Nick Gerogosian is the MAC Daddy – see the rest of his Mid-American Conference coverage at VandelaySports.com
AkronRB Alex Allen was awarded a sixth year of eligibility which provides more depth for new coach Rob Ianello and his staff. The Zips now return five of their top six rushers from a year ago. WR Jeremy LaFrance is the only receiver returning with significant production a year ago. Defensively Akron returns eight starters including most of their defensive front line. Almondo Sewell is a proven force to build a defense around along with LB Brian Wagner. QB Matt Rodgers returns after an injury riddled 2009 season.
PK Jake Hogue has left the program. RB MiQuale Lewis earned a medical waiver for an additional year of eligibility due to a torn ACL in 2007. With the return of Lewis, the RB stable is quite impressive now. Along with Lewis, there are proven players Cory Sykes, Eric Williams and David Brown returning at RB. Three quality offensive linemen return in Cameron Lowry, Michael Switzer and Kreg Hunter. The Cards must replace the right side of the O-line. The QB derby could get interesting with three very talented and capable prospects, the incumbent Kelly Page, and hotshot freshmen Aaron Mershman and Keith Wenning. Ball State signed six DBs who will be entering the program this fall.
The Falcons need to replace 16 starters including quarterback Tyler Sheehan and record-setting wide receiver Freddie Barnes. In addition, BG must replace all three linebackers and three members of the secondary. Altogether the team graduated 22 seniors. The four players looking to become the new QB are sophomore Aaron Pankratz; redshirt freshmen Matt Schilz and Kellen Pagel; and true freshman Caleb Watkins. At this point in time, none have established themselves as “the guy.” The defensive line was the weakest link for the Falcons last season now may become the strength after the graduation of three starting linebackers and three starters in the secondary. The players being counted on in the defensive trenches are Kevin Alvarado, Chris Jones and Jordan Roussus.
Last year’s second string QB, Jerry Davis, begins the spring as the leading candidate to be the starting quarterback while All-MAC safety Davonte Shannon will be the leader of the defense. Other changes include a new head coach, a new coaching staff, and a spread offense similar to the one Coach Jeff Quinn used while he was the offensive coordinator under Brian Kelly at Cincinnati. The Bulls will likely shift to a no-huddle attack too. The defense is changing over from a 4-3 to a 3-4 alignment. A player to keep your eye on is true freshman RB James Potts. Potts is a dynamic and game-breaking tailback who enters Buffalo among the school’s most highly touted recruits ever. ESPN has him among the top 60 tailbacks in the nation, while Rivals.com has him pegged as the 24th-best tailback in the class of 2010. He rushed for over 2,000 yards during in his final two seasons, including 27 touchdowns and twice earned second-team All-State honors in Florida.
With a new coaching staff brings new changes; the offense won’t be vastly different but will include more snaps from center and emphasize an expanded use of the tight end. Sophomore QB Ryan Radcliff is expected to take over the duties for record setting Dan LeFevour after playing in seven games last year. Other QBs in the mix are Derek Rifenbury and A.J. Westerndorp. The Chippewas used a 4-3 defense in the early spring practices and plan on incorporating more blitz packages toward the end of spring. A true freshman who may play right away is DB Anthony Hollis who is an athletic player who runs a blazing 4.3/40 speed; he would fit into the secondary quite nicely. RB Bryan Anderson decided not to return for his final two seasons. First-year coach Dan Enos is still keeping the door open for Anderson to return.
RB Dwayne Priest has been running strong and looks like a real keeper for the Eagles. With any sort of offensive line play and Priest will easily rush for over a 1,000-yards this fall. Both young QB prospects, Alex Gillett and Devontae Payne are battling for the starting position. Gillett cracked the starting line up last fall as a true freshman while Payne brings a 6-7 230-pound frame. More size is needed along the trenches.
TB Eugene Jarvis received a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Jarvis missed all but one game of the 2009 season due to a kidney injury. Jarvis earned all-conference honors in 2007 & 2008. He ranks fourth on KSU’s all-time rushing list with 3,426 yards, including a school single-season record of 1,669 yards in 2007. The Golden Flashes enter the spring with numerous returnees, including seven starters on defense; the team features depth at most positions. Linebacker Cobrani Mixon, a transfer from Michigan, headlines the returnees on defense. Mixon led KSU with 108 tackles and compiled three sacks in 2009. QB Spencer Keith looks to be healthy after off-season shoulder surgery. He showed glimpses of stardom last season as a true freshman.
