2008 Early MAC Lookaheads
Ball State QB Nate Davis
Ball State QB Nate Davis
Posted Jan 28, 2008

If you're looking for one of the most interesting conferences in 2008, it might be the MAC with most of the 13 teams loaded, LOADED, with veterans. Led by Ball State's Nate Davis, the star power is emerging. Here's an early look ahead at each MAC team with what needs working on and why to be excited and grouchy.

2008 MAC Team Lookaheads

East  Akron | Bowling Green | Buffalo | Kent St | Miami Univ. | Ohio | Temple
West  Ball State | Central Mich | Eastern Mich | N. Illinois | Toledo | West Mich

2007 Pages
2007 MAC Season | 2007 MAC Lookbacks & Recaps
East  Akron | Bowling Green | Buffalo | Kent St | Miami Univ. | Ohio | Temple
West Ball State | Central Mich | Eastern Mich | N. Illinois | Toledo | West Mich


Why to get excited: Eight starters return on offense with the hope for experience to translate into production. After a year of transition, QBs Chris Jacquemain and Carlton Jackson should be more consistent and more decisive, while Bryan Williams is a decent back to work around. OT Chris Kemme is one of the best in the MAC. Andre Jones is one of the nation's elite kick returners.
Why to be grouchy: The offense didn't do anything last year, and while the passing game should be better, it loses top targets Jabari Arthur. The defense loses just enough strong veterans to take a step back with the front five taking the biggest hit. Starting off the season at Wisconsin isn't a plus.
The number one thing to work on is: Moving the ball. The offense went nowhere in 2007, mostly because of the quarterback play. If Jacquemain and Jackson aren't better, the Zips will have another disappointing season. The passing efficiency has to be better without Arthur. Good luck.
Biggest offensive loss: WR Jabari Arthur
Biggest defensive loss: LB Brion Stokes
Best returning offensive player: OT Chris Kemme, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: DE Almondo Sewell, Soph.

Bowling Green
Why to get excited: Forget about the debacle against Tulsa in the GMAC Bowl, 2007 was a great year. The offense should be among the best in the country throwing the ball with QB Tyler Sheehan returning along with all his top targets. The Falcons might not have been consistent, but they put up over 400 yards and 30 points per game, and now they get seven starters back. Nine starters are back on defense.
Why to be grouchy: All the skill players are back, but the line, which wasn't exactly a strength to begin with, loses three starters including all-star C Kory Lichtensteiger. The run defense stunk, and now it loses top tackle Sean O'Drobinak. Before October hits, the Falcons have to go on the road to face Pitt, Wyoming and Boise State and host a resurgent Minnesota.
The number one thing to work on is: Better line play. That might be tough without O'Drobinak, an anchor, but five starters return on the front seven. The run defense allowed 208 yards per game and didn't get in the backfield often enough finishing 12th in the MAC in tackles for loss.
Biggest offensive loss: C Kory Lichtensteiger
Biggest defensive loss: DT Sean O'Drobinak
Best returning offensive player: QB Tyler Sheehan, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Erique Dozier, Sr.

Why to get excited: Everyone returns. The program hasn't exactly had anything to get fired up about, but Turner Gill has everything pointed in the right direction coming off a tremendous stepping-stone season that should lead the way to a possible MAC East title. Ten starters return on offense and eight are back on D, and all that experience should mean more wins in close games, even fewer mistakes, and the best season in the program's history.
Why to be grouchy: Let's ease up the expectations just a wee bit. Yeah, there are several veterans coming back, but it's not like the offense has a ton of top playmakers and if the turnover margin isn't in the team's favor again, there might not be as much overall production. The MAC is much, much better this year, and no one will take the Bulls lightly anymore.
The number one thing to work on is: Get more pop to the offense. The ground game was fine, and James Starks is a great-looking young prospect, but he needs more room to move and there has to be more big plays from the passing game. With so much experience, there's no excuse to not have a more efficient attack.
Biggest offensive loss: C Jamey Richard
Biggest defensive loss: DE Trevor Scott
Best returning offensive player: QB Drew Willy, Jr.
Best returning defensive player:
FS Davonte Shannon, Soph.

