banner

College Football

more stats

Dorm Report: Next up in the MAC

By Brandon Lawrence, Associate College Football Editor

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Excitement surrounding Mid-American Conference football was at an all-time high last season.

With a player like Buffalo's Khalil Mack firmly entrenched near the top of the draft, the conference name was once again thrown around early, following a 2013 that saw Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher go first overall to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Mack was a transformative player at UB, who ended up there because of a coaching shift. The former coach at Liberty (Robert Wimberly) made the switch to Buffalo, where Mack followed and became a staple for not just the Buffalo athletic department, but the conference as a whole.

The same scenario unfolded at Northern Illinois with quarterback Jordan Lynch.

The run-oriented quarterback for the Huskies not only finished fourth in the conference in passer rating, but was tops in the conference in rushing yards per game (137.1), with 23 rushing scores on the year.

He finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting behind Boston College's Andre Williams and Florida State's Jameis Winston, who took home the award.

Mack was the fifth-overall draft choice in the 2014 NFL Draft, selected by the Oakland Raiders. Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward was taken a little later in the first round - 30th overall - by the San Francisco 49ers.

Five more players were taken in the seven-round draft from the MAC in May, and a handful of others were tagged with undrafted free agent offers following the culmination of the event. It was a good time to be associated with football and the conference.

The question now is simple: following a player with a third-place finish in the Heisman voting and a fifth-overall draft selection, what's next for the MAC? And more specifically, WHO is next in line in the MAC's newly established hierarchy of players?

It's obvious the direction in which the conference is trending is up in terms of overall talent. A great number of players who found success in the conference last season are returning for more playing time in 2014, including some of the top finishers statistically on both offense and defense.

The reality of this upcoming season, though, is that there likely won't be a player who garners as much draft hype in the conference as Mack. There's still a long way to go for the MAC to be considered a hot bed for professional prospects.

But the excitement hasn't faded away yet.

Offensively, this could be a breakout year for Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson. The redshirt junior signal caller is the top returning quarterback in the conference in terms of passer efficiency (161.7 rating), and in passing touchdowns (25).

Buffalo's Joe Lincata tossed 24 scoring passes last season against just eight interceptions, but Johnson's 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions is the best for a returning QB in the conference.

With Travis Greene coming back as the team's top option out of the backfield, and receiving threats such as redshirt junior Chris Gallon and sophomore Ronnie Moore, Johnson could likely see a jump in his passing stats in 2014. Not to mention his new coach, Dino Babers, worked with Robert Griffin III at Baylor and then led Eastern Illinois to a record-breaking year offensively in 2013.

Still, the 6-foot Johnson could be a tough sell to NFL teams. The prospect of a next-level professional may be found however, in Central Michigan receiver Titus Davis.

Davis is coming off a phenomenal season for the Chippewas in 2013, in which he averaged 100.8 receiving yards per game. He caught 61 passes last year for a total of 1,109 yards and eight touchdowns, and is the conference's top returner in receiving yards and yards per game.

Draft insider Tony Pauline has Davis ranked as a fourth- to fifth-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, but his stock could seriously improve with another solid season. Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush (213.5 passing ypg, 15 TD, 15 INT in 2013) is back under center this year, so there's at least the familiarity factor for Davis.

Ball State running back Jahwan Edwards is the MAC's leading returner in rushing touchdowns (14 in 2013) and rushing yards (1,594). With star quarterback Keith Wenning now a member of the Baltimore Ravens camp, Edwards will likely see his workload increase a bit.

Mack set the bar high defensively for the conference a year ago, so the drop off between him and the "next Mack" will be not only apparent, but giant.

Two Toledo defenders stand out in defensive lineman Treyvon Hester and defensive back/linebacker Junior Sylvestre. Hester, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, received a fifth- to sixth-round draft grade from Pauline. He was named to the All-MAC third-team as a freshman in 2013 after totaling 39 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks as part of the interior defensive line. As a sophomore, Hester may want to stay in school to build up his stock if he's looking for a football future beyond the collegiate level.

Sylvestre, a 6-foot, 222-pound defensive back/linebacker, is listed as the No. 1 inside linebacker on the Toledo preseason depth chart. He earned first-team All-MAC honors last season after accumulating 118 tackles and five sacks. His 9.8 tackles per game in 2013 is third-best among returning conference players.

With Mack now across the country, watch for Buffalo linebacker Adam Redden to make a serious jump in stats and playmaking ability. After a season in which he posted eight tackles for loss, he could easily take over as the anchor of Buffalo's defense.

Ohio redshirt junior cornerback Devin Bass registered 15 pass breakups a year ago, and returns to the team looking to improve his draft stock as well.

The MAC is frequently an overlooked conference in college football. But with the recognition brought on by some of the top names in the country of late, the conference's play and popularity might be ready for a spike.

