Top MAC Football Players of 2014: #46 Saylor Lavallii, Central Michigan RB

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The junior running back from Mason Michigan packs a lot of punch into a small package.

Saylor Lavallii came to Mt. Pleasant as an under-the-radar newcomer, but quickly earned a spot on the field as a true freshman. After playing in all 13 games in 2012, Lavallii was thrust into the starting role in 2013 when Zurlon Tipton went down with an ankle injury in the first half of the first game of the season. Lavallii made the most of his opportunity and has earned our No. 46 spot on our list of the top MAC football players of 2014.

Lavallii attended Mason High School in Mason, Michigan where he was a three-sport athlete lettering in basketball. baseball and football. The gridiron was where Lavallii excelled however, breaking the Mason school records for career rushing yards (4,001), career touchdowns (80), and career yards per carry (7.7). Lavallii was recruited by several programs, and received offers from programs such as Kent State and Ohio, as well as an offer from Penn State as a 2-star prospect according to Rivals.

In his freshman season Lavallii saw the field consistently while still getting a limited number of rush attempts. As Tipton's backup Lavallii rushed for 263 yards with a 4.6 yards-per-carry average, and ran for two touchdowns.

2013 was supposed to be another year to work behind Tipton, but when the senior back broke his ankle against the University of Michigan in the first game of the season Lavallii was the man to step up and take the bulk of the rushing attempts. For the next seven games when Lavallii was the starter he rushed for 706 yards including a breakout performance of 184 yards in a win against Ohio. Lavalli ended the season leading the Chippewas with 807 rushing yards.

2014 will be an opportunity for Lavallii to shine. He will have had a full offseason to practice with the first team, as well as another season of experience facing MAC defenses. With what looks to be a solid passing attack for CMU this season, defenses will have to focus more on the deep ball and less on loading up the box against Lavallii, leaving Lavallii and company free to gain consistent yards on the ground.

Lavallii is a tough-nosed rusher who will hit you in the mouth, but can also break away with good speed. Standing at only 5 feet 9 inches, Lavallii weighs 213 pounds and is used to bowling over linebackers and safeties. Look for that to continue in 2014.

So it's two Chippewas in a row in our countdown, keep an eye out tomorrow to see who comes in at No. 45. Hint, he's a TRUE American hero.

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