Kent State
Why to get excited: Expect more of the same from one of the nation's best rushing attacks with QB Julian Edelman and RB Eugene Jarvis back. The team fell off the map once Edelman got hurt, and now he's back with Giorgio Morgan and Jon Brown more experienced in reserve. Eight starters return on offense and nine are back from one of the league's best Ds.
Why to be grouchy: Don't expect any more offensive balance. Edelman is a runner with a few passing skills, but he wasn't able to show them off with little receiving talent to work with. TE Tom Sitko is gone, and if Phil Garner and Rashad Tukes don't dramatically improve, it'll be run, run and run some more.
The number one thing to work on is: Besides passing, the team needs to improve the turnover margin and punting game. The defense was good, but it failed to force enough takeaways to help out the offense once Edelman came out. The Golden Flashes were last in the MAC, and second-to-last in America, in punting averaging 30.54 yards per game.
Biggest offensive loss: OG Joe Marafine
Biggest defensive loss: NT Colin Ferrell
Best returning offensive player: QB Julian Edelman, Sr. & RB Eugene Jarvis, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Derek Burrell, Sr.

Miami University
Why to get excited: The passing game should be more consistent and far more explosive. Daniel Raudabaugh took over the quarterback reins and turned into a good passer as the season went on, and his baby-young receiving corps should be better with Chris Givens and Eugene Harris getting through freshman seasons and Dustin Woods ready to step up as a number one. Nine starters are back on a defense that finished second in yards allowed and first in scoring D. The linebacking corps could be the best unit in the MAC.
Why to be grouchy: Will there be more points? The running game needs to find a new back to carry the mail hoping that Thomas Merriweather can provide a bit of balance. While the rest of the skill players are more experienced, they have to figure out how to get into the end zone after the offense averaged just 19.23 points per game. Two key starters, C Steve Meister and OT Charlie Norden, are gone.
The number one thing to work on is: Passing efficiency. The offense threw for a bunch of yards, but it was hardly consistent or efficient. Raudabuagh had to press a little bit down the stretch, and it showed with seven interceptions in the final three games and with only two touchdown passes. He struggled in a defensive slugfest against Akron, and he couldn't get things going in the blowout loss to Central Michigan in the MAC title game.
Biggest offensive loss: C Steve Meister
Biggest defensive loss: DE Craig Mester
Best returning offensive player: QB Daniel Raudabaugh, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: LBs Joey Hudson, Sr., Clayton Mullins, Sr., Caleb Bostic, Jr.

Why to get excited: Eight starters return on the league's fourth best scoring offense and seven starters are back on defense including three in a strong secondary. The offense became more balanced in 2007, and now QB Theo Scott should be able to add even more passing to the mix after throwing accurately in his limited time. The top pass rushers are back after a good year getting into the backfield.
Why to be grouchy: There's no replacing Kalvin McRae. While the offense tried to ease the workload on him, he was still the attack at times rushing for 1,434 yards and 19 touchdowns. It'll be up to Vince Davidson to try to provide a little bit of pop, but if there isn't a number one back emerging from spring ball, even more pressure will be on Scott and the passing game. That's not a positive.
The number one thing to work on is: Punt returns. The Bobcats let the MAC, and were eighth in the nation, in kickoff returns averaging 25 yards per game, but the punt returning way abysmal averaging just 4.28 yards per try. The run defense could stand to be better.
Biggest offensive loss: RB Kalvin McRae
Biggest defensive loss: FS Todd Koenig
Best returning offensive player: TE Andrew Mooney, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Michael Brown, Sr.


