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Juniors Ready To Dominate MAC

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Receiver Willie Snead, top, and running back Jahwan Edwards give Ball State two of the most talented skill players in the conference. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images.
Receiver Willie Snead, top, and running back Jahwan Edwards give Ball State two of the most talented skill players in the conference. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images.

The Mid-American Conference saw outstanding performances by several sophomores in 2012. These sophomores took their place as some of the best players in the MAC.

As juniors, they will be depended on more as playmakers and true leaders of their football programs. Opponents, though, more than ever will game plan with the sole purpose of stopping them. Here is a list of the top sophomores from last season and how they may stack up this season as juniors.

Justin Cherocci, linebacker, Central Michigan: Cherocci is one of the MAC’s top returning tacklers. Voted the team’s co-defensive player of the year in 2012, he averaged 10.2 tackles per game (132 total tackles). He ranked fifth in the MAC and 19th nationally in tackles in 2012. With the respect of his teammates, he will be looked on to expand his leadership role.

Justin Currie, strong safety, Western Michigan: A second-team All-MAC selection, Currie was voted the Broncos' defensive player of the year as a sophomore in 2012. He averaged 8.2 tackles per game out of the defensive backfield in 2012.

Jeremiah Detmer, kicker, Toledo: Detmer can be the Rockets' "secret" weapon this year, but everyone already knows about the most accurate MAC kicker from last year. Detmer made 24 of 29 field goals while finishing fifth in scoring. He connected on field goals of 40 yards or longer in four different games.

Trayion Durham, running back, Kent State: With all eyes on Dri Archer, Durham churned out 1,316 yards on 276 carries last year (94.0 per game). He tied for seventh in conference scoring with 14 touchdowns in 14 games. Durham’s role will be even more important as the Golden Flashes break in a new quarterback and a new coach.

Jahwan Edwards, running back, Ball State: The burly Edwards (5-10, 230) proved an effective compliment to the Cardinals' passing game last season. He averaged 108.5 yards per game (232-1,410) and ranked sixth in the MAC with 14 touchdowns in 13 games. Continue to look for Edwards to keep the Ball State attack balanced.

Gabe Martin, linebacker, Bowling Green: Martin, a first-team All-MAC selection in his second season, was one of the conference's top sack-masters from a year ago, finishing second behind Buffalo’s Lee Skinner. He will take up some of the slack left behind by 2012 MAC defensive player of the year Chris Jones. Martin could very well bring that award back to Bowling Green for a second consecutive year.

Dewan Scott, wide receiver, Miami: Scott finished sixth in receiving yards a year ago (57-851) and contributed seven touchdowns to the Red Hawks' offense. It will be interesting to see how Scott can help a new Miami quarterback get with the offense after serving under one of the MAC’s top signal callers Zac Dysert a year ago.

Lee Skinner, linebacker, Buffalo: Skinner already has established himself as a dependable cog in the Buffalo defense. He averaged 7.2 tackles per game a year ago and was one of the top pass rushers in the MAC with five sacks. That comes after a freshman year that saw Skinner start every game for the Bulls.

Willie Snead, wide receiver, Ball State: Snead blossomed into one of the MAC’s top pass catchers his sophomore year, ranking second in catches with 89 and third in receiving yards with 1,148. He averaged 88.3 yards per game and added nine touchdowns. Along with Edwards in the backfield, the Cardinals will have one of the most potent offenses in the conference.

Others to watch: Jawon Chisholm, Akron, RB; Anthony Samuel, Bowling Green, RB; Titus Davis, Central Michigan, WR; Ryan Burbrink, Bowling Green, PR; Tommylee Lewis, Northern Illinois, KR; Tyler Allen, Eastern Michigan, KR.