College Football Conference Preview: Mid-American Conference (MAC)
MAC Football is known for their Tuesday and Wednesday night island games in October and November. However, MACtion is a product worthy of year-round attention. It’s time for a Summer Sneak-Peek into the conference with some storylines and new names we should be aware of heading into the 2022 College Football Season.
Zips Get Moorhead
One of the more shocking matches that this offseason’s Coaching Carousel provided us was Joe Moorhead and the Akron Zips. Moorhead was on staff with the Zips from 2004-2008, so this landing spot wasn’t completely out of left field, however, this is clearly a case of a team “out kicking their coverage” as Moorhead’s resume would appear to garner more prestigious opportunities than those in Akron. Moorhead, who has spent the last two seasons as the Offensive Coordinator at Oregon, has a proclivity for running the ball and leaning on a Bellcow-Runningback.
This is something to keep an eye on as Akron currently has a position battle for that role between Minnesota Transfer, Cam Wiley and incumbent Jonzell Norrils. This will likely be the most tantalizing spot to watch for Daily Fantasy this season as Oregon’s running game was 8th in the nation in Yards/Rush and 25th in Rushing Yards/Game. Even more, during his last stint as a Head Coach, at Mississippi State, Moorhead boasted only a 35.4% Neutral Situation Passing Rate as he leaned on the ground game during his two-year tenure.
With Joe Moorhead coming to the MAC, Akron is in a great spot to leverage his high profile name into recruiting classes that can do some real damage in the conference. For a team that has won three games in just as many seasons, the Zips will be one to watch as there is nowhere to go but up.
NFL QBs Leave Big Shoes To Fill
Kent State and Western Michigan both saw great QB play last season as Dustin Crum and Kaleb Eleby both showed enough talent to end up on NFL rosters heading into Summer Camps. With their promotions into the league, both the Golden Flashes and the Broncos have QB-shaped holes to fill. Western Michigan and Kent State were 4th and 5th, respectively, in the conference in Passing Yards/Game last season and both offer solid opportunities for whoever inherits the job at each university.
For Kent State, the job is all but locked up for Collin Schlee. He was the heir apparent last year and has been waiting in the wings for this opportunity to come to him. They return two of their top 2 WRs and both top RBs heading into the season and the expectation around campus is that the offense should be able to pick up right where Crum had left off. Schlee was 17 of 24 in his limited action last season, passing for 238 yards and 1 touchdown.
Western Michigan’s QB situation is quite a bit murkier. It seems to currently be a two-man battle with Stone Hollenbach (former Practice Squad QB for Alabama) transferring in to compete with, Redshirt Freshman, Jack Salopek. Salopek has decent mobility and has been described as a good leader so many believe it is his job to lose going into Fall Camp.
MAC Rushing Attacks
By the end of 2021, MAC teams had 5 of the top 30 rushers in the country within the conference:
Lew Nichols III – Western Michigan (1st)
Bryant Koback – Toledo (11th)
Marquez Cooper – Kent State (27th)
Jay Ducker – Northern Illinois (28th)
Sean Tyler – Western Michigan (30th)
This is tied for the most in any conference with the Big Ten and Big 12. These are spots we want to look for heading into the season to help target players entering new roles with large opportunities. It also helps us in establishing tendencies for teams to better understand and project gamescripts. Teams that are able to effectively run the ball are able to shorten games and limit possessions for their opposition. So it’s important to have the holistic view of these offenses ahead of time.
When looking for new opportunities, we can look at the Northern Illinois and Toledo backfields for new faces that should have a good chance to garner a sizable workload. In Toledo, Maryland transfer, Peny Boone should be in the mix to take over the starting RB job that catapulted Koback last year. Additionally, Jay Ducker has transferred to Memphis and left Antario Brown and Harrison Waylee to both increase their involvement in the offense and share in one of the heaviest running attacks in the nation.
Akron: Cam Wiley – A transfer from Minnesota comes to Akron with his eyes on a piece of that aforementioned Moorhead running attack. He’ll compete with Jonzell Norrils for the lead role.
