Breaking down the MAC

Originally Published: May 15, 2007
By Adam Rittenberg | Special to ESPN.com

Can QB Dan LeFevour and Central Michigan repeat? How will Temple fare in its first season in the conference? Who will replace Garrett Wolfe at Northern Illinois? Take a look at what MAC questions were answered this spring and what problems linger heading into the fall.

Akron Zips
2007 Schedule
Sept. 1 Army
Sept. 8 at Ohio State
Sept. 15 at Indiana
Sept. 22 Kent State
Sept. 29 at Connecticut
Oct. 6 at Western Michigan
Oct. 13 Temple
Oct. 27 at Buffalo
Nov. 7 Ohio
Nov. 14 at Miami (Ohio)
Nov. 23 Central Michigan


2006 overall record:
5-7
Conference record:
3-5

Returning starters
Offense: 5, Defense: 8, Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
WR Jabari Arthur, RB Dennis Kennedy, RT Chris Kemme, WR David Harvey, LB John Mackey, LB Kevin Grant, LB Brion Stokes, LB Doug Williams
Key losses
QB Luke Getsy, C Andy Willis, LT Tim Crouch, NG Kiki Gonzalez, DE Jermaine Reid, SS Jason Nedd, CB Reggie Corner
Top newcomer: G Paul Simkovich Insider
2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Dennis Kennedy* (914 yds)
Passing: Luke Getsy (2,662 yds)
Receiving: David Harvey* (914 yds)
Tackles: John Mackey* (88)
Sacks: Brian Stokes* (5.5)
Interceptions: Reggie Corner (4)

Spring answers: 1. Doug Williams anchors linebackers: Williams is a big reason why the linebackers could be Akron's strongest unit next season. The junior had four tackles in the spring game and blocked a field-goal attempt. He was moved to linebacker in the offseason after seeing time on the line in 2006. "[Doug] might have had the best spring of anyone on the team," coach J.D. Brookhart told the Akron Beacon Journal. "He's always been athletic. That's why we moved him." Williams had nine tackles and a sack in Akron's final spring scrimmage.

2. Running backs ready to roll: Despite a middling performance in the spring game, Akron's running back corps should be a strength this season. The Zips return Dennis Kennedy and Andre Walker, who accounted for all of the team's 13 rushing touchdowns last season. Brookhart was extremely impressed with junior Alex Allen, who participated in spring ball despite undergoing knee surgery only six months earlier. "Alex has come back way ahead of schedule," Brookhart told the Beacon Journal. "We didn't even think he would be involved in most of the [spring] drills."

3. Stephon Fuqua steps up: With No. 1 receiver Jabari Arthur out for spring practice because of a foot injury, Fuqua capitalized on his increased repetitions. The junior worked alongside Marcus Patterson, Alphonso Owen and several others. "He's taken advantage of his opportunity and he's playing well this spring," Brookhart said.

Fall questions: 1. Quarterback competitions pushes forward: Carlton Jackson ended the spring as the starter, but the dual-threat sophomore has more to prove this summer. None of the quarterbacks dazzled in the spring game, with Jackson completing 4 of 8 passes for only nine yards. Sophomore Chris Jacquemain enters the preseason as Jackson's backup, and freshman Sean Hakes is the third stringer. "The quarterback play has been OK this spring," Brookhart said. "All three guys have shown glimpses of what they can do."

2. Offensive line unsettled: After losing four starters, the Zips won't determine their starting line until well into preseason camp. All-Conference tackle Chris Kemme is the only holdover, and several underclassmen are competing for starting spots.

3. Receivers return to team: Akron practiced without its top two receivers this spring, as Arthur sat out with a foot injury and top return man David Harvey left the team for personal reasons. With plenty of question marks at quarterback and on the offensive line, the Zips need both contributors ready for preseason camp. "My foot is doing very, very well," Arthur said. "Not being able to practice this spring has allowed me to pass on some of my knowledge to the younger guys this spring."

Ball State Cardinals
2007 Schedule
Aug. 30 Miami (Ohio)
Sept. 8 at Eastern Michigan
Sept. 15 at Navy
Sept. 22 at Nebraska
Sept. 29 Buffalo
Oct. 6 Central Michigan
Oct. 13 Western Kentucky
Oct. 20 at Western Michigan
Oct. 27 at Illinois
Nov. 3 at Indiana
Nov. 13 Toledo
Nov. 24 at Northern Illinois


2006 overall record: 5-7
Conference record:
5-3

Returning starters
Offense: 7, Defense: 6, Kicker/punter: 1
Top returners
QB Nate Davis, TE Darius Hill, WR Dante Love, LB Wendell Brown, LB Cortlan Booker, P Chris Miller, SS Alex Knipp
Key losses
RB Larry Bostic, QB Joey Lynch, WR Terry Moss, SS Erik Keys, PK Brian Jackson, DE Riley Larimore
Top newcomer: TE Brendon Choy Insider
2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Larry Bostic (545 yds)
Passing: Nate Davis* (1,975 yds)
Receiving: Darius Hill* (741 yds)
Tackles: Erik Keys (90)
Sacks: Cortlan Booker* (4)
Interceptions: Alex Knipp* (2)

Spring answers: 1. Nate Davis secures quarterback job: After starting seven games last season as a freshman, Davis showed no signs of losing his spot this spring. He found top target Dante Love for three touchdowns in the spring game and displayed a greater grasp of the Cardinals' offense. Having predecessor Joey Lynch as a graduate assistant can only help Davis. "We did enough not to confuse him last year, and we still want to do that because he has such good natural instincts," offensive coordinator Stan Parrish told the Muncie Star-Press. "He learns every day."

2. MiQuale Lewis ready to run: Lewis was leading the Cardinals in rushing last season before sustaining a separated shoulder in Week 6 against Buffalo. He responded well in spring practice, rushing for a touchdown in the spring game. "Lewis had a great winter and an outstanding spring," coach Brady Hoke said. Incoming Frank Edmonds should push Lewis in preseason camp.

