There are no shortage of storylines for Bowling Green football this season.
As a program in transition, their rebuilding efforts back to contention in the Mid-American Conference will take time and the Falcon faithful could find a squad which will be hard pressed to top last year’s three win total if some of these storylines do not produce positive results.
Perhaps the only storyline which matters to their fan base is that Mike Jinks is gone and that the healing process has begun.
Will The New Coaching Staff Make A Difference?
Scott Loeffler rides into Bowling Green from Boston College with an impressive resume which includes a playing career at the University of Michigan, coaching in the NFL, stops as an offensive coordinator at Temple, Auburn, Virginia Tech, and Boston College. And of course, he was the position coach of a certain New England Patriots QB.
Now, he is the head coach of the Bowling Green State Falcons, all before his 45th birthday.
There seems to be hope around the Falcon program since the Loeffler hiring, but perhaps that could just be because the book on the Mike Jinks chapter of Falcon football is officially closed. It would be hard for Loeffler to do a worse job than Jinks or to be as maligned as he was prior to his firing last season.
Loeffler has revamped that coaching staff with the exception of Jacob Schoonover, who will now coach special teams and safeties. The new assistants bring years of experience from Power Five schools and many feature ties to the University of Michigan.
However, as easy as it has been for Loeffler to fill a coaching staff with his guys, it has not been as easy for coach Loeffler to fill his roster with his players. Most of the roster was recruited by Jinks to fit the air raid style system. While Loeffler has pledged to be up tempo himself, it will be a more conventional set than what Jinks had featured.
Any time you have a coaching change, you are bound to have some differences of opinions and schemes. That has been no different in Bowling Green as several players have left the Falcons following Loefflers arrival with others being dismissed from the program. Most recently, projected starting left tackle Lorenzo Taborn and backup QB Bryce Veasley were dismissed.
There had been rumors of a country club style of atmosphere under Jinks for some time, as highlighted by the Falcons performances late in game last season.
The Falcons have a young roster and this year looks to be a transition year between the old futile era of Mike Jinks and the new era of Scot Loeffler.
Recruiting seems to be rebounding under the new staff but expect it to take more than a year to see the dividends of the change.
That school down the road
One of the best rivalries in the Mid-American Conference is the Interstate 75 rivalry. The two schools simply don’t like each other much. The only other football game in Northwest Ohio with as much vitriol is Ohio State Vs Michigan.
With all that being said, the big game against Toledo has been awfully lopsided of late. Toledo has won nine straight against Bowling Green and has taken the all-time series lead after winning 52-36 a season ago in the Glass Bowl.
Bowling Green gets the honor of hosting this year but faces long odds. Jason Candle and his Rocket squad are picked to win the MAC West, while Bowling Green is picked to finish last in the east.
As of press time, it has been 3,544 days since BGSU beat Toledo... and you thought that Michigan fans were tired of hearing OSU fans talk lately.
As of now, BGSU is only expected to be favored in one game this season: the opener against FCS Morgan State.
A win against their arch rival, at home during their 100th year celebration, ending a long losing streak while wearing special throw-back helmets would make the season worthwhile for some fans.
As Bowling Green makes inroads by the Rockets supremacy in recruiting the Black Swamp region, nothing would help those efforts more than a victory.
Who replace Doege at Quarterback?
Scot Loeffler has somewhat of a reputation as a quarterback’s whisperer. If that title is deserved or not is up for debate among fans of Virginia Tech, Auburn and Florida but the man did coach Tom Brady.
Loeffler’s reputation will be put to the test in his first year as a head coach.
The expectation was that returning starter Jarrett Doege would return for his junior season. Doege, who threw for over 2,600 yards a season ago, went through spring practice in Bowling Green and Loeffler spoke openly about trying to build a relationship with Doege. In the end, the potential to start for a Power Five program which fit his skillset proved to be too much for Doege to pass up, as he left for West Virginia, where he is expected to sit out this season as a transfer.
The Falcons starter before Doege, James Morgan, transferred to play for Florida International after the 2017 season. Since then Morgan emerged as the starter for FIU, leading them to a record nine wins while setting a single season passing touchdown mark with 26. Entering 2019, he is on the O’Brien Award Watch List, the Wuerffel Trophy Watch List and was Conference USA’s Newcomer of the year in 2018. What could have been….
Losing two quarterbacks with the skills of Doege and Morgan in such a short time would be hard for any program to overcome, which is no different in Bowling Green.
The Falcons also recently dismissed Bryce Veasley, a developmental redshirt freshman.
All this shuffling left Grant Loy as the likely starter. The junior, who was recruited by Jinks, played in 11 games and started one. That one start was the result of a gimmicky two quarterback set against Central Michigan. The all-MAC academic selection is mobile for a QB and did have two touchdowns on a 7 for 12 passing season a year ago.
