Preseason Lookaheads - MAC
Looking far ahead to the MAC season and what every team should be excited about.
The numbers are the CFN pre-preseason national rankings.
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
Biggest offensive loss: OT Joe Staley
Biggest defensive loss: DE Daniel Bazuin
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
Biggest offensive loss: QB Ryan Cubit
Biggest defensive loss: LB Ameer Ismail
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Biggest offensive loss: QB Luke Getsy
Biggest defensive loss: NG Kiki Gonzalez
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
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
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
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
Biggest offensive loss: TE Chad Upshaw
Biggest defensive loss: LB Jeff Bublavi