3. Bryant Haines steps up at linebacker: Ball State will employ a more aggressive defensive scheme this year, and Haines is expected to lead the way on blitzes. He ranked sixth on the team in tackles last season despite playing only eight games. "Haines has played as well as anybody defensively this spring," Hoke said. "He needs to stay healthy. He makes us a better defense because of how he plays."


Fall questions: 1. Louis Johnson returns from injury: The sophomore partially tore his ACL in spring practice and underwent surgery May 5. Since Dante Love is primarily a possession receiver, Ball State needs a healthy Johnson to stretch the field. "We have to find another receiver who can get down the field," Hoke told the Star-Press. "[Darius Hill] gives us some mismatches, but we have to find that other ingredient. Maybe it's Louis Johnson, maybe it's one of the freshmen, maybe Dan Dunford."

2. Fix the special teams: Ball State has arguably the nation's best punter in Chris Miller, but the other special-teams units must improve. The Cardinals need to replace place-kicker Brian Jackson, who connected on 17 of 19 field-goal attempts last year. They also are looking for a boost in the punt return game after ranking 102nd nationally last year.

3. Shore up the secondary: After finishing 115th nationally in pass defense a year ago, Ball State is looking for answers in the defensive backfield. Hoke said moving B.J. Hill from running back to cornerback will help, but the Cardinals still must replace leading tackler Erik Keys, a strong safety who recovered four fumbles in 2006. "He loves the game and knows the game," Hoke said of Hill, who ranked third on the team in rushing last season. "He is very aggressive."

Bowling Green Falcons
2007 Schedule
Sept. 1 at Minnesota
Sept. 8 at Michigan State
Sept. 22 Temple
Sept. 29 Western Kentucky
Oct. 6 at Boston College
Oct. 13 at Miami
Oct. 20 at Kent State
Oct. 27 Ohio
Nov. 2 Akron
Nov. 9 at Eastern Michigan
Nov. 17 at Buffalo
Nov. 23 Toledo


2006 overall record:
4-8
Conference record:
3-5

Returning starters
Offense: 6, Defense: 8, Kicker/punter: 0
Top returners
RB Chris Bullock, WR Corey Partridge, WR Freddie Barnes, C Kory Lichtensteiger, LB Erique Dozier, DE Diyral Briggs, CB Antonio Smith, SS Jerett Sanderson
Key losses
WR Kenneth Brantley, WR Ruben Ruiz, RG Derrick Markray, DE Devon Parks, LB Terrel White
Top newcomer: RB Mark Woolridge Insider
2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Chris Bullock* (769 yds)
Passing: Anthony Turner* (1,596 yds)
Receiving: Corey Partridge* (658 yds)
Tackles: Terrel White (93)
Sacks: Devon Parks (9)
Interceptions: Kenny Lewis* (4)

Spring answers: 1. Kicking game no longer concern: Coach Gregg Brandon said Bowling Green's kicking game couldn't have been much worse than it was last year, when Sean Ellis connected on only 4 of 9 attempts. Junior college transfer Sinisa Vrvillo provided hope in the spring game, converting all three of his field-goal attempts, including a 41-yarder as time expired. New punter Nick Iovinelli averaged nearly 40 yards on six punts in the game. "Our kicking game was much improved," Brandon said.

2. Defense builds depth: With eight starters back on defense, Bowling Green set out to fortify positions this spring. Sophomore linebacker Cody Basler recorded 10 tackles in the spring game, and redshirt freshman backer Lewis Parks had nine stops. Safety Jahmal Brown had an interception in the spring game and will contend for a starting job.

3. O'Drobinak shines in new role: After starting 10 games the last two seasons at tight end, senior Sean O'Drobinak has made a smooth shift to defensive tackle. He won a starting job this spring as Bowling Green looked for solutions on the interior line after losing Brad Williams to graduation and Nick Davis and Joe Schaefer to injuries.



Fall questions: 1. Sheehan and Turner continue to compete: Anthony Turner started 10 games at quarterback last season, but his grasp on the top job slipped this spring. Sophomore Tyler Sheehan moved even with Turner on the depth chart, though both men will compete with Anthony Glaud in preseason camp. Sheehan completed 20 of 33 passes for 179 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in the spring game. Turner had only 30 passing yards on nine completions with one interception, while Glaud hit 5 of 6 passes for 52 yards. "Nothing's solid," offensive coordinator Mick McCall told The BG News. "We're going to go into the summer and the fall still waiting to name a starter."

2. Battle at nose tackle: Before making any decisions, Bowling Green must see how Nick Davis responds after missing spring ball and the final nine games of last season with an injury. Sophomore Michael Ream got most of the reps with the first team this spring and should push Davis for the starting job.

3. Filling out the receiver rotation: Corey Partridge is undoubtedly Bowling Green's top pass catcher, but who comes next remains to be seen. Speedy sophomore Freddie Barnes should be a greater factor after shifting full time to wide receiver. Junior Marques Parks led the White team with four catches for 60 yards in the spring game.

Buffalo Bulls
2007 Schedule
Aug. 30 at Rutgers
Sept. 8 at Temple
Sept. 15 at Penn State
Sept. 22 Baylor
Sept. 29 at Ball State
Oct. 6 Ohio
Oct. 13 Toledo
Oct. 20 at Syracuse
Oct. 27 Akron
Nov. 3 at Miami (Ohio)
Nov. 17 Bowling Green
Nov. 24 at Kent State


2006 overall record:
2-10
Conference record:
1-7

Returning starters
Offense: 8, Defense: 9, Kicker/punter: 1
Top returners
QB Drew Willy, RB James Starks, WR Terrance Breaux, C Jamey Richard, DE Trevor Scott, LB Ollice Ervin, S Kareem Byrom, CB Mike Newton
Key losses
WR Chad Upshaw, RB Jared Patterson, LB Jeff Bublavi, LB Ramon Guzman, PK Adam Tanalski
Top newcomer: QB Zack Ingle Insider
2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: James Starks* (704 yds)
Passing: Drew Willy* (1,391 yds)
Receiving: Terrance Breaux* (444 yds)
Tackles: Jeff Bublavi (110)
Sacks: Trevor Scott* (9)
Interceptions: Mike Newton* (5)

Spring answers: 1. Quarterback order doesn't change: Drew Willy began the spring as Buffalo's starter, and he ended it in the same spot. Converted wide receiver Namaan Roosevelt brings explosive speed to the quarterback spot, but Willy brings efficiency. He completed 19 of 26 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions in the spring game. Roosevelt completed 6 of 12 passes with no interceptions. "I had to learn a lot this spring," Roosevelt told The Buffalo News. "I've got a lot of stuff I need to work on, but I think I've done pretty good so far."

