Top MAC Football Players of 2013: #44 Matt Schilz, Bowling Green QB

Peter Casey-US PRESSWIRE

Bowling Green's hopes for the 2013 season rest largely on the shoulders of the Falcons' enigmatic quarterback. Which is real, 2011 or 2012, or something in between? The answer to that question is key for BGSU.

For the second straight day, our Top 68 list looks at a player from Bowling Green State University. He is the fourth quarterback to be featured, but very few players in the Mid-American Conference find their credentials more hotly debated.

Matt Schilz was a redshirt as a freshman when Tyler Sheehan led BGSU to the Humanitarian Bowl during the 2009 season. He has started for the Falcons ever since.

After starting ten games in a two-win freshman season, Schilz had a breakout year as a sophomore. He threw for 3,024 yards (sixth in BGSU history) and 28 touchdowns (second in BGSU history). During that season, he had two games during which he threw for over 400 yards and threw a touchdown pass in all 12 games. He had five TD passes against Morgan State and four against both Wyoming and Buffalo.

Based on those numbers, BGSU fans expected Schilz to be at the top of the MAC as a junior. Unfortunately, it did not work out that way. Schilz appeared to regress and his numbers bore that out. He threw for half as many touchdowns (14) and only 2,585 yards. His completion percentage also dropped from 59.5 to 55.2. As a result, Schilz was near the bottom of the MAC in yards per game and passing efficiency, while BGSU's offense ranked in the lower half of the league for points per game, total offense and passing offense.

But was that drop off entirely his fault? Two of the biggest player losses that BGSU experienced from 2011 to 2012 were wide receivers Kamar Jorden and Eugene Cooper. Those two accounted for 145 receptions, 1,897 yards and 21 touchdowns. The leading receiver who came back for 2012 accounted for just 21 catches, 292 yards and one touchdown in 2011.

Inexperience at wide receiver was perhaps the biggest problem for the Falcons coming into the 2012 season, and injuries to Heath Jackson and Jermal Hosley only made the situation worse, as both were expected to provide sizable contributions. Eventually, Chris Gallon and Shaun Joplin emerged as the key targets for Schilz, but it was too late to replicate the 2011 numbers.

Schilz should not have to deal with the same problems during the 2013 season. Gallon and Joplin both return, as does Ryan Burbrink. Those three combined for 133 catches, 1,710 yards and ten touchdowns. With a complete off-season to gel with those receivers, Schilz should be much more comfortable when looking downfield this season. With that comfort and his added game experience (which stands at 35 starts), Schilz should experience a big rebound this season.

It should be noted that Schilz was not just handed the starting job for 2013 during the spring; he faces competition from backups Matt Johnson and James Knapke. However, I think most people expect Schilz to be under center when the Falcons open the 2013 season in 63 days against Tulsa at Doyt Perry Stadium.

Without a doubt, Schilz is the linchpin for the Falcons in 2013. Which one will show up - the 2011 Schilz or the 2012 Schilz? The answer to that will go a long way to determine where (or if) the Falcons are playing after they close the regular season at Buffalo.

Along with stability at wide receiver, BGSU is bringing back a strong, cohesive offensive line, an impressive stable of running backs, and one of the best defenses in the conference (if not the country). All the tools are there for Schilz to succeed, and if I were a betting man, I would lay money that he will rediscover that 2011 mojo. And if he does? As new BGSU athletic director Chris Kingston would say, the sky is not the limit for the Falcons.

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