2009 CFN MAC Team Capsules
Central Michigan DE Frank Zombo
Central Michigan DE Frank Zombo
Posted Jul 30, 2009

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- Akron
Bowling Green | Buffalo | Kent State | Ohio | Miami

- Ball St |
Central Mich | Eastern Mich | N Illinois |
Toledo | Western Mich

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MAC Championship Prediction
Central Michigan over Bowling Green


Bowling Green | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 6-6  Conf. Record: 5-3
Best Offensive Player: QB Tyler Sheehan, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: SS P.J. Mahone, Sr.
Offense: New head coach Dave Clawson and offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero will try to get more deep passes out of QB Tyler Sheehan and the veteran receiving corps, but the running game will hardly be ignored. Veteran backs Willie Geter and Chris Bullock are good enough to do more for a ground attack that should pound away more, but the offense will work mostly around Sheehan. The veteran passer has been accurate and is great at dinking and dunking, and now he'll try to push the ball deeper. He needs Freddie Barnes to be healthy and be the star of the receiving corps again after an off year, and a No. 2 target has to emerge. The line is fine, but it's nothing special even with three decent starters returning. The left side, with tackle Brady Minturn moving over from the right side and with the return of guard Shane Steffy, will be the strength of the line, but there needs to be more overall production.
Defense: The defense came up with a whale of a season finishing second in the MAC while doing a great job of keeping the team in games throughout the season. The pass defense was solid, the run defense was good enough to get by, and the secondary was fantastic. Now there needs to be some major retooling, especially up front. The line needs to be completely overhauled with four new starters entering the mix, while the smallish linebacking corps will have to pick up even more of the slack. The strength of the D, and the team, is at safety with P.J. Mahone and Jahmal Brown forming a sure-hitting duo. There's almost no depth anywhere across the board, so the plan is for several true freshmen, especially on the line, to see time early on.

T2. Akron
| Offense | Defense
| Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 5-7  Conf. Record: 4-4
Best Offensive Player: QB Chris Jacquemain, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: LB/S Mike Thomas, Jr.
After being a major disappointment for two years, everything started to click last season. While it wasn't an explosive attack, it was steady, solid, and great at picking apart teams with the spread, quick style, and now it has a great offensive coordinator in former Miami University head coach Shane Montgomery. The strength is a line that gets four starters back, with the new guy, Jake Anderson, a fantastic tackle prospect, while the top four receivers are back. QB Chris Jacquemain is a smart two-year starter who has a good command of the attack, and he should be terrific with the line in front of him and with all the weapons he has to work with. The one question will be at running back, where Dennis Kennedy is gone after running for 1,321 yards and 17 touchdowns. Alex Allen was fantastic for three games last season before getting knocked out for the year with a hip injury, and if he's fine, the running game will be solid.
The quirky 3-3-5 alignment didn't work. In fact, it wasn't even close. The secondary was supposed to be a huge problem, and it was, but now there's a ton of experience returning and the hope is that it translates into more production. The three man defensive front has a star in Almondo Sewell to work around, but it desperately needs tackle Ryan Bain to be healthy. The back eight is woefully undersized and didn't come up with any big plays last year with a mere nine interceptions. On the plus side, everyone can tackle, even if most of the stops come well down the field, and there's enough athleticism to start getting into the backfield more ... at least in theory. Akron was 115th in the nation in sacks and 100th in tackles for loss, and there isn't a sure-thing pass rusher to guarantee a major improvement.

T2. Buffalo | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 6-6  Conf. Record: 4-4
Best Offensive Player: RB James Starks, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: SS Davonte Shannon, Jr.
Offense: The offense has a major problem on the line with three starters needing to be replaced and there's almost no experience at quarterback, but the skill players are terrific. RB James Starks has tremendous pro potential and could be an All-American if he stays healthy and gets decent blocking. Naaman Roosevelt has grown into a consistently deadly receiver who would be the best in the MAC if he could get a steady quarterback to throw his way. Four year starter Drew Willy is gone, but there will be more mobility under center with Zach Maynard a good prospect who can run and throw equally well. The MAC's second-best scoring offense isn't going to have the same offensive pop, but with Starks and Roosevelt, the overall production won't drop dramatically.
Defense: The defense
was supposed to make a big leap up in production last year with a ton of experience returning, but instead there wasn't any pass rush, little was done against the run, and the talents secondary got burned way too often. However, there were takeaways. Lots and lots of takeaways. The Bulls forced 24 fumbles and picked off eight passes, making up for a ton of mistakes and saving the day on several long drives (just ask Ball State). Now, nine starters return led by an athletic linebacking corps and the tremendous safety tandem of Davonte Shannon and Domonic Cook. The line needs to be far better after getting run over by anyone who tried and after generating little push into the backfield. On the plus side, a slew of redshirt freshmen, highlighted by Steven Means, should start to get to the quarterback more from the outside. This might be a veteran defense, but it's still young and it's still improving.

