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Top MAC Football Players Of 2014: No. 9 Tarell Basham, Ohio Defensive Lineman

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Tarell Basham showcased some of his vast potential during his limited playing time in 2013. This year, Basham could show the nation why he's not just the best DL in the MAC, but in the country.

Tarell Basham in the 2013 Beef O' Brady's Bowl, in which he recorded a sack.
Tarell Basham in the 2013 Beef O' Brady's Bowl, in which he recorded a sack.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Bobcats had a lot of hype built up for their offense going into 2013, and for a good reason. Tyler Tettleton and Beau Blankenship, two of the greatest players in program history, were in the backfield, and Tettleton had receiving options in Donte Foster and others. The defense was much maligned, and rightly so, getting absolutely shredded by any team with a competent offense.

But now it's 2014 and things have been flipped upside down. The offense lost eight starters, including those named above, and will be a talented but inexperienced group. The defense returns eight starters and, thanks to strong linemen, will improve. What were once strengths are weaknesses, and weaknesses, strengths.

And what a strength Tarell Basham should be for the Bobcats this fall. As a freshman last year, Basham had 7.5 sacks, the fifth-best single season number in program history. He finished with 32 tackles, 16 unassisted and 9.5 tackles for a loss. He also forced two fumbles and broke up a pass. He was named to the Football Writer's Association of America Freshman All-America team for his efforts. This year, he was named to the Ted Hendricks Award watch list, an award that is given to college football's best defensive linemen. The award has been around since 2002, and so far every winner has been drafted into the NFL.

Basham is from Rocky Mount, Virginia. and attended Franklin County High School, where he earned All-Region honors. Following that, he briefly attended Hargrave Military Academy, a prep school, before enrolling at Ohio University last fall.

His addition to the team is looking to be as strong as any in program history. At 6 feet 4 inches, Basham can use his long reach to knock down passes and grab any ball carrier that gets too close. His 250 pounds make him big enough to handle any offensive lineman but light enough to out-maneuver them.

Basham only started five games last season, but there should be no question in the minds of head coach Frank Solich and defensive coordinator Jesse Williams that he should be on the field for just about every defensive snap in 2014. Whether Basham, the only player in the MAC on the watch list, wins the Ted Hendricks Award remains to be seen. It will be difficult to beat more visible candidates who play for major schools. But even if he comes just short of the lofty expectations he faces, Basham will have a bright future at Ohio, and possibly in the NFL.