2. Ernest Jackson explosive on the edge: Jackson ranked second on the team in yards per reception last year (14.7) and followed up with a strong spring. The junior caught four passes for 61 yards in the spring game, including a 45-yarder.

3. Larry Hutchinson steps up at linebacker: After losing starters Jeff Bublavi and Ramon Guzman, Buffalo needed immediate contributors at linebacker and found one in Hutchinson. The senior had 10 tackles in the spring game and enters the summer as a starter.

Fall questions: 1. Namaan Roosevelt's role: Roosevelt's speed and athleticism shouldn't go to waste as a backup quarterback, so how will the sophomore be used if Drew Willy retains the starting job? Roosevelt is arguably Buffalo's top receiver, catching 31 passes for 429 yards last season. He returned kickoffs and punts as a freshman, but those duties might have to go if he becomes the top quarterback. "Namaan will have his chance to battle it out," Gill said.

2. Shore up the offensive line: The Bulls return four starting linemen and five players who started at least five games last season, but is that a good thing? Buffalo ranked 114th nationally in sacks allowed last season (3.5 per game) after finishing tied for last the year before. Center Jamey Richard is solid, but the other positions should feature plenty of competition if Buffalo plans to improve.

3. McGroaty kickin' it again: The departure of Adam Tanalski has given Gerry McGroaty another chance to kick for the Bulls. McGroaty made 2 of 5 field goals in 2005 but didn't play at all last season. He went 3-for-3 on field goals in the spring game, connecting from 37, 31 and 27 yards.

Central Michigan Chippewas
2007 Schedule
Sept. 1 at Kansas
Sept. 8 Toledo
Sept. 15 at Purdue
Sept. 22 North Dakota State
Sept. 29 Northern Illinois
Oct. 6 at Ball State
Oct. 13 Army
Oct. 20 at Clemson
Oct. 27 at Kent State
Nov. 6 at Western Michigan
Nov. 16 Eastern Michigan
Nov. 23 at Akron


2006 overall record:
10-4
Conference record:
7-1

Returning starters
Offense: 7, Defense: 7, Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
QB Dan LeFevour, WR Bryan Anderson, RB Ontario Sneed, RT Andrew Hartline, C Eric Dunney, LB Red Keith, LB Ike Brown, DT Steven Friend, P Tony Mikulec
Key losses LT Joe Staley, C Drew Mormino, WR Damien Linson, DE Dan Bazuin, LB Doug Kress, CB Pacino Horne
Top newcomer: TE Rocky Weaver Insider
2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Ontario Sneed* (764 yds)
Passing: Dan LeFevour* (3,031 yds)
Receiving: Bryan Anderson* (867 yds)
Tackles: Red Keith* (127)
Sacks: Dan Bazuin (10.5)
Interceptions: Pacino Horne (4)

Spring answers: 1. More weapons at receiver: Junior wideout Joe Bockheim sizzled during the spring game, catching touchdown passes of 45 and 21 yards. The first scoring strike came from fellow receiver Jemmy Jasmin, who found Bockheim on a reverse pass. Jasmin completed two passes for 88 yards and made seven receptions for 44 yards. Both Bockheim and Jasmin should be factors in a wide-open passing attack alongside No. 1 wideout Bryan Anderson.

2. Running game expands: Quarterback Dan LeFevour finished as Central Michigan's second leading rusher last year, a trend that is unlikely to continue. The Chippewas showed greater depth at both running back and fullback this spring. Notre Dame transfer Justin Hoskins scored a touchdown in a spring scrimmage and figures to compete with returning starter Ontario Sneed, Marcel Archer and Carl Volny at running back. Troy Doane should see an increased role at fullback.

3. Brett Hartmann emerges at place-kicker: The departure of Rick Albreski opened the door for Hartmann, who turned in a stellar spring and figures to open the season as Central Michigan's top place-kicker. Hartmann, primarily a punter before the spring, kicked field goals of 46 and 45 yards in the spring game. "Hartmann has really done a great job for us considering he has never kicked a field goal for us before the spring," coach Butch Jones told The Mount Pleasant Morning Sun. "He has mainly punted and now we are asking him to do both and he has really progressed each day."

Fall questions: 1. Fill in gaps on the offensive line: With plenty of offensive firepower back, Central Michigan's top priority will be replacing left tackle Joe Staley, a first-round NFL draft pick, and center Drew Mormino, a sixth-round selection. Returning starter Andrew Hartline could move from right tackle to left tackle, and reserve Mike Decker might shift to center, where he started for the Motor City Bowl. Junior Greg Wojt is the top candidate to start at tackle opposite Hartline, while several younger players (Adam Antonides, Jeff Maddux, Colin Miller) will compete this summer.

2. Improve kick coverage: Jones had no complaints about Hartmann, but Central Michigan's kickoff coverage left much to be desired this spring. Opponents averaged 18 yards per kickoff return and 6.5 yards per punt return against the Chippewas last season. "Especially now that teams are kicking from the 30-yard line, there is an even greater importance on the kickoff team," Jones told The Morning Sun. "We can't put our defense in a bad spot with every kickoff. That has to get better."

3. Bookend the defensive front: Central Michigan won't find another Dan Bazuin right away, but a serviceable replacement is needed for the former MAC Defensive Player of the Year. The Chippewas lose both Bazuin and fellow defensive end Mike Ogle. Sophomores Larry Knight and Frank Zombo are the top candidates to earn the starting jobs. They will compete with senior De'Onte Burnam this summer.