Ball State
Why to get excited: The Cardinals had the league's third best offense and the number one passing attack last year, and now QB Nate Davis leads the way with all 11 starters returning. The defense had issues, but it gets eight starters back. If that wasn't enough, P Chris Miller might be the best in America while the kicking combination of Ian McGarvey and Jake Hogue is solid. In other words, this is a loaded team that has to think MAC title or bust. Three of the non-conference games are against Navy, Indiana and Western Kentucky.
Why to be grouchy: There isn't much. As long as Davis is healthy and gunning, all the pieces are there for this to be the best season in Cardinal history. The defense has to be far better, and while the O will pick up the slack in shootouts, the front seven has to be far more physical against the run and do a better job of getting into the backfield.
The number one thing to work on is: Getting more from the defensive line. The run defense allowed 204 yards per game and only generated 66 tackles for loss. The secondary struggled and that's mostly because there wasn't enough pressure generated. B.J. Hill and Trey Lewis are solid corners, and if there's a little more help from the front seven, they'll shine.
Biggest offensive loss: C Dustin Brown
Biggest defensive loss: DE Cortlan Booker
Best returning offensive player: QB Nate Davis, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Bryant Haines, Sr.

Central Michigan
Why to get excited: Can you say three-peat? It's all there for yet another title with two-time MAC Player of the Year Dan LeFevour leading an offense with nine starters returning. The offense should be the best in the league again, and while the defense was abysmal last year, it should be better with eight starters back. It can't be any worse. It might fly under the radar, but getting head coach Butch Jones back could be the biggest factor in the MAC race. In the hunt for the West Virginia job, he's back for at least one more go-around.
Why to be grouchy: The defense might get most of the starters back, but it loses the three best players in LBs Red Keith and Ike Brown along with DT Steven Friend. CMU might still be the favorite to win the MAC title, but the rest of the league is a whole bunch better from top to bottom. No conference in America has more experience returning, and it's going to be more of a dogfight than ever.
The number one thing to work on is: Pass defense. The offense will put up points in bunches and should be among the most productive in the nation, but it won't matter against the better teams if the secondary continues to stink. There wasn't any pass rush to help the cause, but the corners have to be far better and the safeties have to provide more help.
Biggest offensive loss: OG Eric Tunney
Biggest defensive loss: LB Red Keith
Best returning offensive player: QB Dan LeFevour, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Nick Bellore, Soph.

Eastern Michigan
Why to get excited: There were several signs of life throughout the season with the offense showing late in the year it could keep up in a few shootouts. QB Andy Schmitt is a good veteran who knows the offense and should come up with more big plays, while the defense has the potential to be the best in the Jeff Genyk era with almost everyone returning, including LB Daniel Holtzclaw. P Zach Johnson is back after leading the nation's sixth best punting game.
Why to be grouchy: The D line struggled to get into the backfield, and that was with an NFL-caliber tackle in Jason Jones and DE Eric Young. Those two are gone. RB Pierre Walker came on over the last four games to finally provide a spark to the running game, and now he's done
The number one thing to work on is: Getting more from the passing game. The graduation of Eric Deslauriers was bigger than it originally seemed with nothing coming from the receivers. The line gave the quarterbacks time, but there weren't any yards after the catch and there wasn't anyone who threw a scare into defenses. With several good MAC passing attacks to deal with, EMU will have to figure out how to keep up the pace.
Biggest offensive loss: RB Pierre Walker
Biggest defensive loss: DT Jason Jones
Best returning offensive player: QB Andy Schmitt, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: LB Daniel Holtzclaw, Sr.

Northern Illinois
Why to get excited: Everything that could go wrong last year, did. The Huskies were better than their 2-10 record with a slew of injuries and inconsistency on offense leading the way to the awful season, and now new head coach Jerry Kill has a good group of veterans to build around, including all 11 starters on defense, to hope for an instant change. NIU lost five games by six points or fewer dropping them by a total of 17 points. It shouldn't take too much tweaking to win a few of those and be in the hunt for a winning season.
Why to be grouchy: Can the offense run the way Kill will want it to? There will be a bit of a transition period, and while there are a ton of returning veterans to hope for a night-and-day improvement, the team is starting from near zero after averaging just 210 yards and 19 points per game.
The number one thing to work on is: Figuring out the quarterback situation. Dan Nicholson didn't get the job done and wasn't healthy over the second half of the season. Ryan Morris wasn't the answer. Justin Anderson is a good-looking back, Britt Davis and Matt Simon are decent receivers, and the line should be fine. Now someone has to lead the way. The kickoff return game has to quickly improve after finishing last in the nation.
Biggest offensive loss: OT Chris Acevedo
Biggest defensive loss: SS Mark Reiter
Best returning offensive player: RB Justin Anderson, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: DE Larry English, Sr.

