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Top MAC Football Players of 2014: No. 28 Tyreese Russell, Eastern Michigan TE

One of the conference's finest tight ends plays a huge role for the Eagles' offense.

Andrew Mascharka

Tight end is a weird position in football. You have to be big enough to block a defensive end and athletic enough to act as a wide receiver. Eastern Michigan's Tyreese Russell can do both of those.

Last year as a junior, the 6-foot-3, 238 pound tight end had to fill the shoes of Garrett Hoskins, who was on the John Mackey Award watch list his senior year and one of the top receivers in 2012. Russell did just that by starting all 12 games for the Eagles and leading the team with 594 reception yards and second in receptions with 44. He did just as well as junior wide receiver Dustin Creel, who had 593 receiving yards with 46 catches a year ago.

Even back as a freshman, Russell saw a lot of playing time. He appeared in 11 games in both 2011 and 2012. In his three-year career, he has a total of 62 receptions for 894 yards with eight touchdowns.

Russell earned second team All-MAC honors last season and is on Phil Steele's preseason first team All-MAC team heading into this season. He also appears on the preseason Mackey Award watch list with two others from the MAC.

Probably Russell's best performance of the year was at Northern Illinois, when Brogan Roback got his first start at quarterback. Russell had four receptions for 90 yards with a long of 38 and one touchdown. A close second-best performance happened at Rutgers, where he had 84 receiving yards off of nine catches.

Adding both experience and talent to the team's offense, Russell can line up next to either Andrew Wylie or Lincoln Hansen as a tight end or use the size he has to his advantage when splitting out as an X or Z receiver. It'll be interesting to see how Russell is used under head coach Chris Creighton in comparison to other offenses ran by the offensive coordinators during the Ron English era. And whether it's Roback or Rob Bolden under center, they'll make the most out of Russell as a target.