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2017 Best Football Players of the MAC: #30-#26

It can be hard to crack a top 25 list. Here’s the five prospects we just had to include.

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Preseason lists are hard work.

At one point here on Hustle Belt, we ran a 70-player Top MAC Players Countdown series. That’s a lot of names. Recently, we cut it down to 25 players, for the sake of brevity.

Even then, we still dealt with leaving out a lot of key names from getting their due time under the spotlight. The arguments were pretty heated in the Slack channel, but ultimately, we decided the five players just outside of the Top 25 deserved their own little mini-profiles.

Without further ado: the best five prospects outside of our Top 25 countdown!


#30: Joe Ostman, DE, CMU

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Miami (Ohio) Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

2016 was a career best year for the St. Ignance, Michigan native, as he racked up 69 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Ostman should have more opportunities to shine in 2017, as he is one of the veterans on a relatively young and unproven defensive line going into the season. Ostman has always had a high motor, something proven by the fact he was the only freshman in the 2013 class to get significant playing time. That drive will be key to CMU’s success this season.

When healthy, Ostman is an all-MAC caliber prospect who has the power to significantly imact games from the defensive end position with his block shedding and relentless pursuit.


#29: Louie Zervos, K, Ohio

Ohio v Tennessee Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

It’s not very often you include a kicker on a Top 25 players list, especially a kicker from the MAC. Alas, Louie Zervos has proven to be an extremely effective collegeiate kicker thus far in his career. Not to mention, he’s serving up looks on the daily.

As a redshirt freshman, Zervos was called upon often to score points for the Bobcats, who strugged in the redzone, especially at the start of the season. Zervos answered the call, going up to the line of scrimmage an incredible 35 times in 2016, the most by any freshman placekicker in NCAA history.

Zervos converted 29 of his 35 field goals (including 7 of 10 from 40+ yards out) to set a school record and hit 35 of 38 extra point attempts, scoring a total of 122 points for the Bobcats.

HIs efforts last season were enough to earn him first-team All-MAC honors for 2016 and be named to the Lou Groza Award Preseason Watch List for best placekicker in the country in 2017.


#28: Amari Coleman, CB, CMU

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Amari Coleman has been mking a key impact for the Chippewas backfield since he first stepped onto the football field as a true freshman and those reps have turned him into one of the best cover corners in the conference going into the 2017 season.

2016 saw Coleman emerge as a playmaker in his on right, racking up a conference-leading 15 pass breakups as well as four interceptions and two interception return touchdowns. Coleman recorded at least eight tackles three separate times last season, a significant number for a cornerback.

Coleman has always excelled at his craft, having proven himself from very young ages as he climbed up the football ladder. His 2016 efforts nabbed him a Jim Thorpe Award Preseason Watch List spot for the 2017 season. The Chippewas will be relying on him and running mate Josh Cox to provide shutdown coverage in the upcoming season.


#27: Darius Phillips, DB, WMU

NCAA Football: Toledo at Western Michigan Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Darius Phillips is WMU’s Mr. Everything, having experience on all three sides of the ball in his three seasons with the Broncos.

After his redshirt freshman season, Phillips was converted from receiver to cornerback by PJ Fleck. The move proved to be exponentially impactful, as Phillips became one of the best ballhawking corners in the country following the transition.

Phillips returned three interceptions, one kick return and one punt return for touchdown in 2016, breaking a single-season school record and tying a career school record for interception return touchdowns. Phillips also had 40 total tackles and a fumble recovery.

Phillips was named the MAC Special Teams Player of the Year in 2016 and earned appearances in the all-MAC rosters on special teams (second-team) and defense (first-team.)

Phillips was named to the Paul Hornung Award Preseason Watch List for the second year in a row this preseason for most versatile player regardless of position, an award he could very well be in the running for if he plays all three sides of the ball like he’s rumored to be do potentially.


#26: Nick Holley, QB/WR, Kent State

OHIO V. KENT STATE IN PICTURES

Nick Holley didn’t start off last season as a quarterback, but he’ll certainly start off the 2017 season as QB1 after a stand-in season that saw him lead Kent State to two of its three wins on the season, both on the road.

Holley nabbed touchdowns as a quarterback, running back and receiver last season and even saw time in the kick and punt return games prior to his being named the starting quarterback for Kent State.

He performed admirably, considering the circumstances, collecting 1,923 total yards and 16 total touchdowns (10 rushing, 2 receiving, four passing) in eight starts at quarterback.

2017 should see Holley manning the offense once again. Perhaps year number two at the helm will give him the confidence to better improve those numbers from last season.