ABCs Of The 2014 Mid-American Conference
By Lana Sache
A is for Adam Redden. The Buffalo Bulls' graduating class has taken a hard hit on defense where Redden is one of just four returning starters. He has been named in the 2015 Reese’s Senior Bowl Watch List, and has no choice but to make a huge impact if the Bulls hope to win.
B is for Bitsko. Jason Bitsko, last season's center for Kent State, passed away in his off-campus apartment on Aug. 21 of undetermined reasons. In his honor, the team will wear No. 54 on their helmets during the 2014 season.
C is for Cherocci. Justin Cherocci, a linebacker from Central Michigan, may be the biggfest reason the Chippewas are a top pick in the West Division. He is on Phil Steele’s preseason All-MAC second team defense after leading the MAC in tackles last season.
D is for Davis. CMU had a lot of adversity last year with many unexpected injuries and position movements, but Titus Davis was, and will still be, one of the most explosive and powerful players in the conference, as well as one of the best receivers overall. His 61 receptions and average of 18.2 yards per catch has nearly every media outlet keeping an eye on him.
E is for Edwards. When it comes to running backs, Jahwan Edwards is not only the best in the West Divison, but most likely in the entire conference. Ball State will use him again and again, especially because it lost a four-year starting quarterback and has yet to make a clear decisions on a new one.
F is for freshman. At age 33, PJ Fleck of Western Michigan, the youngest head coach in the FBS, shared in his interview on MAC media day, “We are probably going to start 14, maybe 15, true freshman this year.”
G: Grey. Yes, the color. You may be seeing a lot more grey if you follow Eastern Michigan University. The Eagles just changed their football turf this color.
H is for Hendrix. The Miami (Ohio) RedHawks have had difficulty settling on a quarterback, but will most likely be starting Andrew Hendrix, a transfer from Notre Dame. Miami head ocoach Chuck Martin was with Hendrix at Notre Dame as offensive coordinator under Brian Kelly. Hendrix is familiar to Martin and has experience playing great teams that will give the RedHawks a better season than last year's 0-12 finish.
I is for Ike Spearman. Eastern Michigan is not what people are gritting their teeth in anticipation over, but an entirely new coaching staff and will be trying to turn around last year’s repulsive defense. At the top of the depth chart is linebacker Spearman. Without him, a turnaournd doesn't seem possible.
J is for Johnson. Matt Johnson leads Bowling Green after a MAC championship last season. Johnson is easily the best quarterback in the conference, and a candidate for the Davey O’Brien quarterback award.
K is for Kent. Or Kern. Kent Kern was the best returning defender at Miami. He led the squad in tackles last season, even though he did not appear in every game. Kern has a huge opportunity to take what he has learned during the offseason and be the team’s biggest leader.
L is for Loos. Tyler Loos has had the worst luck with his health. In 2011, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament, missing the entire season. He returned in 2012, played 11 games, then broke his right leg against Toledo. In 2013, he came back to start nine games before he again broke his left leg against UMass. Despite the madness, he is healthy, ready to start and will be a huge impact player at left tackle for Northern Illinois. In fact, he remains one of the best in the entire conference. Loo, you got dead-on dedication.
M is for Mancz. Greg Mancz is only a junior offensive lineman at Toledo, yet played in every game as a sophomore, was part of an offensive line that only allowed six sacks in 12 games, is a nominee for All-America and Academic All-America honors as well as being in the running for the Allstate Good Works Award. He is ready to once again be part of one of the best offensive lines in the country.
N is for New Hampshire, Toledo’s first opponent on Aug. 30. Toledo was favored at the conference’s Media Day to win the West Division of the MAC, but New Hampshire is also a frontrunner in the Colonial Athletic Association. A win will help Toledo start on a good foot and gain confidence if it wants to get far in 2014.
O is for Ohio's offense. The Ohio Bobcats only have three starting returners this year, so their offense is going to be very interesting to watch. Their quarterback is most likely Derrius Vick, their running back is still up in the air between Daz Patterson and Tim Edmond. Luckily, the coaches have all stated that this year may be the best running back group they’ve had at Ohio — ever. Patterson also will be used as a slot receiver with his great speed.
P is for Pierce. Casey Pierce is a fifth-year tight end from Kent State who is named on the John Mackey Preseason watch list, Phil Steele’s Preseason All-MAC team, and the College Football Performance Awards Tight Ends Watch List. For a team that went 8-0 two years ago to 3-5 last year in the conference, Pierce wants to end his college career with a bang.
Q is for Quinn. Head coach Jeff Quinn of Buffalo is a seasoned coach, unlike many in the MAC. In fact, there are four new coaches this year. Although most preseason predictions do not have the Bulls in the MAC championship or being bowl eligible, Quinn is very confident his team, including veteran Joe Licata at quarterback, will be bowl eligible and likely be a contender for the MAC championship.
R is for run. Yes, football involves running; especailly for UMass. For the Minutemen, new coach Mark Whipple is naming his program “new pro-style” and plans on keeping the ball on the ground. I’m not sure a pro-style team would reveal its secret when nobody has seen its quarterbacks ever play, but it will be interesting to watch.
S is for stature. Being short is not always a disadvantage, especially in Tommylee Lewis’ case at Northern Illinois. He may only be 5-foot-7, but last year had a total of 1,405 receiving yards, good for second in the MAC. Be prepared for deceiving looks in the Mid-American Conference this season (refer back to letter F).
T is for television. ESPN and the Mid-American Conference announced a new 13-year deal this week that will guarantee coverage of every MAC football game and select men’s and women’s basketball games through the 2026-27 season.
U is for underdog. The dreaded underdog position applies to all teams in the Mid-American Conference. Don't plan on the conference staying there much longer. Letter T gives us hope for a step in the right direction.
V is for Vick. Derrius Vick is most likely the quarterback for the Ohio Bobcats. He was able to play in a personal-best 11 games last season. He was decent, but his time on the field places him in the frontrunner spot unless J.D. Sprague beats him out. A decision will be made this week, days (or minutes) before Ohio's opening game against Kent State.
W is for Williams. Jordan Williams at Ball State may be the most frequently heard name from the announcer’s booth this season. Along with Jahwan Edwards running the ball, the Cardinals have a top receiver in Williams as well. Williams finished fourth in receiving yards per game in the MAC last year. The only question for Ball State is its switch at head coach and quarterback, although Pete Lembo remains calm and confident in his new team.
X is for xenogenous. Go look it up while you stare at the screen feeling like an idiot. In football, xenogenous reasons are the cause of most injuries, any of which MAC players are not OK with. Several teams had to change their game plan last year because of that reason alone. Expect better back-up plans if that happens again.
Y is for Yousey. He is only a sophomore, but Toledo will most likely give Zach Yousey plenty of playing time at wide receiver this season. He played off and on in eight games last season and Toledo lists him as the No. 2 wide receiver on its preseason depth chart.
Z is for Zippy. Akron’s mascot Zippy was ranked among Phil Steele’s top five favorite mascots this year. Steele’s top contenders are all competing in the Capital One Mascot Challenge, with Zippy being the only one from the MAC. Voting starts on Aug. 25. Get ready to vote!