Miami Univ. | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 4-8  Conf. Record: 4-4
Best Offensive Player: WR Chris Givens, Jr.
Best Defensive Player: LB Caleb Bostic, Sr.
Offense: New offensive coordinator Peter Vaas, after coaching David Cutcliffe's attack at Duke, has his work cut out for him, but he has some good pieces to work with from an attack that was 12th in the MAC in total offense, last in scoring, and 101st in the nation in rushing and 101st in pass efficiency. Last year's attack was a mega-disappointment, and for good and bad all the key skill players are back. Vaas wants to push the ball down the field more with a vertical passing attack, and he has the speedsters to do it led by Chris Givens and Jamal Rogers. Three good backs will rotate to help out last year's poor running game, but they need room to move. The line wasn't bad last year, but it has to do some major revamping. And then there's the quarterback situation. Daniel Raudabaugh is back as his third year as the starter, but he has struggled to put points on the board. He'll be pushed by Zac Dysert and Clay Belton, and all can throw. There will be mistakes, but there will also be more big plays.
Defense: A stunning, shocking disaster, MU was supposed to have the MAC's top defense, or was at least supposed to be among the best in the conference, but it was among the worst in America in almost every phase. The biggest issue was the line that failed to generate any pressure and was shoved all over the place against the run. Now the front seven is starting from near-scratch with DT Martin Channels the lone holdover from last year's front four and Caleb Bostic the one returning starter from last season's all-star linebacking corps. The secondary gets everyone back except for top safety Robbie Wilson, but playmaking safety Jordan Gafford is back after missing most of last year. New defensive coordinator Carl Reese can't get less production than last year's defense, and there's just enough overall athleticism to hope for a quick improvement if there's any semblance of a pass rush. However, from all indications, the defense won't do anything crazy to try to generate pressure.

Ohio | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 5-7  Conf. Record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player: QB Boo Jackson, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: LB Noah Keller, Jr.
Offense: It all depends on the health of the offensive line. Since Frank Solich took over, Ohio likes to rely on the running game, but with a line that has no depth whatsoever, the attack could be more about finesse with an excellent quarterback pair in Boo Jackson and Theo Scott able to make the passing game fly. Receivers Taylor Price and LaVon Brazill are good veterans who'll keep the offense moving, while the small, quick backs, led by Chris Garrett and Donte Harden, can make things happen through the passing game as well as when they run the ball. One of the keys will be turnovers after giving it away a MAC-high 32 times. The offense will be better, but it's not good enough to afford a slew of mistakes.
Defense: The defense wasn't a brick wall, but it was solid and it should be even better. The biggest issue is the pass rush; there isn't much of one. The Bobcats generate pressure from various spots, but they don't have any one star pass rusher who can get into the backfield on a regular basis. The linebackers should be tremendous, and possibly the best in the MAC with Noah Keller and Lee Renfro two of the league's better tacklers. Top corner Mark Parson is gone, but the secondary could be even better with a great rotation of corners around Thad Turner, while the safeties, led by Steven Jackson, will be more than fine.

T5. Kent State | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 4-8  Conf. Record: 2-6
Best Offensive Player: RB Eugene Jarvis, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: FS Brian Lainhart, Jr.
Offense: The tremendous running game that finished 16th in the nation and first in the MAC, thanks to 1,370 yards from QB Julian Edelman, will change up now that it's Giorgio Morgan under center. There needs to be more of a passing game, but that will only happen if the receivers are far better with Kendrick Pressley and Derek McBryde needing to become stars. The ground attack will still be the bread-and-butter with diminutive star Eugene Jarvis and Andre Flowers working behind a veteran line with four starters returning. As long as Jarvis is healthy, this will be one of the MAC's most dangerous offenses, but it can be special if Morgan is great.
The D was a major disappointment allowing close to 400 yards a game and not doing any one thing well. There could be a major turnaround in a big hurry with seven returning starters and some new faces to the mix, particularly CB Josh Pleasant and DE Zach Williams, that could become stars. Safety should be the team's strength, led by all-star Brian Lainhart, but there needs to be more from the corners that didn't do nearly enough when the ball was in the air. To be fair, there wasn't enough help from a pass rush, and the call has gone out for more consistency from DE Kevin Hogan and the rest of the line to produce. While there's good size in the linebacking corps, it could be the team's biggest question mark needing some career backups to come through.

