This list is all about the MAC's best returning players, right? Well, ten players into this list, it's about time that we finally get to the school with the most returning players. Of course, that school is none other than Bowling Green. BGSU returns 20 starters from the 2012 team that won eight games and earned its first bowl berth in three years.
Unfortunately, one of the starters who won't be returning is defensive lineman Chris Jones. Jones, who will be spending his weekends in the NFL this fall, accounted for 12.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss in 2012, and one of BGSU's most pressing concerns is how to replace even some of that production.
Enter redshirt senior Ted Ouellet. In three years, Ouellet has worked his way from the back of the roster to become an All-MAC performer and one of the key components to BGSU's quest for a MAC championship in 2013.
Ouellet came to Bowling Green from Sherborn, Massachusetts, where he was the All-Division III TVL Lineman of the Year as a senior and a two-time all-league member. After redshirting in 2009, he played sparingly as a freshman, seeing action in only three contests. He played more during his sophomore campaign, as he played in nine games and earned six starts. He compiled at least two tackles in eight of those nine contests.
Entering his junior year, Ouellet was still behind Jairus Campbell on the depth chart, but he played well in the first three games. Against Florida, he had four tackles, a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss, as the Falcons hung with the eventual-11-win Gators into the fourth quarter. He then had three tackles in back-to-back weeks as BGSU split games with Idaho and Toledo.
As so often happens in football, Campbell was lost to a season-ending injury after the Toledo game, and Ouellet was thrust into a starting role. His first daunting start was at Virginia Tech, and Ouellet responded with two tackles and a sack. Then, in back-to-back wins over Rhode Island and Akron, he posted a combined nine tackles, including a sack and another tackle for loss. Later, Ouellet had five tackles and 1.5 TFL in the Military Bowl against San Jose State.
Overall, Ouellet led all of BGSU's returning defensive linemen with 35 tackles in 2012. He ranks second in both tackles for loss (6) and sacks (3). All of those are big increases over his totals from the 2011 season. With an even more important role in 2013, it's realistic to expect that these numbers will increase even further.
Will Ouellet replace what BGSU lost upon Chris Jones' departure? It's not realistic to expect that, nor does it seem fair to put that onus on him alone. However, if Bowling Green is to take the next step and win a league championship, Ouellet will have to do his part to fill those shoes, no matter how difficult it will be for the Falcon defensive line as a whole.
That is exactly what Ouellet will do, if the maturity he showed by stepping into a key starting role mid-season and his play against BGSU's best competition in 2012 are good indicators. The season begins in just 11 weeks. Expect Ouellet and the Falcons to be ready.
UPDATE: Ted already has his first sack of the 2013 season. As you can see in this video, his hits are vicious. (Exit question: How does BGSU football SID Dave Meyer not have whiplash now?)