but the rest of the defense back seven is back.
Why to be grouchy: If you thought the team couldn't throw last year, the offense might be positively one-sided this season. Turner isn't a consistent passer, and it won't help that two of the top three receivers, Ruben Ruiz and Kenneth Brantley, are gone. 
The number one thing to work on is: Kicking. Bowling Green messed around with the punting game with disastrous results as Alonso Rojas, a big-time talent, had an awful year. The Falcons finished next-to-last in net punting averaging just 27.7 yards per kick, while freshman PK Sean Ellis hit just four of nine field goals.
Biggest offensive loss: WRs Ruben Ruiz and Kenneth Brantley
Biggest defensive loss: DE Devon Parks

115. Eastern Michigan   2006 Record: 1-11
Why to get excited: The backfield has enough talent to hope for a night-and-day improvement on offense. Andy Schmitt and Tyler Jones each know the offense, and could work well together when Jones lines up at tailback. Four starters return on the offensive line, while nine come back on defense. 
Why to be grouchy: After winning nine games in three years under head coach Jeff Genyk, there's a lot of work still to be done on both sides of the ball. The team's two best weapons, WR Eric Deslauriers and PK Andrew Wellock, are gone from a team that got worse at scoring late in the year.
The number one thing to work on is: Putting points on the board. The O scored scored 20 points in each of the first two games, 21 in two games, and wasn't able to hit either mark in the other eight games. The attack was balanced, but not in a good way averaging just 106 rushing yards and 171 passing yards per outing.
Biggest offensive loss: WR Eric Deslauriers
Biggest defensive loss: DE Kevin Howe

116. Buffalo   2006 Record: 2-10 
Why to get excited: Almost everyone comes back including ten starters on defense. This was a young team that was trying to improve each and every week last year, and put out a good overall effort in Tuner Gill's first season. RB James Starks is a good one, and the defense should be able to get in the backfield all season long with its aggressive style. 
Why to be grouchy: It's going to take a while. The overall talent level is still average, and while there's enough experience and skill to hope for the best season since UB made the move to D-I, that still might only mean four to five wins if everything breaks right. 
The number one thing to work on is: More consistent scoring. One MAC week the offense would roll at will, the next it had issues getting a first down. The hope has to be for QB Drew Willy to come back healthy and effective, while the line has to be far, far better in pass protection.
Biggest offensive loss: TE Chad Upshaw
Biggest defensive loss: LB Jeff Bublavi