Eastern Michigan Eagles
2007 Schedule
Sept. 1 at Pittsburgh
Sept. 8 Ball State
Sept. 15 at Northern Illinois
Sept. 22 Howard
Sept. 29 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 6 at Michigan
Oct. 13 at Ohio
Oct. 19 Northwestern
Oct. 27 Western Michigan
Nov. 3 at Toledo
Nov. 9 Bowling Green
Nov. 16 at Central Michigan


2006 overall record:
1-11
Conference record:
1-7

Returning starters
Offense: 7, Defense: 9, Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
QB Andy Schmitt, QB Tyler Jones, WR Travis Lewis, TE Ken Bohnet, DT Jason Jones, DT Josh Hunt, LB Daniel Holtzclaw, LB Darren Matthews, FS Chris May
Key losses
WR Eric Deslauriers, WR Trumaine Riley, T Courtney Ford, DE Kevin Howe, LB Michael Richardson, PK Andrew Wellock
Top newcomer: S Marcus English Insider
2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Andy Schmitt* (461 yds)
Passing: Andy Schmitt* (1,182 yds)
Receiving: Eric Deslauriers (898 yds)
Tackles: Michael Richardson (108)
Sacks: Jason Jones*, Kevin Howe (4)
Interceptions: Jacob Wyatt*, Chris May*, Duan Bracey* (2)

Spring answers: 1. Terrence Blevins emerges at running back: After getting most of its rushing production from quarterbacks Tyler Jones and Andy Schmitt last season, Eastern Michigan needs a boost in the backfield. Junior Terrence Blevins looks ready to provide one after rushing for 55 yards on 10 carries in the spring game. Blevins started one game last year, carrying 26 times for 106 yards.

2. Sean Dutcher gets his kicks: Place-kicker is a major void for Eastern Michigan, which loses four-year starter Andrew Wellock, the school's career scoring leader (299 points). Dutcher stated his case to be Wellock's successor this spring, converting 22 of 23 field-goal attempts in practice. The redshirt freshman went 2-for-2 in the spring game, hitting from 42 yards and 38 yards. He will compete with Zach Johnson this summer.

3. Receiving orders: Wide receiver is Eastern Michigan's biggest question mark after the loss of Eric Deslauriers, who claimed school records for receiving yards, receptions and touchdown catches. Also gone is Trumaine Riley, who holds the MAC record for career kickoff return yards. So who will step up? Freshman Michael Graham did in the spring game, catching a 22-yard touchdown from Ben Thayer.

Fall questions: 1. Andy Schmitt returns to quarterback mix: Schmitt, who started six games last season and led Eastern Michigan in rushing, missed spring practice after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. He's expected back by the summer and will compete with Tyler Jones, who also underwent offseason shoulder surgery but participated in spring ball.

2. Cornerback positions up for grabs: Eastern Michigan returns Blake Smith, Lyle Garrison and Duan Bracey, who combined to start 17 games last season. But coach Jeff Genyk says the cornerback spots will be contested. Younger players such as sophomore Derrick Hunter, one of five true freshmen to play last season, will be in the mix.

3. End game: Three starters are set on the line, but the Eagles are looking for a defensive end to line up opposite Eric Young. Among those competing is junior Corey Riley, who started four games last season. Converted linebacker Corey Everson and converted tight end Brandon Downs also are in the mix.

Kent State Golden Flashes
2007 Schedule
Aug. 30 at Iowa State
Sept. 8 at Kentucky
Sept. 15 Delaware State
Sept. 22 at Akron
Sept. 29 at Ohio
Oct. 6 Miami (Ohio)
Oct. 13 at Ohio State
Oct. 20 Bowling Green
Oct. 27 Central Michigan
Nov. 10 at Northern Illinois
Nov. 17 at Temple
Nov. 24 Buffalo


2006 overall record:
6-6
Conference record:
5-3

Returning starters
Offense: 9, Defense: 7, Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
QB Julian Edelman, RB Eugene Jarvis, T Gus Parrish, DL Kevin Hogan, LB Stevon Moss, CB Jack Williams, FS Fritz Jacques
Key losses
WR Najah Pruden, DT Daniel Muir, CB Usama Young, SS Andre Kirkland, NT Larry Brown
Top newcomer: CB Vondre Griffin Insider
2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Eugene Jarvis* (798 yds)
Passing: Julian Edelman* (1,859 yds)
Receiving: Najah Pruden (808 yds)
Tackles: Andre Kirkland (104)
Sacks: Kevin Hogan* (7.5)
Interceptions: Jack Williams*, Andre Kirkland (4)

Spring answers: 1. Greg Keys provides 1-2 backfield punch: Eugene Jarvis will be the featured running back this fall, but Keys has developed into a strong second option for Kent State. The 6-foot-1 sophomore had a touchdown in the first spring scrimmage, impressing coach Doug Martin with his slashing style. "The best thing we did was when we redshirted him last year," Martin said of Keys, who played safety last year. "It really helps when you can have a little change-up. When Eugene is in, he is a make-you-miss jitterbug. And then when Greg comes in, he is more of a size, power and speed [back]. And that really helps. Down the road Greg may enable us to put he and Eugene in the backfield at the same time." Jarvis rushed for 74 yards on 14 carries in Kent State's second scrimmage of the spring.

2. Some hope in the kicking game: The cloud of uncertainty hanging over Kent State's special teams disappeared in spring practice as both place-kicker Nate Reed and punter Jake Kilroy performed well. Reed hit field goals of 38 and 37 yards in the first spring scrimmage and went 3-for-3 in the second scrimmage. "The most pleasant thing of the day was Nate Reed kicking," Martin said after the first scrimmage. " I feel very confident that we are going to come out of this and be very efficient with field goals next year."

3. Backup quarterback picture clears up: With starting quarterback Julian Edelman sidelined for spring practice (offseason shoulder surgery), the competition to play behind him got underway. Anthony Magazu threw a 35-yard touchdown pass in the first spring scrimmage, and sophomore Darren Rogers played exclusively at quarterback after switching over from wide receiver. Magazu won the team's most improved player award for spring practice. "Anthony moved well in the pocket and did enough things that we feel we'll be all right at quarterback if Julian were to go down," Martin told the Akron Beacon Journal. "Rogers had a good spring, too. He's not quite the passer that the other two are, but his strength is that he can run and make things happen."

