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Friday, May 8, 2009
MAC spring wrap-up: What we learned


Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

With so many new coaches in the Mid-American Conference, the spring was full of learning experiences, some better than others.

There is one lesson that was constant throughout the league: All of the teams are stacked with talent, making next year's race to the MAC Championship very exciting and anyone's game.

Here a few things that we learned about the MAC this spring:

1. Lots of players return: Across the board, the MAC seems to return several players from last year's teams, including some of the more big name players from several schools. Ball State, Bowling Green and Western Michigan are on the low end, returning 11 players from last year, but each of those teams return at least one star from last year's squad and have several players who made significant contributions last season.

2. Still a quarterback conference: Yes, Nate Davis and Drew Willy have moved on to the NFL, but familiar names such as Dan LeFevour, Tim Hiller and Tyler Sheehan are still carrying the torch for a conference that has been known for its quarterback play. A couple new names will surface this year, too, including Buffalo's Zach Maynard and Ball State's Kelly Page. And don't overlook some guys such as Ohio's Boo Jackson and Northern Illinois' Chandler Harnish, who are both poised for a big year.

3. Defense? What defense? If you're planning to tune into a MAC game hoping to see a defensive battle, think again. This conference has been known for its offense and it will continue to be that way for the foreseeable future. Sure, there will be a couple teams, such as Northern Illinois, that break the mold, but for the most part, the road to the championship is paved with touchdowns. Lots and lots of touchdowns.

4. Showcasing some of the best receivers: The MAC is an underrated conference for NFL-caliber receivers, but there are some names to watch heading into this season. Headlining that list is Buffalo's Naaman Roosevelt, who was the best receiver in the conference and one of the top 10 receivers in the country a year ago. Central Michigan receivers Antonio Brown and Bryan Anderson, Eastern Michigan's Jacory Stone and Toledo's Stephen Williams also have a shot at being NFL players with high-level seasons.

5. I know I said there was no defense, but ... There are a couple great defensive players who are worth watching as we enter camp. Toledo safety Barry Church will likely be one of the highest-rated products. Central Michigan defensive lineman Frank Zombo has a chance to be one of the best linemen in the league and linebacker teammate Nick Bellore might lead the conference in tackles for the second consecutive season. Also, Kent State defensive back Brian Lainhart has the opportunity to make the Golden Flashes a player in the conference.