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 kickers
Last year, the best kicker in the conference, by far, was Temple's Brandon McManus. As you may or may not know, those lame-duck Owls are no longer permitted to participate in the MAC, so where do we stand in the pecking order of strong-legged teams now?
The kickers are an interesting bunch here in the Mid-American Conference. You have the top of the heap, the bottom of the pile, and a whole cluster of guys that make up "the rest" - a mishmash of guys who don't have a lot of experience and/or haven't been all that impressive with the playing time they have had.
That said, I'm not doing a traditional list. There is a very clear cut cream of the crop, and a very clear bottom of the pile, but the rest of the group in terms of ranking is more a matter of personal opinion than clear delineation - but as usual, we start at the top.
1. Ohio - Matt Weller was only the second-best kicker in the MAC last season because Temple was still around. He had his hiccups, certainly -- that rough one against Northern Illinois in the MACC being the prime "mental bulletin board material" for Weller (and the source of the photo you see above). But he is by far the most experienced and most successful kicker in the conference.
2. Kent State - If you can't snag yourself a Matt Weller, then go for the next best thing - Freddy Cortez. He hasn't had as many big moment kicks as Weller, but that's more a factor if the rest of the team around him than anything else. All four of his misses last season were from outside of 40 yards, and he should be back again this year to keep banging home FG's...we'll have to wait and see just how much they matter
3. Central Michigan - The Chippewas return both of their kickers from last season. Connor Gagnon started the season with the job because he had a bigger leg, but was eventually replaced by David Harman, who missed two of his first four kicks on the season and then only one more the rest of the year. Sadly, that lone miss was an easy 28-yarder that would have sent the Chips into overtime against Kent State rather than straight to a loss. But I won't hold that against him this season.
4. Northern Illinois - Mathew Sims was pretty impressive in his first season last year in setting school records for points and PAT's (he hit some nice FG's too, he wasn't just riding Chandler Harnish's proverbial coattail).
5. Massachusetts - I guess Brendon Levengood should also go right up here with Sims - he had a great start last year (9-9 FG, 17-17 XP), then missed two extra points in the Minutemen's eighth game and got benched for the year. The senior transfer that replaced him then is gone, but Levengood wasn't even supposed to be the starter last year until an injury happened, and that guy will also return.
6 - 12. The Big Mess - How you rank them probably depends on how you value experience versus potential. After Levengood, it gets a little murky. Miami's Mason Krysinski, Ball State's Steven Schott, Eastern Michigan's Kody Fulkerson, and Bowling Green's Stephen Stein would all probably qualify as having similar experience, but none of them were exactly wowing crowds last season with either their distance (Stein) or their accuracy (Fulkerson).
Someone like Buffalo's Patrick Clarke was amazing last season - but only appeared in the Bulls' last three games. I personally would take quality potential over o.k. experience, just like Clarke or Akron's AJ Fox, who took over partway through last season and was spot-on - with what opportunities the Zips' offense gave him. Toledo's Jeremiah Detmer also would land here, performing very well once he took over last season's starting role.
13. Western Michigan - Last year they had John Potter, who was known for both his kicking and his tackling and was top five in the conference. This year they have two redshirt freshmen on the roster, and the more accomplished of the two was a three-time high school state champion...in skiing.