Why to get excited: First of all, head coach Al Golden is still in Philadelphia at least for another year, Secondly, all the talent from the decent recruiting classes over the last two seasons is starting to mature all at once. Want experience? Temple had exactly one senior on the depth chart for the final game against Western Michigan, fullback Josh Bundy, and there were only four junior starters. So basically the 4-8 team of last year should be stronger this year, and should be ready to really rock in 2009.
Why to be grouchy: There's a world of experience, but is there any real talent? That's still in question. The defense was the MAC's best, but the offense was the worst with things going in the tank once QB Adam DiMichele got hurt. The team only scored a combined ten points in three of the final four games and only went over 24 points once. All the most promising skill players are still really, really young.
The number one thing to work on is: The offensive line. C Alex Derenthal is a keeper, but the tackles have to do a far, far better job in pass protection and the entire front line has to be more physical for the running game. The special teams also need help after averaging a mere 18.64 yards per punt return, 5.36 yards per punt return, and 31.86 yards per punt.
Biggest offensive loss: FB Josh Bundy
Biggest defensive loss: None
Best returning offensive player: QB Adam DiMichele, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: DT Andre Neblett, Jr.

Why to get excited: The offense went nuclear at times last year and now three starters return on offense along with enough talent at the skill positions to lead the lead in yards again. The defense was a nightmare throughout, but at least it'll be experienced with eight starters returning along with All-MAC PK Alex Steigerwald. There are some huge personnel losses, but there's no reason the team can't rebound and be a MAC title contender.
Why to be grouchy: Those huge personnel losses. RB Jalen Parmele was the running game. OT John Greco will be an NFL starter for the next several years. OG David Perkins was a solid running mate with Greco on the left side. TE Chris Hopkins had a down year, but was still good. Again, the offense should be fine, but those are some huge hits. The defense doesn't just have to improve; it has to be night and day better after finishing near the bottom of the league in several categories.
The number one thing to work on is: Getting into the backfield. There's talent in the secondary, led by safety Barry Church, but they were sitting ducks with opposing quarterbacks getting five days to work. The Rockets were next to last in America in both sacks and tackles for loss, and unless someone comes from out of nowhere  to start applying more pressure, it'll be more of the same next season.
Biggest offensive loss: RB Jalen Parmele
Biggest defensive loss: LB Greg Hay
Best returning offensive player: WR Stephen Williams, Jr.
Best returning defensive player: SS Barry Church, Jr.

Western Michigan
Why to get excited: The offense should go ballistic. QB Tim Hiller needed a year to get everything together after missing 2006 hurt, and now he should be among the league's most productive passers with WR Jamarko Simmons, TE Brandon Ledbetter, and pass-catching RB Brandon West to work with. The defense was a bit of a disappointment, but it wasn't all that bad and now all 11 starters are back, and all are seniors.
Why to be grouchy: The line wasn't exactly a rock when it came to pass protection, and now three starters are gone including both tackles and All-MAC center Robbie Krutilla. The kicking game was a positive with Mike Jones hitting 11 of 15 field goals and P Jim Laney leading the way to a solid 36.31 team net average. Both are gone.
The number one thing to work on is: Turning the dogs loose on defense. Without Ameer Ismail, the pass rush was inconsistent after dominating in 2006. The sacks were there at times, and now, with everyone back on D, there's no reason to not spend the off-season figuring out how to get more out of the seniors and start wreaking havoc in the backfield game in and game out. With so many good MAC offenses this year, having a disruptive defensive front could be the difference.
Biggest offensive loss: OT James Blair
Biggest defensive loss: FS Anthony Gebhart
Best returning offensive player: WR Jamarko Simmons, Sr.
Best returning defensive player: CB Londen Fryar, Sr.