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MAC Spring College Football Practice Update

College football players started reporting for spring practices over the past few weeks, meaning it’s time to take a look at the programs and see what we can expect in the fall. Let’s start by taking a look at the teams in the MAC. See something you like or dislike in the MAC spring update? Be sure to discuss it on one of the many great MAC forums listed in our NCAA message board directory.

 

Akron

  • New coach Rob Ianello expected to have less drama in his life after leaving Notre Dame amidst Charlie Weis’ ouster to take over the Zips. However, an inadvertent text message to senior Shawn Lemon caused Lemon to decide to transfer. Luckily for both parties, Lemon changed his mind and his team-best pass rushing abilities will add to a deep defensive line this fall. With the 4-3 firmly in place, there should be a much stronger run defense in A-town.

  • Quarterback Patrick Nicely took most of the snaps this spring but he will compete with Matt Rodgers in the fall, as he should be fully recovered from knee surgery in August. Both have played extensively so it will be nice for the Zips to have experience under center to start the Ianello era. The only question is whether a close competition will splinter the team.

  • With a new staff comes lots of position changes and one of the most head scratching was the switch of Jalil Carter from safety to wide receiver. While Carter is expected to be the Zips’ #2 wideout, it leaves the safety position virtually empty. Akron has only two safeties on scholarship heading into the summer and qualifies as the biggest concern on what could be a championship-contending team. Top incoming prospect Tony Holmes might start from day one when he arrives this fall.

Ball State

  • The best news that Ball State got in the offseason was that the NCAA awarded star senior tailback MiQuale Lewis an extra year of eligibility due to a past injury. That brings the Cardinals top offensive weapon back for another season, which improves the team’s chances by leaps and bounds this fall.

  • The quarterback competition wasn’t resolved this spring, as sophomore Kelly Page and redshirt frosh Aaron Mershman battled it out. While Page has a slight edge due to seven games of experience last fall, this competition won’t be over until the 2010 season begins.

Bowling Green

  • The dominant theme in the MAC this spring has to be quarterback derbies and the most inclusive has to be the race at BGSU. Four different players, including true freshman Caleb Watkins, will get a shot at the spot this fall after the three already enrolled didn’t manage to decide anything. While redshirt frosh Matt Schilz is the top candidate, make no mistake about it: This is a wide open race.

  • One major concern is at linebacker, where all three starters from 2009 graduated. The good news is that at least two of the spots appear to have been solidified. Sophomore Dwayne Woods appears to have locked down the middle linebacker position and Paul Swan seems to like a good candidate to fill one of the outside spots.

  • Redshirt freshman Tight End Alex Bayer appeared to move into the #1 spot after a strong spring. Bayer was one of the highest rated players at his position in the state of Ohio when enrolled at Akron and that talent seems ready to show at the college level.

Buffalo

  • The Bulls lost virtually all of their experience in the passing game this offseason, thus rejuvenating the aerial assault was a top priority. Sophomore Jerry Davis and redshirt freshman Alex Dennison were the two primary contestants and while both played well, neither created any separation in the battle.

  • The other half of that passing equation is at receiver, where replacing the top three guys from 2009 was of utmost importance. Redshirt freshman Alex Neutz showed flashes of gamebreaking ability and junior Marcus Rivers also made a strong push for heavy playing time. These two seem to be the best bets to start the season for the Bulls.

  • One major blow for Buffalo was the loss of junior linebacker Scott Pettigrew, who tore his ACL. This hurts because Pettigrew started 19 games over the past two seasons and leaves senior Justin Winters as the only returning linebacker with extensive experience. While there is talent in place, Pettigrew’s loss hurts.

 

 

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Central Michigan

  • The biggest question coming into spring football was who would replace all-time great Dan LeFevour at quarterback and that remains the biggest question coming out of spring football as well. Junior Derek Rifenbury and sophomore Ryan Radcliff didn’t really create a lot of separation so this is a battle that won’t be resolved until the fall.

  • CMU’s defense appeared to put together a strong spring under the new coaching staff. One name to watch is sophomore Joe Kinville, who returned to the Chips after leaving the team last fall. Kinville made a lot of plays in the Spring Game and could be a big asset to the defense.

  • New coach Dan Enos comes from Michigan State, where he was the running backs coach the past few seasons. Expect his background to play a role in establishing the offense’s identity this season, which will feature the tailbacks more than perhaps any point in LeFevour’s career.

Eastern Michigan

  • EMU owned a dubious distinction in 2009: Their run defense was the nation’s worst and their pass defense was the nation’s best. Why? Because there was literally no need to throw the ball against their porous run defense. EMU brings back three D-Line starters and could start all upperclassmen up front with the development of senior Ryan Leonard at DT, so it is reasonable to expect an improved rush defense this season.

  • There is also hope offensively. The O-Line had to rotate so many players in last season due to injuries and the depth of their experience should help protect sophomore quarterback Alex Gillett. Gillett is also a proven running threat after making three starts in 2009 and appeared to develop as a passer this spring. Expect a much stronger season from him this fall.