Fall questions: 1. Filling gaps in the secondary: Martin is convinced that Jack Williams will play on Sundays, but the star cornerback needs help in the secondary after the loss of safety Andre Kirkland and cornerback Usama Young. Kirk Belgrave looked impressive in the first scrimmage, and Martin likes the competition at safety between Dan Hartman and Brian Lainhart.

2. Health of injured defensive linemen: Kent State practiced this spring without defensive linemen Colin Ferrell, Sam Frist and Prishod Koonce, all of whom underwent offseason surgeries. Though Kevin Hogan is a budding superstar at end, the Flashes need their other linemen at full strength after the loss of defensive tackle Daniel Muir.

3. Find answers at wide receiver: Outgoing senior Najah Pruden was Kent State's only consistently productive wideout last year, leaving a void that must be filled this summer. Martin said the wide receivers were a "pleasant surprise" in spring ball. Shawn Bayes caught a touchdown pass in the first scrimmage and freshman Aaron Robinson impressed the coaches throughout the spring. "We knew (Robinson) was a good player," Martin told the Beacon Journal, "but he's been even better than we thought."

Miami (Ohio) Redhawks
2007 Schedule
Aug. 30 at Ball State
Sept. 8 at Minnesota
Sept. 15 Cincinnati
Sept. 22 at Colorado
Sept. 29 Syracuse
Oct. 6 at Kent State
Oct. 13 Bowling Green
Oct. 20 at Temple
Oct. 27 at Vanderbilt
Nov. 3 Buffalo
Nov. 14 Akron
Nov. 24 at Ohio


2006 overall record:
2-10
Conference record:
2-6

Returning starters
Offense: 8, Defense: 7, Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
QB Mike Kokal, RB Brandon Murphy, WR Dustin Woods, LB Joey Hudson, LB Clayton Mullins, SS Robbie Wilson, P Jake Richardson
Key losses
WR Ryne Robinson, FS Joey Card, LB Dontae Wright, DT Seth Painter, DT Otto Linwood
Top newcomer: QB Clay Belton Insider
2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Andre Bratton* (285 yds)
Passing: Mike Kokal* (2,419 yds)
Receiving: Ryne Robinson (1178 yds)
Tackles: Andre Kirkland (104)
Sacks: Joe Coniglio* (5)
Interceptions: Joey Hudson* (5)

Spring answers: 1. Mr. Robinson's neighborhood: Miami hopes to replace all-time leading receiver Ryne Robinson with a freshman who bears the same surname. Redshirt freshman Armand Robinson had a strong spring, culminating with seven receptions for 75 yards in the spring game. The first-team defense respected Robinson's speed, limiting him to underneath routes. "The defense isn't stupid," quarterback Mike Kokal told the Dayton Daily News. "They know we were going to try to get him deep."

2. Huddle up: The defensive line figured to be a strength for Miami (Ohio) in 2007, but tackles Otis Linwood and Seth Painter chose not to return for a fifth year and end Tranaine Sills transferred. Needing new players to emerge this spring, the RedHawks got good production from Ben Huddle. "Huddle's got to be a force," coach Shane Montgomery told The Cincinnati Enquirer. "He's had a good spring."

3. Calhoun sparkles in return: After missing the 2006 season with a knee injury, running back Jimmy Calhoun showed no rust in the spring game. The junior had a game-high 59 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries. He had a 44-yard dash and assisted with a flea-flicker that went 33 yards for a score. "It was frustrating, going through the season doing just therapy and training," he told the Dayton Daily News. "It's a relief to be back out here with the team, just being involved."

Fall questions: 1. Place-kicker competition heats up: Nathan Parseghian is back in the mix after losing his starting job last season. Parseghian kicked field goals of 51 and 44 yards in the spring game. Returning starter Trevor Cook, who made 10 of 13 field-goal attempts last year, went 1-for-2 in the spring game, hitting from 20 yards but missing wide left from 29 yards. "There's nothing wrong with having two kickers you're confident in," Montgomery told the Dayton Daily News. "We'll go with whoever's kicking the best."

2. Build depth at linebacker: Returning starters Joey Hudson and Clayton Mullins missed the spring game with injuries but are expected to lead a young group of linebackers this summer. Miami's top priority is finding reserves behind Hudson, Mullins and Caleb Bostic, the top backup last season. The RedHawks signed five linebackers in their 2007 recruiting class. "I wouldn't be surprised if two or three of those guys make it as a backup," Montgomery said.

3. Footsteps behind Kokal: Mike Kokal will enter camp as the RedHawks' starting quarterback, but the door is open for sophomore Dan Raudabaugh, who threw a flea-flicker touchdown pass in the spring game. Kokal had an efficient performance, completing 16 of 18 passes for 130 yards, but the first-team offense scored only three points in the game. "Raudabaugh's had a really good spring," Montgomery told the Dayton Daily News. "He can really throw the ball, and he's a lot more comfortable out there right now. If we had to start Daniel, we'd feel good about it."