Loeffler has also brought in some guys who are familiar with his system. Sophomore Matt McDonald follows Loeffler from Boston College, so he knows the system. As of press time, there has been no announcement as to his eligibility status but it is expected he will need to sit out the 2019 season as a transfer.
That leaves graduate transfer Darius Wade, another Boston College transfer, who is a late add to the Falcon roster, as the only other current option. He spent last season with former wide receivers coach Erik Campbell at Delaware but did not play. Prior to that, he was a starter for Boston College with Loeffler as his offensive coordinator, playing in 25 games from 2014-2017.
He started the Pinstripe Bowl in 2017 and led the Eagles to victories over Louisville, Syracuse and UConn during that season. He reportedly already knows the systems so there should not need to be an adjustment period for him before challenging Loy to start.
Other quarterbacks on the roster include true freshmen Labronz Davis, Max Denman, and Parker Sherry.
Will There Be Any Defense This Season?
There is apparently no truth to the rumor that instead of holding up a D with a fence sign, that the Falcon faithful held up Swiss cheese a season ago, no matter how fitting that might have been.
The Bowling Green defense was, simply put, awful a season ago.
Just how awful you ask? They allowed an average of 40 points per game. Only two teams were held below 30 points by the Falcons: lowly Akron and Central Michigan. Oh, and the Falcons lose their top two defensive tackles, a highly touted 2018 recruit, Haasan Belton to injury, their top three corners, and three of their top linebackers, including Brandon Harris.
Former defensive coordinator turned interim head coach Carl Pelini was invited to stay on but elected to return to his home of Youngstown to be on his brother’s staff at Youngstown State. Loeffler’s hand-picked linebackers coach Jim Herrmmann left for the XFL (yes, that XFL).
Longtime power five coordinator Brian Van Gorder has taken over as defense coordinator. He served as coordinator at Louisville a season ago (where the Cardinals became the first Power Five school to allow 50 points in five straight games).
In addition to time at Louisville, he has been an analyst at Georgia and Oklahoma, defensive coordinator a Georgia, Notre Dame, Central Michigan and Auburn. He has been a head coach at Georgia Southern and at the division two level. He also spent time coaching linebackers and as the defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons. Upon his hire, he becomes the most decorated defensive coordinator in the MAC.
Linebackers coach Steve Morrison also has an impressive resume, with most recently serving in the same position at Syracuse.
Coaching can only do so much to help out a defensive unit though.
But there is cause for optimism. In two late season victories (after Jinks), BGSU held back to back opponents to 13 and six points respectively. Per Phil Steele, in those two games they averaged just 9.5 points per game and only 194 yards per game on average.
The Falcons defensive line is still undersized, which was a problem last year but getting back a healthy David Konowalski will help.
Konowalski missed all of last season due to a camp Achilles injury.
Now a team captain, Konowalski tied for the team lead in tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks at 3.5.
A return to form could do wonders for the Falcons defense, and don’t be surprised if a healthy Konowalski pushes for all-MAC honors.
Due to the coaching change, Bowling Green lost out on some recruits and was not able to make enough progress to replace all those that they lost.
The short recruiting class and numerous transfers or dismissals from the program have sapped the Falcons depth.
They enter 2019 with one of the youngest rosters, not only in the Mid-American Conference but the entire NCAA.
Any injuries, which Falcon faithful are all too familiar with, would tax the roster and in some positions require true freshman or even walk-ons to see the field.
Loeffler has stressed the importance of the Falcons walk-on program while bringing in an astronomical twenty walks on, as of signing day. Many of the walk on’s are from area high school programs within Northwest Ohio, creating local ties to the Falcons.
While walk-ons are essential, unless they are Zach Annexstad at Minnesota, you probably don’t want to learn their names for a few seasons.
100 hundred years of Bowling Green Football
As mentioned briefly above, the Falcons will be celebration 100 years of Falcon football.
For their October 12th home-game, vs rival Toledo the Falcons will wear throwback helmets, as voted on by their fans.
It'll be a high-water mark for the program, as the first-ever Falcon football game was also against Toledo in 1919.
In addition to the helmets, the athletic department plans to welcome back numerous Falcon football alumni and offer several promotions throughout the season for fans.
The remembrance and celebration of the Falcons past may prove to be needed during what projects to be a trying season at Doyt Perry Stadium.
It is easy to forget recently that not all that long ago BGSU had won two of the last three MAC titles, saw the start to Urban Meyer’s head coaching career, hosted ESPN’s College Game day, and served as the alma mater to many great players such as Phil Villapiano.