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 receivers and tight ends.
With the exception of quarterback, is there a more exciting position to play in the Mid-American Conference than wide receiver? Creating and cultivating defensive players is so hard in the lower rungs of the Football Bowl Subdivision, and no one has benefitted more than the receivers and signal-callers of the MAC. Toledo's Eric Page and Western Michigan's Jordan White had almost-untouchable seasons and games last season.
And most important, the outputs they gave led to the glorious #MACtion meme on Twitter.
Both Page and White are gone. As per usual with this league's wide receivers, it's plug-and-play in Middle America. The question is: WHO'S NEXT?!
1. Northern Illinois - Is receiver Martel Moore (747 yards, seven touchdowns) next? Moore doesn't have Chandler Harnish throwing to him, but with Jordan Lynch he should still put up great numbers. Wide receivers Perez Ashford (530 yards, three touchdowns) and Tommylee Lewis (AWESOME NAME) and are all quality targets. Based on the stats, it's a bit surprising all-MAC voters were in favor of Ashford over Moore on the second team. There are three or four tight ends for Lynch to throw to as well.
2. Central Michigan - Great news for the Chippewas: their top two wideouts from a season ago - Titus Davis (751 yards, eight touchdowns) and Cody Wilson (526 yards, three touchdowns) - are back, giving starting quarterback Ryan Radcliff a pair of elite targets as both were third-team All-MAC selections last year. However, they must replace second-teal All-MAC tight end David Blackburn. That job will likely go to sophomore Jarrett Fleming (45 yards).
3. Miami - Nick Harwell was right there with Page and White on the top shelf of MAC receivers. Harwell was a beast with 1,425 yards and nine touchdowns - with a season high of 229 yard against Temple. Look at this consistency (162, 139, 149, 186, 101, 117, 229, 138, 163). Andy Cruse (391 yards, four touchdowns) is also a returning starter at wide receiver. David Frazier (259 yards) is expected to round out the three-receiver set. Senior Matt Kennedy is expected to be the starter at tight end after playing tackle last season; however, I believe this is a move to shore up the running game, the nation's worst last season (73.8 ypg).
4. Toledo - Well, Eric Page is off to the NFL (and tore his ACL in Broncos training camp). Sorry Toledo fans. The Rockets will look for Bernard Reedy (756 yards, nine touchdowns) to build upon those numbers from last year. He's the only wideout among Toledo's top seven receiving leaders from last season that'll be back. Cordale Scott or Colby Kratch will be the team's tight end.
5. Ball State - The Cardinals must replace second-team all-MAC receiver Briggs Orsbon and Torieal Gibson, who have graduated. While there isn't one elite receiver, Ball State has a huge stable of quality receivers starting with Jamill Smith (422 yards, three touchdowns), Jack Tomlinson (392 yards, two touchdowns), Willie Snead (327 yards, two touchdowns) and Connor Ryan (241 yards, one touchdown). Junior Zane Fakes (155 yards, one touchdown) returns at tight end.
6. Ohio - The Bobcats' top two receivers from last year - LaVon Brazill and Riley Dunlop - have graduated. They do return junior Donte Foster (352 yards, five touchdowns) and starting tight end Jordan Thompson (258 yards, two touchdowns). In the mix to contribute are Tyler Futrell (90 yards) and Mario Dowell (151 yards).
7. Western Michigan - Jordan White, Chleb Ravenell and Robert Arnhiem combined for more than 3,400 receiving yards last season. All of them have graduated, leaving quarterback Alex Carder to throw to three new starters. Leading that contingent are Eric Monette (306 yards, one touchdown) and Josh Schaffer (241 yards, two touchdowns). True frosh receivers Jaime Wilson and Daniel Braverman could also get a look. Tight ends could be Blake Hammond, Clark Mussman or Matt Cutler.
8. Buffalo - The Bulls do return their leading receiver form last season in Alex Neutz (641 yards, four touchdowns). It gets a little dicey after that with Fred Lee (139 yards, two touchdowns), Devon Hughes (123 yards, one touchdowns) and Cordero Dixon. Jimmy Gordon (44 yards) and Alex Dennison (75 yards, one touchdown) were lightly used tight ends last season.
9. Akron - The Zips are awfully deep in this spot, led by junior wide receiver Keith Sconiers (639 yards, 5 TDs) to go along with experiences wideouts Marquelo Suel (417 yards, 4 TDs) and A.J. Price (196 yards, 1 TD). Little-used starting tight end Rhyne Ladrach (62 yards) also returns.
10. Eastern Michigan - The boys from Ypsilanti are putting some faith into a pair of true freshman receivers in Quincy Jones and Dustin Creel. Maybe they'll eventually be two Randy Moss's, but for now the Eagles are toward the bottom of the league. Nick Olds (342 yards, three touchdowns) is the leading returning receiver, but this group is also boosted by the return of third-team All-MAC Garrett Hoskins (328 yards, three touchdowns).
11. Kent State - Second leading receiver Tyshon Goode (399 yards, three touchdowns) is back, along with Matt Hurdle (251 yards, one touchdown). But this group is largely unproven, and also leaves the door open for highly toughed freshman James Brooks to see immediate playing time. Tim Erjavec (82 yards) will be the starting tight end.
12. Bowling Green - Six receivers on last year's team have departed via graduation. The top returner is Shaun Joplin (292 yards, one touchdown) but Michigan transfer Je'Ron Stokes, along with Heath Jackson and Herve Coby, are top returning receivers. Junior college transfer Michael Allen could also get a look. Alex Bayer (242 yards, three touchdowns) returns at tight end.
13. UMass - Welcome to the MAC, the league's worst set of receivers. How about this? Only one receiver - sophomore Marken Michel - has more than one career reception! He's got three. This field is wide open with Brian Dowling, Chase Danska, Elgin Long, Andre Hill and Derek Beck all options. Freshman Brandon Howard and incumbent Rob Blanchflower (another awesome name) will battle it out at tight end.