Northern Illinois Huskies
2007 Schedule
Sept. 1 vs. Iowa
Sept. 8 Southern Illinois
Sept. 15 Eastern Michigan
Sept. 22 at Idaho
Sept. 29 at Central Michigan
Oct. 6 at Temple
Oct. 13 Western Michigan
Oct. 20 at Wisconsin
Oct. 27 at Toledo
Nov. 10 Kent State
Nov. 17 at Navy
Nov. 24 Ball State


2006 overall record:
7-6
Conference record:
5-3

Returning starters
Offense: 7, Defense: 7, Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
QB Dan Nicholson, WR Britt Davis, WR Marcus Perez, C Eddie Adamski, DE Larry English, LB Tim McCarthy, SS Mark Reiter, PK Chris Nendick
Key losses
RB Garrett Wolfe, QB Phil Horvath, LT Doug Free, TE Jake Nordin, RT Matt Rogers, FS Dustin Utschig, DE Ken West, LB Keenan Blalark, CB Adriel Hansbro
Top newcomer: RB Alan Smith Insider
2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Garrett Wolfe (1928 yds)
Passing: Phil Horvath (1932 yds)
Receiving: Britt Davis* (731 yds)
Tackles: Dustin Utschig (116)
Sacks: Larry English* (11.5)
Interceptions: Melvin Rice*, Tim McCarthy* (2)

Spring answers: 1. Promising signs at receiver: With do-it-all running back Garrett Wolfe gone and new offensive coordinator Roy Wittke expanding the playbook, the Huskies' wide receivers should see their roles expand this fall. The transformation began in the spring game, as five players had three receptions or more. Junior Matt Simon led the way with five catches for 56 yards. "We only lose Jarret Carter and we had a lot of sophomores last season," coach Joe Novak said. "I think we'll be able to spread the ball around instead of having a specific 'go-to' guy."

2. The Bice squad: Brandon Bice and Robert Oruche stated their cases case this spring to replace Ken West at defensive end. Oruche had four sacks in the spring game, while Bice added three. "Bice at defensive end is going to be a real good player," Novak said. "If we had to line up today, he would start opposite Larry English."

3. Cornerbacks step up: One half of the secondary appears set after cornerbacks Melvin Rice and Bradley Pruitt performed well this spring. Rice, who had two interceptions and made 47 tackles last season, had seven stops in the spring game. "They've taken the next big step this spring," Novak said of Rice and Pruitt. "I'm pleased with the confidence they've started to play with. They could be two of the best corners that we've had here."

Fall questions: 1. Settle on the next running back: Montell Clanton enters the summer as the frontrunner to take over for Wolfe, but the race isn't over. Sophomore Justin Anderson stole the show in the spring game, rushing for 111 yards and two touchdowns on only 14 carries. David Bryant switched to running back from linebacker and should be in the mix. Injury-prone senior Cas Prime missed spring ball but is expected back for camp. "You won't replace a Garrett Wolfe, but I am excited about Montell Clanton and Justin Anderson," Novak said. "[Bryant] was an excellent back in high school and has some good size and speed. We have depth there with Cas Prime and Ricky Crider. It may not be one guy carrying 40 times, but two or three carrying 15-20."

2. Competition at safety: NIU must replace free safety Dustin Utschig, and while Mark Reiter is back at strong safety, Novak said both spots are up for grabs. He was impressed this spring with Justin Stewart, Mike Sobol and Alex Kube, who had 10 tackles and broke up a pass in the spring game. "Reiter has the most experience but is being pushed," Novak said.

3. Left tackle still unresolved: The competition to replace NFL draft pick Doug Free will extend well into preseason camp. Chris Acevedo, the only senior on the offensive line, will contend with sophomore Tony Holmes. "Our offense will get better as our line continues to mature," Novak said.

Ohio Bobcats
2007 Schedule
Sept. 1 Gardner-Webb
Sept. 8 at Louisiana-Lafayette
Sept. 15 at Virginia Tech
Sept. 22 Wyoming
Sept. 29 Kent State
Oct. 6 at Buffalo
Oct. 13 Eastern Michigan
Oct. 20 at Toledo
Oct. 27 at Bowling Green
Nov. 2 Temple
Nov. 7 at Akron
Nov. 24 Miami (Ohio)


2006 overall record:
9-5
Conference record:
7-1

Returning starters
Offense: 5, Defense: 6, Kicker/punter: 0

Top returners
RB Kalvin McRae, WR Justin Fitzgerald, WR/PR Chris Garrett, RT David Shelby, DT Landon Cohen, DE Jameson Hartke, CB Mark Parson
Key losses
QB Austen Everson, WR Scott Mayle, TE Thomas Christy, C J.J. Knabb, LB Tyler Russ, LB Matt Muncy, CB T.J. Wright, PK/P Matt Lasher
Top newcomer: OT Marcus O'Hara Insider
2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Kalvin McRae* (1,252 yds)
Passing: Austin Everson (1,356 yds)
Receiving: Scott Mayle (411 yds)
Tackles: Tyler Russ (93)
Sacks: Jameson Hartke* (7.5)
Interceptions: T.J. Wright (4)

Spring answers: 1. Theo Scott ignites quarterback competition: Senior Brad Bower still enters camp as the starter, but Scott put himself in contention with a strong spring. The athletic sophomore completed 9 of 16 passes for 86 yards and had a 44-yard run in the spring game. Bower missed the game to rest his injured knee. "It's obvious he's (Scott) got the ability to take the ball and run with it," Solich told The Post. "He'll be the kind of quarterback that can scramble and make big plays for you on busted plays."

2. Linebackers step up: Ohio's defense figured to be soft in the middle after losing stars Tyler Russ and Matt Muncy, but the next generation of linebackers looks promising, too. Senior middle linebacker Taj Henley made a game-high 11 tackles in the spring game, including three for loss. Projected starters Henley, Michael Brown and Jordan Meyers combined for 19 tackles (5.5 for loss), two sacks and three pass breakups in the game. "I really like their ability to run," Solich told the Zanesville Times Recorder. "They're a physical group, too. They're going to make some mistakes, but they're young and learning."

3. Cornerbacks lead secondary: Ohio ranked 18th nationally in pass defense last season, and despite the loss of T.J. Wright, the cornerbacks who remain envision no letup. Junior Mark Parson had an interception in Ohio's second-to-last spring scrimmage and recovered a fumble in the spring game. Freshman corner Julian Posey made 11 tackles (nine solo) in the spring game.

Fall questions: 1. Settle on a starting quarterback: Solich remains confident in Bower, who started one game last season and completed 57 percent of his passes. But after strong spring performances by Theo Scott and Josh Febus, the starting job is far from decided. "Bower will come back and with his experience, we'll start him at No. 1," Solich told The Post. "But it's going to be a battle to see who takes this thing over and who will be the guy."