07/23 09:16:35 ET

Other Stories

  • ACC: North Carolina vs. Miami

    Today at 12:25 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NFL: San Diego vs. Miami

    Today at 1:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • SEC: Florida vs. Georgia

    Today at 3:30 pm on WRAL-TV

  • CFB: Notre Dame vs. Navy

    Tonight at 8:00 on WRAL-TV

  • ACC: Duke at Pittsburgh

    Today at 12:00 pm on 620am

  • Big Ten: Maryland at Penn State

    Today at 12:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • ACC: NC State at Syracuse

    Today at 3:00 pm on WRAL-FM

  • NHL: Carolina Hurricanes vs Arizona Coyotes

    Tonight at 7:00 on 99.9 The Fan

Scoreboard
Local
12:00pm Today
PITT
DUKE
12:00pm Today
TEMPL
ECU
12:30pm Today
MIAMI
UNC
3:00pm Today
SYR
NCSU
4:00pm Today
BCOOK
NCCU
 
7:00pm Tonight
CAR
ARI
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
MEM
 
Final
IND 89
MEM 97
Final
CHI 108
CLE 114
Final
MIL 93
PHI 81
Final
SAC 103
POR 94
Final
PHO 94
SAN 89
Final
LAL 111
LAC 118
7:00pm Tonight
NOP
DAL
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
MEM
 
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
MIA
 
7:00pm Tonight
WAS
MIL
 
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
TOR
 
7:30pm Tonight
DET
BRK
 
7:30pm Tonight
ATL
IND
 
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
BOS
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
CHI
 
8:00pm Tonight
OKC
DEN
 
9:00pm Tonight
UTA
PHO
 
10:30pm Tonight
GSW
LAL
 
Final
TULA 14
CIN 38
Final
MEM 40
TULSA 20
11:30am Today
ARMY
AFA
12:00pm Today
PITT
DUKE
12:00pm Today
TEMPL
ECU
12:00pm Today
PSU
MD
12:00pm Today
IOWA
NW
12:00pm Today
ISU
OKLA
12:00pm Today
FIU
RICE
12:00pm Today
UCONN
UCF
12:00pm Today
TEXAM
LAMON
12:00pm Today
RUTG
WISC
12:30pm Today
VT
BC
12:30pm Today
MIAMI
UNC
1:00pm Today
EMICH
CMICH
1:00pm Today
COL
WASH
2:30pm Today
UMO
WMICH
3:00pm Today
SYR
NCSU
3:00pm Today
LATU
WKENT
3:30pm Today
MTST
BYU
3:30pm Today
UGA
UF
3:30pm Today
APPST
GASTATE
3:30pm Today
MICH
IND
3:30pm Today
NEB
PURD
3:30pm Today
WVU
TCU
3:30pm Today
GT
UVA
4:00pm Today
SFLA
HOU
4:00pm Today
BAY
KU
4:00pm Today
MIZZ
KENT
4:00pm Today
NMST
TXST
4:30pm Today
WASU
USC
5:00pm Tonight
IDAHO
ARKST
5:00pm Tonight
LALAF
SALABAMA
5:30pm Tonight
UNLV
NMU
7:00pm Tonight
MISS
AUB
7:00pm Tonight
SJST
COLST
7:00pm Tonight
VANDY
ODU
7:00pm Tonight
FATL
UAB
7:15pm Tonight
MSST
ARK
7:30pm Tonight
OREG
STAN
7:30pm Tonight
SCAR
TENN
7:30pm Tonight
TTU
TEX
8:00pm Tonight
OSU
ILL
8:00pm Tonight
NAVY
ND
8:00pm Tonight
KST
OKST
8:00pm Tonight
UTEP
SMISS
10:30pm Tonight
UCLA
ARZ
10:30pm Tonight
ORST
CAL
10:30pm Tonight
NEV
SDST
10:45pm Tonight
FRES
WYO
11:00pm Tonight
HAW
UTST
11:00pm Tonight
ARST
UTAH
Final
CLB 1
TOR 4
Final
DET 5
LOS 2
Final
DAL 1
ANA 2
Final
CAL 4
NAS 3
7:00pm Tonight
CAR
ARI
 
7:00pm Tonight
PIT
BUF
 
7:00pm Tonight
TOR
CHI
 
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
CLB
 
7:00pm Tonight
BOS
OTT
 
7:00pm Tonight
FLA
PHI
 
7:00pm Tonight
TAM
WAS
 
7:00pm Tonight
NYR
WIN
 
8:00pm Tonight
STL
COL
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
DAL
 
10:00pm Tonight
EDM
VAN
 
10:30pm Tonight
SJS
NYI
 
4:00pm Today
BCOOK
NCCU