Temple | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 4-8  Conf. Record: 2-6
Best Offensive Player: WR Jason Harper, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: NT Andre Neblett, Sr.
Offense: There’s plenty of experience and plenty of depth returning, but now there has to be some production. Nine starters are back, but where will they play? There will be plenty of movement on the line where several players will switch spots throughout the season until the coaching staff finds the right combination, while leading rusher Kee-ayre Griffin will have to battle just to be in the top two of the depth chart. The key will be the quarterback play where Vaughn Charlton will get the first look after sitting out last year, but he’ll have a fight on his hands to keep the gig. There’s too much experience and too much overall speed and quickness for Temple to be last in the MAC in total offense again, but unless the line play improves in a huge way, this might be another tough year.
Defense: All things considered, last year’s defense was a major disappointment with 11 starters returning to a D that was the best in the MAC. After finishing 81st in the nation last year, the defense has work to do to be more productive in all areas. Nine starters are back, along with a ton of backup experience, led a rock-solid middle with Andre Neblett on the nose, Alex Joseph at middle linebacker, and the safety combination of Dominique Harris and Jaiquawn Jarrett all possible all-stars. The corners are suspect, but there are plenty of options to choose from. More is needed from the pass rush with Adrian Robinson, Brian Sanford and Junior Galette all needing to crank things up a bit.


1. Central Mich | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 8-4  Conf. Record: 7-1
Best Offensive Player: QB Dan LeFevour, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: DE Frank Zombo, Sr.
Offense: Keep ... Dan LeFevour ... healthy. That's the difference between a MAC title and another disappointing conference finish. Dinged up throughout last year, the spread superstar was fine, but he wasn't quite the effective playmaker he was in his first two seasons. He has a tremendous tandem of receivers to work with led by Antonio Brown and Bryan Anderson, who'd be good enough to start at several BCS schools and will get long looks from the NFL. The passing game that finished 12th in the nation last year should be even more explosive and effective, while the running game will be along for the ride with small, quick backs in Bryan Schroeder and Carl Volny needing to prove they can produce on a regular basis. The line was a big problem last year, but it's more athletic, if inexperienced on the outside. The interior will has three decent starters returning, but there aren't any stars.
Defense: If it's ever going to happen for the CMU defense, this will be the year. Abysmal over the years, even when the program became a MAC powerhouse, the defense has the potential to at least be average with ten starters returning and developed depth all across the board. While health is an issue, and there's a wee bit of a size problem in the linebacking corps, there are positives to work around. The end tandem of Frank Zombo and Sam Williams might be the best in the MAC leading the league's best pass rush, while the tackle pair of Sean Murnane and John Williams are solid. The issue is the secondary that stunk, finishing 118th in the nation against the pass, even though the pass rush was tremendous. For all the problems, the defense won't be last in the MAC in total D again.

2. Western Mich | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 7-5  Conf. Record: 6-2
Best Offensive Player: QB Tim Hiller, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: LB Austin Pritchard, Sr.
Offense: The offense that finished first in the MAC and 11th in the nation in passing should keep up the production with veteran QB Tim Hiller working behind a veteran line with four starters returning. Brandon West and Aaron Winchester are talented all-around backs who can catch as well as run with power and speed, but the offense is about the passing game. And that’s the early problem. With Jamarko Simmons, Schneider Julien, and Branden Ledbetter gone, the team needs some new recruits to become major factors right away to help out Juan Nunez. The key to the season could be the left knee of Hiller, which underwent ACL surgery this off-season. There are good backup options, but Hiller needs to be on the field for the offense to explode.
Defense: The entire defense returned last year and the results weren’t anything special. The Broncos were mediocre overall, but they were great at getting into the backfield. That’ll be the case again with a good linebacking corps that’ll do a little of everything right and a front four that can get make big plays. There isn’t much size in the front seven, but that’s hardly the biggest issue. The secondary struggled last year with four great starters returning, and now they all have to be replaced. Miami transfer Doug Wiggins will be a good new safety leading a secondary that won’t be as bad as it might appear.

T3. Northern Illinois | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 6-6  Conf. Record: 4-4
Best Offensive Player: C Eddie Adamski, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: DE Brandon Bice, Sr.
Offense: The offense was better at running the ball, thanks to mobile quarterbacks, and now the hope is to get more out of the running backs. QB Chandler Harnish was asked to do a little too much, leading the team in rushing along with being the star passer, and while he's the leader of the offense, the goal is to take the pressure off. The receiving corps needs to find a top target and has to be more productive, but there are good options to develop. The line should be fantastic with three good starters returning and several good options for the right side. Consistency and scoring pop will be needed after never getting the same good game twice in a row.
Defense: After getting decimated by injuries two years ago, the defense stayed healthy and was night-and-day better finishing first in the MAC in total defense, scoring defense, and pass defense. However, the D broke down and struggled against the good offenses, getting ripped up by Ball State and Central Michigan in back-to-back games. This year, there's some rebuilding to be done, but it could be a situation of taking a step back to take a giant leap forward. The starting 11 will be great, and while there's a ton of promise among the reserves, there isn't much in the way of experience anywhere. The safeties will be among the best in the MAC, while the starting linebacking trio of Cory Hanson, Pat Schiller, and Alex Kube could be special. The biggest question is on the end where Larry English is gone and Brandon Bice has to be the new star. If the pass rush isn't as good as it was last year, the secondary that was so strong will struggle with new starting corners being broken in.