2. Fill in gaps on the offensive line: The Bobcats lost two starting offensive linemen from last year, including All-MAC left tackle Matt Coppage. They didn't play with a full complement of linemen this spring, as right guard Matt Miller missed the spring game with an injury. Tackle David White also sustained a bone bruise during a prior spring scrimmage. With a new quarterback this season, the summer spotlight will be on the offensive line, which ranked 22nd nationally in fewest sacks allowed in 2006.

3. Refurbish the kicking game: Ohio finished 2006 as the only team to rank in the top five nationally in both kickoff and punt coverage. The Bobcats also earned eight MAC special teams player of the week awards. With a standard to uphold and place-kicker/punter Matt Lasher to replace, Ohio faces plenty of decisions this summer. Michael Braunstein, a graduate student who played at Washington, went 2-for-3 on field-goal attempts in the spring game. Matt Schulte, the projected starting punter, averaged 35.3 yards on 11 kicks in the spring game, placing three punts inside the 20-yard line.

Temple Owls
2007 Schedule
Aug. 31 Navy
Sept. 8 Buffalo
Sept. 15 at Connecticut
Sept. 22 at Bowling Green
Sept. 29 at Army
Oct. 6 Northern Illinois
Oct. 13 at Akron
Oct. 20 Miami (Ohio)
Nov. 2 at Ohio
Nov. 10 Penn State
Nov. 17 Kent State
Nov. 24 at Western Michigan


2006 overall record:
1-11
Conference record:
None

Returning starters
Offense: 9, Defense: 7, Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
QB Adam DiMichele, WR Bruce Francis, WR Travis Shelton, C Alex Derenthal, LT Devin Tyler, DE Brian Sanford, DT Terrance Knighton, P Jake Brownell
Key losses
RB Tim Brown, T Elliot Seifert, WR Mike Holley, LB Ryan Gore, S Chris Page, CB David Reese
Top newcomer: CB Daryl Robinson Insider
2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Tim Brown (731 yds)
Passing: Adam DiMichele* (1,518 yds)
Receiving: Bruce Frances* (484 yds)
Tackles: Walter Mebane (68)
Sacks: Terrance Knighton* (3)
Interceptions: Three players tied (2)

Spring answers: 1. Charlton takes lead in QB competition: If the spring game was any indication, Vaughn Charlton has the inside track to Temple's starting quarterback job. Charlton completed 19 of 30 pass attempts for 212 yards and a touchdown in the game, directing the decisive 43-yard scoring drive. Junior Adam DiMichele, who started nine games last season, completed seven passes for 91 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

2. Man in the middle: Linebacker is Temple's most inexperienced area on defense, and the door was open this spring for new contributors to emerge. Walk-on middle linebacker Omar McDonnaugh-Hales jumped at the opportunity. The sophomore blocked a 36-yad field-goal attempt and had a sack in the spring game, vaulting from No. 4 on the depth chart to the starting job.

3. Francis and Shelton provide 1-2 punch: Temple needs greater production from its wide receivers, especially after a running back (Tim Brown) led the team in receptions last fall. Travis Shelton and Bruce Francis look ready to provide the necessary boost. Shelton caught five passes for 67 yards in the spring game, and Francis caught three balls for 48 yards. Francis also provided the game's top highlight, chucking a 70-yard touchdown pass to Dy'Onne Crudup. "It's a very beautiful thing working with Bruce," Shelton told The Temple News. "It's like (he's) my brother. When we're on the field we call ourselves the dynamic duo and we feel like we can do anything."

Fall questions: 1. Quarterback battle pushes forward: Coach Al Golden will determine his starter this summer after Charlton and DiMichele split snaps with the first-team offense in spring practice. Charlton added weight in the offseason and finished the spring with a flourish, but DiMichele has more starting experience and brings unmatched athleticism to the backfield.

2. Running back undecided: The battle to replace Tim Brown will continue well into the summer. Jason Harper held the edge over junior college transfer Marcellous Grigsby after spring ball, in large part because of Harper's superior condition. Harper scored the game-winning touchdown in the spring game, though neither back distinguished himself. Several incoming players should challenge both Harper and Grigsby in camp.

3. En Garde: Three-fifths of Temple's offensive line appears set, with Alex Derenthal back at center and Andre Douglas and Devin Tyler securing the two starting tackle spots. Both guard positions remain open, with junior Brison Manor and freshman John Palumbo listed at No. 1 on the post-spring depth chart. Darius Morris and Kevin Bennage will push Manor and Palumbo this summer.

Toledo Rockets
2007 Schedule
Sept. 1 Purdue
Sept. 8 at Central Michigan
Sept. 15 at Kansas
Sept. 22 Iowa State
Sept. 29 Western Michigan
Oct. 6 Liberty
Oct. 13 at Buffalo
Oct. 20 Ohio
Oct. 27 Northern Illinios
Nov. 3 Eastern Michigan
Nov. 13 at Ball State
Nov. 23 at Bowling Green


2006 overall record:
5-7
Conference record:
3-5

Returning starters
Offense: 8, Defense: 8, Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
RB Jalen Parmele, TE Chris Hopkins, LT John Greco, WR Nick Moore, LG David Perkins, SS Barry Church, FS Tyrrell Herbert, LB Greg Hay, P Brett Kern
Key losses
WR Steve Odom, C Hassan Adebesin, RT Jesse Anderson, LB Mike Alston, DT J.P Bekasiak
Top newcomer: QB Tavaris Cadet Insider
2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Jalen Parmele* (1,131 yds)
Passing: Clint Cochran* (960 yds)
Receiving: Chris Hopkins* (565 yds)
Tackles: Tyrrell Herbert* (74)
Sacks: Mike Alston (8)
Interceptions: Barry Church* (4)

Spring answers: 1. Making Hay at linebacker: Senior Greg Hay moved from outside linebacker to the inside this spring, and the results were promising. Hay led the first-team defense in the final spring scrimmage and appears ready to anchor a linebacker group that features five players who had 40 or more tackles last year. "That's a spring experiment that went very well for us," Rockets coach Tom Amstutz told the Toledo Blade.