Expect QB Zac Dysert to be even better this fall after throwing for more than 2,600 yards as a freshman. RB Thomas Merriweather has looked strong. Defensively LB Jerrell Wedge, DL D.J. Svabik and DB Anthony Kokal look to be the leaders of a unit that should be dramatically better this year; especially at DB. Look for DT John Steele (6-3, 285) to become a cornerstone along the defensive front. WR Nicholas Harwell is someone to keep an eye on too.
RB Me’co Brown has withdrawn from the program after rushing for over 1,500 yards last season. That opens the door for Chad Spann to be the feature back this fall while talented JUCO transfer Jasmin Hopkins (5-9, 175) moves up in the RB depth chart. Look for Iowa State transfer Cameron Bell (6-2, 242) to see quality playing time too. DE Jake Coffman is no longer playing football either; he had an outstanding 2009 season. While QB Chandler Harnish has missed spring football due to knee surgery, DeMarcus Grady continues to impress. Receivers Willie Clark, Landon Cox and Nathan Palmer have shown consistency as well as a connection with Grady. Defensively NIU should be really solid entering the 2010 campaign as they return 10 players who have started at least seven games.
QB Boo Jackson returns for the Bobcats so there shouldn’t be much of a drop off due to the graduation of Theo Scott. Iowa State transfer Phillips Bates is now ready to assume the back up role and can certainly run the offense if called upon. While the Bobcats will miss NFL bound WR Taylor Price, OU is deep at wide out with Lavon Brazil, Terrence McCrae and Steven Goulet. A RB to keep your eye on is JUCO Kenny Ashley. This 5-9 230-pounder signed with USC out of high school before going into the junior college route. Defensively the front four return along with LB Noah Keller.
Expect the Owls will be preseason MAC favorites by most preseason publications and with good reason. Temple has a dominating defense and if a dependable QB can emerge, the Owls may crack the national polls for the first time in eons. A new wrinkle was added to the coaching staff ~ Rob Spence is the WR position coach for 2010. Spence was the offensive coordinator at Toledo when Bruce Gradkowski was setting records for the Rockets before becoming the OC for Clemson. Most recently Spence has served on the staff at Syracuse and is known for his extensive offensive knowledge and unique play formations. Speaking of offensive, the Owls have one of the league’s top offensive lines this year. Last year’s QB Vaughn Charlton may be moved to TE or WR while Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown have experience at RB. The defense continues to shine with the return of 1st All-MAC players Jaiquawn Jarrett, Elijah Joseph, Adrian Robinson, and Muhammad Wilkerson. Few division I schools, BCS or non-BCS, will have a defensive line as good as Temple’s.
WR and return specialist Eric Page should even be better this season after leading all freshmen nationally in receptions and yards in 2009. Don’t be surprised it RB Darius Reeves emerges into the picture this fall along with Jake Walker. True freshman TE Gerald Adkins may work his way into the two-deep lineup too before the season starts. Austin Dantin appears to be the starting QB over David Pasquale and Alex Pettee. The Rockets are hoping that WR Cordale Scott, a transfer from Illinois and a top-50 Midwest prep prospect two years ago from Cleveland Glenville HS will be able to play in 2010 and not sit out until 2011. Look for the Rockets to be much better defensively this season through their two year recruiting emphasis on that side of the ball plus moving big Nate Cole from OL to DT.
A big QB competition is in the mix between Alex Carder and Drew Burdi during the spring. Freshman Tyler Van Tubbergen is also in the mix but has missed some practices due to shoulder issues. Carder is currently the leader of the pack but that could certainly change by August. Whoever wins the job has huge shoes to fill for NFL hopeful Tim Hiller, a four-year starter. Defensively, former Hofstra head football coach Dave Cohen takes over as the coordinator Hofstra dropped football. Safety Doug Wiggins will be the leader of these aggressive new blitzing schemes.