Time to look at the 2012 MAC football season. We're going to preview the conference unit by unit, ranking the teams one through 13 at every position and facet we can think of. Today: the punters.
1. Bowling Green — Junior Brian Schmiedebusch burst onto the Wood County scene last year after transferring from Findlay University and made first team last year with 45.3 ypp, which ranked 10th nationally. His season long was an 81-yarder at Idaho (e.g., indoors and no wind) and ranked as the longest singular kick in FBS. This year he made the preseason Ray Guy Award watch list. Hard to get better than the Thunderpunter.
2. Ball State — The Cradle of Punters has senior Scott Kovanda returning from a 43.5 ypp season and third team honors. They're right up there.
3. Miami — Junior Zac Murphy booted it for 39.1 ypp last year and similar numbers before that. More of the same ought to be expected.
4. Central Michigan — Richie Hogan did admirable with a 39.4 ypp last year although they still list him as a placekicker. There's an actual punter on the roster (senior Curtis Huge), but I'm pretty sure Hogan gets the job.
6. OHIO — Idaho-hatin', Akron-leapin' Paul Hershey leaves OHIO with a 40.7 ypp last year. Replacing him: RS freshman Grant Venham was ESPN's 10th-ranked punter of the 2011 class. He averaged 40 ypp in high school and his hangtime was impressive too. They may not miss a beat here. Nieco Teipel is also listed as a linebacker/punter, which is a fantastic hybrid. And are we sure "Grant Venham" isn't the alter-ego of a Batman villain?
7. Eastern Michigan — Senior Jay Karutz kicked it for 38.8 ypp last year. No reason to think he won't keep the job this year.
9. Kent State — Sophomore Andrew Horning is likely to replace four-year starter Matt Rinehart, who had a damn good career. Horning did win a highest-hangtime competition this winter, but his ypp stats are hard to find if known.
10. Western Michigan — They lose Ben Armer's 41.1 ypp leg and replace him with freshman J Schroeder. Yep, that's his full first name. J averaged 38.5 ypp in high school. But consider WMU punted the least amount of times in the MAC and 10th fewest in FBS last year, so if they keep going for it on fourth down, they might be fine.
11. Buffalo — Outgoing senior Jacob Schum had 38.8 ypp. Aussie backup Pete Fardon also graduated. Per the spring football notes, kicker Patrick Clarke will assume duties until Tyler Grassman is eligible to compete for the job in August.
12. Massachusetts — Junior Jeff Strait enters the MAC with a 37.3 average last year. Definitely on the lower spectrum, and with the challenge they face this year, they're going to need it.
13. Northern Illinois — Last among regular punters last year was Ryan Neir, now a senior, with just 35.7 ypp. If all goes right with the transition in their offense, they won't need him much.