Bowling Green: Odieu Hilaire – a WR who transferred in from Alabama A&M put up great numbers in the FCS, Averaging. 7.1 Receptions for 91.8 Yards and 1 Touchdown per game last season.
Buffalo: Cole Snyder – the former Rutgers QB inherits good weapons outside with Quian Williams, Boobie Curry (Arizona transfer), and Justin Marshall (Louisville transfer). Their starting RB also transferred out last month so a more balanced attack could be incoming.
Kent State: Collin Schlee – Replacing Dustin Crum is no small feat, but Schlee is the clear heir apparent. I expect him to light it up in conference play this year.
Miami (OH): Mac Hippenhammer & Miles Marshall- These two WRs, formerly of the Big Ten, look to fill the big shoes of Jack Sorenson. Hippenhammer is the likelier of the two to break out and take over the massive target share, but Marshall is a guy to keep your eyes on.
Ohio: Parker Navarro – Coming in from Central Florida, Navarro has easy comps to former Bobcat QB/TE Armani Rogers. As a big, mobile QB, I expect Navarro to have designated packages even if he fails to win the starting job.
Ball State: John Paddock – Taking over for Drew Plitt, Paddock drops into a great offense with good supporting cast. The Cardinals return RB Carson Steele as well as two solid WRs in Jayshon Jackson and Yo’Heinz Tyler.
Central Michigan: Dallas Dixon – Should slot in as the number one target on the team and will have the job of filling the void left by Ja’Corey Sullivan and Kalil Pimpleton)
Eastern Michigan: Taylor Powell – Whichever QB wins the starting job this offseason should inherit a strong corp of WRs to help lead this offense. Powell (formerly of Missouri and Troy) is the guy I think has the best shot heading into Fall Camp.
Northern Illinois: Antario Brown & Harrison Waylee – As mentioned above, Antario Brown and Harrison Waylee are stepping into a premium opportunity, spearheading the rushing attack for the Huskies after Jay Ducker’s departure.
Toledo: Peny Boone – Toledo’s RB room is wide open now that Bryant Koback is in the NFL. Penny Boone looks to be the most talented back in the rotation at the moment and has a great chance to lock down this role once Fall Camp begins.
Western Michigan: Jack Salopek – With Kaleb Eleby in the NFL, the Broncos have no heir apparent locked and loaded at this point in the offseason. Salopek is mobile and rumblings out of Spring Camp say that he’s stepping up as a leader. He’s battling Stone Hollenbach, the former practice squad QB from Alabama.
Projected Depth Charts
QB – D.J. Irons
RB – Cam Wiley/Jonzell Norrils
WR – Shocky Jacques-Louis
WR – Daniel George Jr.
QB – Matt McDonald
RB – Terion Stewart
WR – CJ Lewis
WR – Austin Osborne/Odieu Hilaire
QB – Cole Snyder
RB – Al-Ja Henderson/Ron Cook
WR – Quian Williams
WR – Justin Marshall/Jovany Ruiz-Navarro
QB – Collin Schlee
RB – Marquez Cooper/Xavier Williams
WR – Dante Cephas
WR – Ja’Shaun Poke
QB – Brett Gabbert
RB – Tyre Shelton
WR – Mac Hippenhammer
WR – Miles Marshall
QB – Kurtis Rourke
RB – Sieh Bangure/O’Shaan Allison
WR – Tyler Walton
WR – James Bostic
QB – John Paddock
RB – Carson Steele/Will Jones
WR – Jayshon Jackson
WR – Yo’Heinz Tyler
QB – Daniel Richardsonn
RB – Lew Nichols III
WR – Dallas Dixon
WR – Carlos Carriere
QB – Tyler Powell
RB – Samson Evans
WR – Hassan Beydoun
WR – Dylan Drummond/Tanner Knue
QB – Rocky Lombardi
RB – Harrison Waylee/Antario Brown
WR – Trayvon Rudolph
WR – Cole Tucker
QB – Dequan Finn
RB – Peny Boone
WR – Devin Maddox
WR – Thomas Zsiros
QB – Jack Salopek
RB – Sean Tyler/La’Darius Jefferson
WR – Corey Crooms
WR – Kaevion Mack