2. Nick Moore revved up at wide receiver: Toledo must replace four-year starter Steve Odom, and Moore looks like the man to step in. The junior ranked fourth on the team in receptions last year and should see his opportunities increase without Odom on the field. Moore accounted for Toledo's lone offensive touchdown of the spring game, hauling in a 30-yard pass from Aaron Opelt. "Nick ran a great route," Opelt told the Toledo Blade. "I had plenty of time to sit and wait for him to make his cuts."

3. Church welcomes enhanced role: After earning first-team All-MAC honors as a true freshman, safety Barry Church is becoming the focal point of Toledo's defensive schemes. Church was positioned closer to the line of scrimmage in spring drills to enhance his involvement in blitzing. But he didn't neglect his pass coverage, nearly intercepting two Cochran passes in the spring scrimmage.

Fall questions: 1. QB situation unresolved: Amstutz said he will not determine the starter until 10 days prior to Toledo's season opener against Purdue, leaving plenty of time for competition. Opelt finished the spring as Toledo's top quarterback after showcasing his athleticism in six starts last year. He will be pushed by junior Clint Cochran, who won the starting job last fall but was slowed by a knee injury for most of last season. Cochran had no knee problems this spring and played in the final scrimmage. "There's great competition between the two of them," Amstutz said of Opelt and Cochran.

2. Find a second starting cornerback: Amstutz has little to worry about with Nigel Morris, a three-year starter at cornerback who has six career interceptions. But who will line up opposite Morris in a talented Rockets secondary? Sophomores Desmond Marrow and Walter Akins both made starts last year as freshmen. They will compete this summer with Joe Shuler, who had one tackle in seven games last season. Walk-on Jesse Allen ended the spring scrimmage by intercepting a Brandon Summers pass and returning it 60 yards for a touchdown.

3. Center of attention: The departure of Hassan Adebesin leaves a void in the middle of Toledo's offensive line. Amstutz expects Levi George and Buster Garrett to compete for the starting center spot throughout preseason camp.

Western Michigan Broncos
2007 Schedule
Sept. 1 at West Virginia
Sept. 8 Indiana
Sept. 15 at Missouri
Sept. 22 Central Connecticut State
Sept. 29 at Toledo
Oct. 6 Akron
Oct. 13 at Northern Illinois
Oct. 20 Ball State
Oct. 27 at Eastern Michigan
Nov. 6 Central Michigan
Nov. 17 at Iowa
Nov. 24 Temple


2006 overall record:
8-5
Conference record:
6-2

Returning starters
Offense: 8, Defense: 8, Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
RB Mark Bonds, TE Branden Ledbetter, C Robbie Krutilla, WR Jamarko Simmons, DE Zach Davidson, LB Dustin Duclo, CB Londen Fryar, FS Louis Delmas
Key losses
QB Ryan Cubit, WR Joe Chapple, LB Amir Ismail, LB Paul Tithof, DE Matt Ludeman, PK Nate Meyer
Top newcomer: WR Deshon Lawrence Insider
2006 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Mark Bonds* (1,082 yds)
Passing: Ryan Cubit (2,138 yds)
Receiving: Jamarko Simmons* (668 yds)
Tackles: Ameer Ismail (90)
Sacks: Ameer Ismail (17)
Interceptions: Londen Fryar* (5)

Spring answers: 1. Herb Martin steps up: With several potential playmakers (Jordan White, Juan Nunez) missing the spring game due to injury, Martin showcased his skills. The junior-college transfer who caught 30 passes last season racked up 118 receiving on five catches in the spring game. He caught a 43-yard pass from Tim Hiller, a 38-yard pass from Drew Burdi and a 32-yard pass from Thomas Peregrin. "I just tried to feel my man out, keep the line and jump and get it, snatch it and hold it while I'm going down," Martin told the Kalamazoo Gazette. "Everybody loves the deep ball. It's a way to break a game open. If I can be that guy, I'm happy to be."

2. Filling gaps at linebacker: Linebacker is the Broncos' biggest defensive concern after they lost national sacks leader Ameer Ismail and veteran Paul Tithof. Junior Austin Pritchard did his part to ease worries in the spring game, collecting two sacks and five tackles for loss. Sophomore linebackers Greg Marshall, Dan Krasinski and converted tight end Fernand Kashama all had sacks in the game.

3. Bonds provides insurance: Mark Bonds put his troubles behind him this spring, cementing himself as Western Michigan's top running back. Bonds, suspended for the International Bowl, rushed for 68 yards on five carries in the spring game. He broke free for a 44-yard run in the first quarter. "The last five practices we saw big improvement from him," coach Bill Cubit told the Kalamazoo Gazette. "We had a little talk with him and said, 'This is the way we want it, that's the way you've got to do it.' I think it's really important for those backs to understand they have to get positive yards, I don't care if it's an inch."

Fall questions: 1. Top quarterback spot undetermined: Cubit's mid-spring deadline to determine a starting quarterback came and went, shifting the spotlight to the summer for Peregrin, Hiller and Burdi. Peregrin completed only half his pass attempts (8 of 16) in the spring game. Hiller led a 94-yard scoring drive and Burdi showcased his arm strength, averaging 20.8 yards on his six completions. "Same thing, same roller coaster," Cubit told the Kalamazoo Gazette. "At times they look really good. At times they need a lot of work. The summer is going to be real important for them."

2. How will Antwain Allen return: Allen, a junior strong safety, led Western Michigan with 95 tackles in 2005 before missing all of last season with a knee injury sustained in spring practice. A strong return this year could complete a secondary that already includes first-team All-MAC cornerback Londen Fryar, cornerback C.J. Wilson and safeties Louis Delmas and E.J. Biggers. Allen starred in an early spring scrimmage, collecting eight tackles, intercepting two passes and recovering a fumble.

3. Find a place-kicker: Western Michigan must replace Nate Meyer, who went 17-for-24 on field-goal attempts last season and also handled kickoffs. Competing for the starting spot are Mike Jones and Brett Meldrum. Jones converted his only field-goal attempt last season, a 22-yarder against Temple. He made all three of his extra-point attempts in the spring game.

Adam Rittenberg covers college football for the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald.

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