Talkin’ MAC

By Jarrod Rice

Ball State Cardinals

(2-9, 2-6)

The Cardinals lost the nation’s leading receiver in Dante Ridgeway, who left after his junior season to be drafted by the St. Louis Rams. Ball State will need quarterback Joey Lynch to step up to keep a defense that ranked 112th last season off the field. Lynch completed 64 percent of his passes last season, but will not have the weapons he had in Ridgeway and MAC freshman of the year Adell Givens, who ran for 963 yards and six touchdowns.

The Quote: “I think we look at it one game at a time,” coach Brady Hoke said. “We all have picks [to win the MAC]. I think it will be interesting to see how it plays out.”

Returning Starters: 15

Key Players: RB Charles Wynn, QB Joey Lynch, LB Jason Sieman

C. Michigan Chippewas

(4-7, 3-5)

With running back Jerry Seymour’s future uncertain after a suspension due to a bar fight, the Chippewas will hope quarterback Kent Smith can step up his production. CMU’s defense struggled mightily last season and probably won’t be much improved. Smith threw for 15 touchdowns last season and will once again have plenty of options at wide receiver.

The Quote: “We play two Big 10 teams and Miami, who is a great team,” said coach Brian Kelly of his team’s opening games against Indiana, Miami and Penn State. “Our schedule looks tough on the outside, but it will help us in terms of winning a MAC championship.”

Returning Starters:: 13

Key Players: RB Jerry Seymour, QB Kent Smith, WR Justin Harper

E. Michigan Eagles

(4-7, 4-4)

The Eagles will be another case of a MAC team that tries desperately to make up what the defense gives up. EMU finished 4-4 in the MAC last season, which is reason enough for optimism in Ypsilanti. The Eagles will look for Matt Bohnet to have a big season under center and wide receiver Eric Deslauriers to pick up where he left off in 2004, when he had 84 catches and 13 touchdowns.

The Quote: “We feel real good offensively and we were sensational in the passing game,” coach Jeff Genyk said. “We’ve got eight new starters on defense and we are a lot more athletic.”

Returning Starters: 12

Key Players: QB Matt Bohnet, DE Olivier Gagnon-Gordillo, WR Eric Deslauriers

Toledo Rockets

(9-4, 7-1)

If not for Bowling Green’s Omar Jacobs, quarterback Bruce Gradkowski would get a lot more publicity. Gradkowski has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in two-straight seasons and also rushed for nine touchdowns last season. But without top receiver Lance Moore, the Rockets will rely on the ground game more than ever. Trinity Dawson only had 84 carries last season and will be expected to carry the majority of the load this season.

The Quote: “Bruce is a solid quarterback and a winner and we are looking for him to have a fast start to the season,” coach Tom Amstutz said.

Returning Starters: 14

Key Players: QB Bruce Gradkowski, WR Steve Odom, SS Keon Jackson

W. Michigan Broncos

(1-10, 0-8)

The Broncos have gone from a nine-win team to a one-win team in just four years. WMU adds another poor defense to the MAC, but does not have the firepower on offense to offset it. Quarterback Ryan Cubit, who is the son of coach Bill Cubit, will likely lead the Broncos to another losing season, which could make for some awkward family reunions.

The Quote: “Our offensive line has gotten a whole lot better,” Cubit said. “Our only challenge right now is to get ready to go.”

Returning Starters: 14

Key Players: WR Greg Jennings, LB Paul Tithof, LB Darrell Copeland


Akron Zips

(2004 record: 6-5 overall, 6-2 MAC)

Akron lost it’s stud senior quarterback Charlie Frye, who was picked up by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the 2005 NFL draft. To compensate, the Zips will need to rely on running back Brett Biggs and wide receiver Domenik Hixon to ease the transition for their new quarterback, Pittsburgh transfer Luke Getsy. The Zips defense that struggled last season should expect to be on the field even more with the absence of Frye. Akron has only five returning starters on offense.

The Quote: “I feel like we are a little behind offensively,” 2nd year coach J.D. Brookhart said. “We’re young and inexperienced at offensive line, but they are making strides.”

Returning Starters: 12

Key Players: RB Brett Biggs, WR Domenik Hixon, LB Jay Rohr

Bowling Green Falcons

(9-3, 6-2)

Bowling Green has one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in Omar Jacobs, but their talent doesn’t end there. The Falcons are returning wide receiver Charles Sharon, who caught 15 touchdown passes last season, and P.J. Pope who rushed for 15. Jacobs threw 41 touchdowns last season to go with only four interceptions and will play behind one of the best offensive lines in the conference.

The Quote: “He knows that all of the previous great MAC quarterbacks led their team to a MAC championship,” said BG coach Gregg Brandon of Jacobs. “We’ve had problems with pass rush and gave up big plays because we lacked communication.”

Returning Starters: 12

Key Players: QB Omar Jacobs, WR Charles Sharon, CB Jelani Jordan

Buffalo Bulls

(2-9, 2-6)

Fifth-year coach Jim Hofher is 7-39 since taking over Buffalo. Don’t look for much to change this season. The Bulls will rely heavily on their defense to keep them in games, but look for another two-win season when it is all said and done.

The Quote: “All of our running backs played a lot of games over the past three years and have combined for a lot of carries,” coach Jim Hofher said. “That, with our pass protection, go hand-in-hand.”

Returning Starters: 16

Key Players: RB Steven King, LB Bryan Cummings, CB James Evans

Kent State Golden Flashes

(5-6, 4-4)

Kent State had the 17th-best defense nationally last season. However, on offense the Golden Flash lost their signal caller Josh Cribbs and will struggle to replace his production. With a less powerful offense, The Golden Flashes will need their defense to step up more than ever. Linebacker Justin Parrish had 14 sacks last season and should have another big season in 2005.

The Quote: “We’re definitely going to be throwing the football,” coach Doug Martin said. “We’ve got more speed at wide receiver and we are going to play all four freshmen we brought in.”

Returning Starters: 13

Key Players: WR Derrick Bush, LB Justin Parrish, CB Jack Williams

Miami-Ohio RedHawks

(8-5, 7-1)

Quarterback Josh Betts replaced Ben Roethlisberger admirably in his first season at the helm in 2004, and will continue that success this season. The Redhawks will suffer the most from having Bowling Green join the MAC East, as they will need their defense to step up big-time if they want to jump the Falcons. The offense is returning eight starters and will look for wide receiver Ryne Robinson to step up from his four touchdown performance of last season.

The Quote: “We feel good and have a lot of optimism,” coach Shane Montgomery said. “We got back 19 seniors and 16 starters from last year.”

Returning Starters: 16

Key Players: QB Josh Betts, DE Marcus Johnson, CB John Busing

Ohio Bobcats

(4-7, 2-6)

Nebraska castoff Frank Solich will take over coaching an Ohio team that struggled to a 4-7 2004 campaign. Don’t look for Solich to implant the option offense that he ran at Nebraska, but expect a more open offense. The Bobcats will have limited weapons, but Solich, who took Nebraska to six bowl games, should lead them in the right direction.

The Quote: “We’re very excited about this season and the coaching staff,” Solich said. “We’d like to have more time before we start. We’ve got a few guys banged up as with most teams, but we’ve prepared about as well as we possibly could have.”

Returning Starters: 14

Key Players: RB Kalvin McRae, WR Scott Mayle, LB Matt Muncy