The 2022 Falcons improved on an abysmal 2021 offensive production. It saw improved yards/game, total passing yards, pass yards/game, and total rushing yards, with a slight dip in rush yards/game. In year 5 of Scot Loeffler’s tenure, the Falcons hope to build on a promising 2022 season and be more consistent. Here’s what’s going with the offense:
Here’s what’s going on with the QB room:
- Matt McDonald (graduation)
- Owen Bainbridge (transferred to NCAA DII Notre Dame College)
- Drew Gunther (not listed on 2023 roster)
- Connor Bazelak (transfer from Indiana)
- Lucian Anderson III (incoming recruit)
- Coleman Teasdale (incoming recruit)
- Hayden Timosciek (transfer from Purdue)
- Camden Orth
If you read our “What’s New?” piece for the Orange and Brown, you’ll know that there is going to be a QB battle. If you haven’t read that piece, you should go read it. If you don’t remember, here’s your brief summary.
Connor Bazelak, a Dayton, Ohio native, brings Power Five experience having stops at Missouri and Indiana. He brings almost 7,400 passing yards and 36 passing touchdowns over his career, with two years of eligibility left.
Camden Orth, last year’s backup, started one game against Mississippi State, and led the Falcons in the Quick Lane Bowl after Matt McDonald left with an injury. Orth also has starting experience from his time at Long Island (FCS) prior to arriving at BGSU.
While it’s still unclear who has the job, Bazelak would be the expected starter on paper.
The Falcons improved their passing game immensely last season. They threw for almost 500 more yards than 2021, which also increased their pass yards/game by about 20 yards. Completion percentage passed the 60% threshold, they threw 13 more passing touchdowns, and improved the passer rating by 12 points. It’s not unfair to expect them to keep improving their passing game, especially with this years’ explosive receiving corps.
There are not many personnel changes for the rushing attack. Here’s what’s going on for the BG backfield:
- Jaylen Jennings (in transfer portal)
- Chris Edmonds (incoming recruit)
- Bryce DeFalco (incoming recruit)
- Terion Stewart (returning after sitting out 2022)
- Jaison Patterson (leading rusher in 2022)
- Ta’ron Keith
- Jamal Johnson
- Nick Mosley
- PaSean Wimberly (listed as RB, but more known for special teams)
This is the most crucial position for the 2023 Falcons. Rushing felt abysmal in 2022, even though total yardage was about the same from ‘21 to ‘22.
If you paid attention to last season, you know that Stewart sat out due to personal reasons. Thankfully for the BG faithful, Terion Stewart is back. In 12 career games, he has 107 carries for 707 yards and nine rushing touchdowns. With Stewart in the right state of mind, he could re-establish himself in the pecking order and give the Falcons part of the rushing stable they’ve been looking for going back over half-a-decade.
With Jaison Patterson having a good year (most rushing yards in a season for a Falcon since 2019), and Ta’ron Keith having some standout performances (including game winners vs. Miami and Toledo, and a kickoff return TD in the Quick Lane Bowl), BG may have a three-headed rushing attack that’s due for some big numbers and will take the load off the quarterbacks.
The last Falcon 1,000 yard rusher was Fred Coppet in 2016. Is it a tad unfair to start expecting 1,000 yard rushers in BG now? Yes, but if they want to focus on running the ball more, you can have mild expectations of a player to put up 600+ yards to build that running confidence up. The Falcons haven’t rushed for that amount since Andrew Clair ran for 702 in 2018.
Another thing the Falcons need to work on is rushing touchdowns. The Falcons only produced eight rushing touchdowns in 2022, which was about half of the production in 2021. The interesting thing is that half of the ‘22 rushing touchdowns were from a tight end... which isn’t great for establishing a traditional attack to balance the offense.
If the Falcons want to have a chance to be great, they need to run the ball into the end zone. Stewart et al can provide that.
BG’s receivers made a huge impact in 2022, finishing third in the MAC in pass/receiving yards per game. There are some changes to the Falcon receiving corps to keep in mind for 2023, so here are a few highlights:
- Tyrone Broden (transfer to Arkansas)
- Cavon Croom (graduation)
- Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim (transfer from Alabama A&M)
- Finn Hogan (transfer from Central Michigan)
- Jaylon Tillman (transfer from Grand Valley State [D-II])
- Shawn Thigpen (incoming recruit)
- Odieu “OJ” Hiliare (leading receiver in 2022)
- Jhaylin Embry
- Austin Osborne
The biggest loss for the Falcons here is obviously Tyrone Broden. The co-tallest receiver in FBS gets a chance at Power 5 play by transferring to the Razorbacks under head coach Sam Pittman.
Aside from this, Hiliare is back. Racking up almost 750 receiving yards, he’s primed for another big year for BG. You combine Hilaire with a healthy Austin Osborne, and the Falcons have a sneaky good 1-2 punch returning.
One newcomer receiver to look out for is Ibrahim. Many people don’t know that he was the leading receiver for the Alabama A&M Bulldogs in 2021 with just over 1,000 yards. Ibrahim and Hiliare were first and second in receiving yards for the ‘21 Bulldogs, respectively. When you really think about it, the Falcons actually have a three-headed receiving attack as well. Hiliare put up the most receiving yards since Quinton Morris in 2019. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a receiver to get at least 800 yards this year, but knowing there are two guys capable of getting to 1,000 yards is exciting, and could make an already dangerous, and improving, BG passing attack that much more fatal.
Tight ends can be seen as blockers or as offensive playmakers. Last season, BG’s tight ends were definitely used more as offensive playmakers. Here are the highlights of the tight end situation in Bowling Green:
- Christian Sims (graduation)
- Michael Parrish (incoming recruit)
- Harold Fannin, Jr.
- Andrew Bench
- Griffin Little
- Levi Gazarek
- Bryce Boyer
Christian Sims is the biggest departure for the tight ends. He saw most of the production with almost 460 yards and 2 touchdowns. However, the Falcons are in good hands with sophomore Harold Fannin, Jr.
While Fannin had a small impact in the receiving yardage, his production was felt most as a rusher. As mentioned previously, half of BG’s rushing touchdowns in 2022 were from Fannin. He’s proven to be a good option for short yardage situations, and it’s expected to be the same for 2023.
One thing to look out for, as mentioned in our “What’s New” piece, former Falcon great Alex Bayer is coaching the tight ends now, while still coaching special teams.
Long-time fans will remember Bayer as a crucial player from 2010-13, ultimately being a big piece for that 2013 MAC Champion team. Bayer shifting focus to the tight ends should give the players hope that they can recreate what their coach did at the end of the Dave Clawson era, a MAC Championship.
This is the second entry in a series of BGSU football previews. The next piece will focus on the offensive line. Please look forward to that! If you missed the first piece, please click here.
BG kicks off their 2023 campaign Saturday, September 2nd at noon ET, as they travel to Lynchburg, Virginia to face off against the Liberty Flames. As of now, the game is slated to be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.