T3. Toledo | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 5-7  Conf. Record: 4-4
Best Offensive Player: WR Stephen Williams, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: SS Barry Church, Sr.
Offense: The pieces are there and now the production has to follow. After an explosive 2007, the offense went into a mystifying funk last year even though the receiving corps was among the MAC's best, the line was fine, and the backfield had talent. Things simply didn't click on a regular basis. Offensive coordinator Matt Campbell is bringing in an even more up-tempo spread attack than the one Toledo tried in the past, but unlike last year there's experience all across the board. QB Aaron Opelt had a decent season hitting his short to midrange passes, and now he'll get to open it up a bit more and work deeper. DaJuane Collins and Morgan Williams form a dangerous rushing tandem that should crank out over 2,000 yards, and Stephen Williams leads a big, promising receiving corps that should benefit from the change in style. The line is young, with only one senior on the two-deep, but it's very experienced with plenty of competition for the starting spots.
After a disastrous 2007 season, the Rockets were a little better last year with the production better than the numbers. The big problem over the last few years has been the lack of pass rush with the line struggling in a huge way. The Rockets finished last in the MAC in both sacks and tackles for loss, but it's not a lock that things will change right away considering head coach Tim Beckman, the former defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, struggled to get his Cowboys to the quarterback. This year, Toledo is loaded with veterans led by a back seven that'll add a third linebacker to the mix, at least in theory, with star safety Barry Church moving to a Star position. The safeties might be the strength of the team with Lester Richmond, Mark Singer, and true freshman Jermaine Robinson all with all-star potential, while Archie Donald, Daris Quinn and Beau Brudzinski leading a good linebacking corps. But it all comes down to the line that's been awful over the last few years. It's an undersized athletic group that needs to be far, far more productive.

5. Ball State | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 6-6  Conf. Record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player: RB MiQuale Lewis, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: DE Brandon Crawford, Sr.
Offense: Nine starters, not including RB MiQuale Lewis, were back on last year’s offense with stars all across the board. The Cardinals finished 17th in the nation in total offense, 18th in scoring, and dominated up until the post-season. Now the Cardinals will be pushing the reset button. Only one starter returns to the line that was so tight last year, Briggs Orsbon is the only returning wide receiver, and the quarterback options have no experience whatsoever. The one positive for offensive coordinator Eddie Faulkner will be the running backs with Lewis one of three ultra-quick, very good producers to carry the attack. It’s going to be a major work in progress to get anywhere close to the level of last year.
The offense got all the attention last season, but the defense was able to do its part by holding teams to just 20.5 points per game. The D won’t be that strong again, but there are some good pieces to build around with Brandon Crawford leading a veteran line that should do a great job of getting into the backfield on a regular basis. Defensive coordinator Doug Graber likes to use several defensive backs, and he has two good safeties in Sean Baker and Alex Knipp to start with. The corners will be suspect early on and there’s little proven depth. The linebackers are small but they can move.

Eastern Mich | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 3-9  Conf. Record: 2-6
Best Offensive Player: QB Andy Schmitt, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: DL Brad Ohrman, Soph.
Offense: While the offense was inconsistent, it put up big numbers overall before exploding with record-setting passing days over the final few weeks. New offensive coordinator Ken Karcher isn't going to try to change things up too much, but he'll try to add more power running to the mix and try to get less running from the quarterbacks. This was a veteran offense going into last year, and now it's really experienced with seven starters coming back including Andy Schmitt, who's about to take a turn and become one of the MAC's best quarterbacks. He has a deep, quick receiving corps to work with and three good backs to help carry the load. The line that struggled at times last year has been a major plus throughout the offseason. The starting five is a rock and should be better and better as the year goes on.
Defensive coordinator Eric Lewis has to find something the defense can do well. It was designed originally to be fast and athletic, which was fine, but there wasn't any production in the backfield and there weren't enough big plays made. The line has the potential to be the strength with the addition of JUCO transfers Ryan Leonard and Delano Johnson to provide some bulk, and Brad Ohrman a productive veteran to do a little bit of everything. The linebacking corps will desperately miss tackling-machine Daniel Holtzclaw and will need to play much bigger than the safety-sized group it is. While there's speed and experience in the secondary, someone has to help out Ryan Downard and come up with an interception here and there.