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Top 25 MAC Football Players of 2018: #20 Jonathan Ward, RB, Central Michigan

It’s hard not to look at #5 in Maroon every time he steps on the field.

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Boston College Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Electric hardly begins to describe the versatile and extremely watchable game of Jonathan Ward, the star offensive weapon for Central Michigan.

The six-foot, 185 lb. back from Kankakee, Illinois, is an athlete’s athlete, making precise cuts with ease and exhibiting great on-field vision, finding or creating running lanes on the fly. His style of play certainly helped the Chips in 2017, as he rushed for over 1,000 yards and finished with 1,489 total yards of offense, accumulating 10 rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns along the way.

Ward was an instant fix to a struggling running offense which was ranked one of the worst in the country in 2016. He averaged 78.4 yards rushing per game (fourth in the MAC) and 114.5 all-purpose yards (third in the MAC) in 2017, often being relied upon in tough times as the team’s best (and healthiest) offensive weapon in a season which saw CMU without four of their top six pass catchers and a starting running back at one time.

The 2017 second-team All-MAC selection will likely be the offensive bell cow once again as the team experiences a lot of turnover at the receiver position and uncertainty at the quarterback spot (which is currently a battle between redshirt sophomore Tony Poljan and JUCO transfer senior Tommy Lazzaro.) Ward certainly has the prowess and ability to play at either back or receiver and proved to be a capable pass-catching option out of the backfield.

There’s certainly been some expectation heaped on top of him, as he was named to the Athlon Sports preseason First-Team All-MAC squad. A rising junior, Ward will be expected to be a leader for a team which will be young and unproven in 2018.