Though Jason Babin's pro career may not be going too well right now, there's no denying he was a great player at WMU. his 38 sacks, 299 tackles and two MAC Defensive Player of the Year Awards are a testament to his dominance. While many a great defensive linemen have come out of the MAC, it's ultimately Babin's alliterative name that earned him the honors of this award.
In 2013 Jayrone Elliott was the best defensive lineman in the MAC. With 70 tackles, 12 for loss, nine sacks and five forced fumbles, productive is an understatement for what his senior year was. Elliott was dynamic. He shined brightest in the Rockets' biggest games too, showing he wasn't just a stat-monger incapable of actually having a meaningful impact. He was the real deal.
This fall, the MAC has a whole crop of promising defensive lineman, including a Rocket, that could take home this hardware. Below are the five names we think are the most likely to win this honor.
This Ohio senior was thrust into the starting nose guard position in 2013 and didn't disappoint. The 6-foot-2, 304-pounder started all 13 of Ohio's games, racking up 50 stops, six for loss and 1.5 sacks. A run-stuffer, Crutcher will never have big sack totals, but man does he eat up space. A former All-Conference wrestler in high school, Crutcher has fantastic hands and can wreck an offensive line. He'll once again be the anchor of Ohio's D-line in 2014, but should have more help and could see a much bigger season because of that.
On a loaded defensive line unit, somehow Jason Meehan managed to squeeze in 31 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 2013. Though he's mostly worked in a reserve role, Meehan, at 6-foot-1, 252 pounds, has shown his potential as a pass rusher. Without some key performers from a year ago Meehan's role should increase this fall, meaning more opportunities for him to hurt opposing quarterbacks.
Leterrius Walton is a big man. At 6 foot 5, 300 pounds, Walton has the size to gobble up holes in the offensive line just by standing there. The 47th best player in the MAC, as determined by our staff. In 2013 he gobbled up 34 tackles, 9.5 for loss. Don't be fooled by his size. This former baseball star was better on the diamond than the gridiron. He's smart, athletic, and huge. A combination that can be dangerous for opponents.
Crutcher's linemate, Tarell Basham came out of Hargrave Military Academy and burst onto the season as a true freshman in 2013. In just five starts, Basham totaled 32 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. Basham has the lean, athletic frame of an NFL edge rusher. He has a quick burst, and plays were a ferocity you just can't teach. He's the youngest player on this list, but he may also be the best.
In his first season with the program, Treyvon hester looked like a veteran. The No. 22 player in the MAC, as determined by our staff, in just nine starts Hester earned Third Team All-MAC honors. On the most productive defensive line in the nation, Hester totaled 39 tackles, 7.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks. not only is this 6-foot-4, 300-pound wall of a man a fantastic asset in the run defense, he has the motor to be a factor in the pass rush. Now the leader of the Rockets defensive front, Hester may get double-teamed a lot more, but he's big enough to bully his way through those.
Like last year the MAC fans will have the final say in who earns this award. We'll update this watch list midway through the season, and again after the MAC Championship, with the award winners being announced after voting concludes one week after the 2014 MAC football championship.