Kent State

  • Kent State’s depth at running back might prove to be the best in the MAC. While diminutive senior Eugene Jarvis was held out of most contact drills to ensure his full health in 2010 after missing most of last season with a lacerated kidney, sophomore Jacquise Terry and Dri Archer were very impressive in practice. Expect all three men to touch the ball a lot this fall and that’s a good thing for the Golden Flashes.

  • Another reason to expect a heavy ground-based attack was the play of quarterback Spencer Keith in the Spring Game: Keith threw only six times all game! When he does throw, look for Tyshon Goode to be his first look virtually every time.

Miami (OH)

  • Sophomore quarterback Zach Dysert put together a strong spring, capped off with a 23 for 25 passing performance in the Spring Game. After Miami finished 23 rd in pass offense last season, Dysert’s continued improvement gives Redhawk fans hope for a stronger attack.

  • The other piece of good news was the play of tailback Thomas Merriweather, who capped off a great spring with a 100 yard effort in the Spring Game. As the Redhawks had serious issues running the ball last season, Merriweather’s emergence should be a great sign for a more balanced offensive attack.

Northern Illinois

  • Starting quarterback Chandler Harnish showed a lot of moxie this spring, putting off knee surgery to keep his starting role under center. Harnish was embroiled in a battle all spring but clearly impressed Head Coach Jerry Kill with his toughness and desire and it appears that he’ll enter fall camp with the edge at QB.

  • Harnish wasn’t the only Husky to run into injury issues. Junior LB Pat Schiller and senior safety Mike Sobol both underwent procedures on their knees from spring injuries. The good news is that both are expected to be 100% for fall camp.

  • NIU should continue to have a great running game this fall. The O-Line appeared to fill its vacancies as center Scott Wedige took over the pivot position and the stable of tailbacks appears to be bursting at the seasons behind starter Chad Spann. This will be a very good rushing team in 2010.

 



Ohio

  • The defending MAC East Division Champions had a productive spring, finding answers to most of the major roster questions. One unexpected answer came at the quarterback position, where expected starter Boo Jackson missed the entire spring. That answer came in the form of junior quarterback Phil Bates, who apparently impressed Head Coach Frank Solich enough to earn a spot in the Bobcats’ pistol formation offense.

  • Another strong point for the offense was the play of sophomore center Skyler Allen. With a largely veteran line at the other positions, Allen’s emergence as a strong pivot should give the Bobcats a strong presence up front and that should be a strong foreboding of success this fall.
  • Keep an eye on newcomer Omar Leftwich, who came to Ohio from the junior college ranks this year. Leftwich took advantage of injury issues in the secondary and seems primed to start at cornerback for the Bobcats this fall.

Temple

  • The biggest news of the offseason was that the Owls managed to resign their popular head coach, Al Golden, to a five year contract extension. Golden was considered a major success before Temple’s 9-4 effort last fall and this contract makes it more likely that he will be around for the foreseeable future (or at least until Joe Paterno retires at Penn State, Golden’s alma mater)
  • Perhaps no team had a more positive resolution to a battle at quarterback than the Owls. Vaughn Charlton and Chas Stewart split time under center last fall but after the early competition appeared to heavily tilt Stewart’s way, Charlton made the unselfish decision to switch to Tight End and comes out the spring listed atop the depth chart there! Thus, the Owls not only determined their starting QB but they also got an answer at Tight End! Ladies and gentlemen, the Al Golden effect is hard at work!
  • One downside to the spring was the continued nagging injuries that pervaded the offensive line. Some observers will spin the injury concerns as a nice way to build depth at the position but the simple truth is that a good line needs time to gel and work together and Temple didn’t really get that this spring. With that in mind, it is imperative that the Owls have a healthy fall camp to sort things out up front.

Toledo

  • The continued theme of quarterback competitions continues throughout the MAC. Luckily for Toledo, they appear to have found a solution in sophomore Austin Dantin, who had seven games worth of experience as a true frosh in 2009. Dantin exited the spring atop the depth chart and is the odds-on favorite to start.
  • Perhaps the best news coming out of Rocket camp was the return to health of corner Desmond Marrow, who hadn’t played since the 2008 season due to a really bad knee injury. Marrow looked dynamic in coverage and could be a big boost for the Toledo secondary this year.
  • The biggest loss was four time All-MAC performer Barry Church, who played the hybrid ‘star’ role. In his stead, junior Isaiah Ballard was one of the stars (pardon the pun) of the spring game as he racked up seven tackles. Ballard calms nerves that the Rockets won’t be able to replace Church’s great production.

Western Michigan

  • Replacing Tim Hiller, who owns every school passing record, will be no easy task. However, Alex Carder has clearly established himself as the next Bronco quarterback. While we won’t know until September whether he has the moxie and grasp of the offense to lead WMU back to the postseason, Bronco fans should be optimistic with his talent.
  • A few defensive players earned accolades this spring from the coaching staff. While many of the returning starters were obviously among the top performers, cornerback Lew Toler and DT John Rice were singled out as two players ready to make a major impact this season. Having new young player step up defensively will be a major boon for the Broncos if they want to make 2009 go down as an anomaly in a successful run.

 

 

 

 

 

By Matt Baxendall
CollegeSports-fans.com Staff Writer

 


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