NCF Nation: Chester Stewart

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
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Temple Owls (8-4) vs. Wyoming Cowboys (8-4)

Dec. 17, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Temple take: The Owls are back in a bowl under first-year coach Steve Addazio. They were bowl eligible last year but were not picked as an at-large selection. Running back Bernard Pierce has been incredible yet again. He earned All-MAC first-team honors, rushing for 1,381 yards and 25 touchdowns -- including a stellar 5.6 yards per carry.

They also have an outstanding backup, Matt Brown, who was a third-team conference selection for contributing 867 yards and five scores. Together they have teamed up to lead the nation's No. 7 rushing offense with 256.6 yards on the ground per game. Temple has had some quarterback issues, however, rotating through Chris Coyer, Mike Gerardi and Chester Stewart. Coyer is more of a fit for what Addazio likes to run with the spread, but he got hurt in the finale against Kent State, so Stewart and Gerardi are once again in the mix for the bowl game. Gerardi actually came into the year as the starter, but until the Kent State finale, hadn't played since Week 3.

Linebacker Stephen Johnson paces a stingy Owls' defense with 62 stops on the year. They allow just 13.8 points per game -- third nationally in scoring defense -- while allowing 122.5 rushing yards per game.


Wyoming take: Quite the surprise season from the Cowboys from Laramie. When last year's quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels -- the 2009 conference freshman of the year -- announced he was transferring, many thought Wyoming would sink. But freshman quarterback Brett Smith has been fantastic in his first season, rallying Wyoming to a eight wins -- including signature road wins at San Diego State and at Air Force. Ironically, Smith likely wins the Mountain West's freshman of the year award once held by his predecessor.

Wyoming lost top wide receiver Chris McNeill, who suffered a season-ending arm injury last month against Air Force, but Mazi Ogbonna has filled the void as best he can, catching 39 balls and three touchdowns on the year.

Despite good defensive numbers from Luke Ruff, Brian Hendricks and Gabe Knapton, the Cowboys give up a lot of yards -- 432.25 per game. They rank 115th nationally in rush defense, yielding 230.8 yards per game on the ground.

Turnovers are the name of the game for the Cowboys, who rank fourth nationally in turnover margin with 31 takeaways on the season -- recovering 18 fumbles and 13 interceptions.

Temple opening eyes with fast start

September, 29, 2011
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Temple hit new highs under former coach Al Golden, but faced some uncertainty when he left for Miami.

Would new coach Steve Addazio be able to lift the program even further? After four games, that answer appears to be yes.

[+] EnlargeSteve Addazio
Howard Smith/US PresswireTemple coach Steve Addazio says the Owls take pride in their mental toughness.
The Owls just dominated Maryland in a 38-7 win, and they nearly upset Penn State the week before. Now at 3-1, they face a critical MAC test against Toledo, a team that has gotten close to pulling two upsets on AQ teams but fallen just short.

What Addazio has done is instill in his team a "lunch pail" mentality. That is no coincidence, either.

"I learned that this team, we're a physically tough football team, they like football, and they play hard," Addazio said this week. "That's a great starting point. We talk about being Temple tough and Philly proud. I'm not a big slogan guy. There's no T-shirts with slogans on them, but that means something to our football program -- that we are a tough football team and we play in a tough city. Our goal has to become increasingly mentally tougher."

That physicality has played out on both offense and defense. Temple leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing 7.8 yards a game. The Owls also lead the MAC in total defense, rushing defense, sacks and pass efficiency defense. The offensive line, the position group that Addazio used to coach as an assistant at Florida, has played better as well.

Indeed, running back Bernard Pierce is off to a terrific start, rushing for 496 yards and a nation-leading 12 touchdowns. He is averaging 5.7 yards a carry and has three 100-yard games already this season, on pace for a better season than his breakout freshman year in 2009.

Temple launched a Heisman campaign for Pierce last season, but he was hampered by injuries for most of the season. Pierce rededicated himself in the weight room this past offseason to work on his durability. He added 10 pounds and feels better than ever.

"I feel stronger," Pierce said in a phone interview. "This summer, I made sure I got more agility, and I worked on my lateral steps, burst and footwork."

Addazio has not shied away from playing two quarterbacks. Both Mike Gerardi and Chester Stewart have gotten game action, but Stewart will start this week against Toledo after a breakout performance against the Terps. Gerardi had started the first three games.

Stewart went 9-of-9 for 140 yards in the game. "He led the team," Addazio said. "I've been around some great quarterbacks. The mark to me of a great quarterback is the ability to lead, the ability to get your unit to play really hard and manage the game, and make the plays that are available to be made. Chester did a great job with that Saturday. He needs to be given that opportunity to do that again."

Addazio has managed his veteran team well, and brought a business-like approach along with a passion for the game. Temple is coming off back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1978, but his task is not just to maintain, but to elevate. The Owls fell just short of the MAC title game the past two seasons.

The Maryland win certainly is nice, but winning the MAC would be even better. That is why the players are not putting too much on the upset of the Terps. They have to keep bringing their lunch pails with them and go to work.

"It's always good to come out strong, but you can't get too big-headed and think we're on top because we're not," Pierce said. "We still have a lot of work to do."

Spring QB competition: MAC

February, 10, 2011
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Now it’s time to look at spring quarterback competitions in the MAC. There should be plenty of intrigue here, especially at Toledo and Miami (Ohio), where starters are returning from injury but finding they are not going to be shoo-ins to get their jobs back.

Ball State

Who’s competing: Kelly Page and Keith Wenning will compete once again in the spring. They are no strangers to competing against each other -- Wenning won the starting job from Page in 2010 as a true freshman. With new coach Pete Lembo set to install his no-huddle offense, both players are going to have to audition for that job. Keep in mind, Page and Wenning are the only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.

Buffalo

Who’s competing: The Bulls did plenty of quarterback shuffling last season under first-year coach Jeff Quinn, but nobody seemed to stick as the starter. So the competition is open once again headed into the spring between Jerry Davis, Alex Zordich and Alex Dennison. Davis will be a junior, while Zordich and Dennison will be sophomores. Davis started the majority of games last season, but Zordich did start a handful as a true freshmen. Neither put up stellar stats as they tried to learn the spread offense.

Kent State

Who’s competing: Spencer Keith returns, but he was wildly inconsistent last season, throwing for 2,212 yards, eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions. But with a new coach in Darrell Hazell, nobody is guaranteed of keeping their starting job. Expect a competition with Giorgio Morgan in the spring as Hazell installs more of a traditional offense. Morgan has been a career backup.

[+] EnlargeZac Dysert
Kim Klement/US PresswireMiami Redhawks quarterback Zac Dysert will be battling for the starting job in 2011.
Miami (Ohio)

Who’s competing: This is going to be a tremendous competition between Zac Dysert and Austin Boucher, two quarterbacks equally capable of leading this team. Dysert started the first 10 games of the season before injuring his ribs and sitting out the rest of the way. In came Boucher, who had only thrown 14 career passes to that point. But Boucher closed the season 4-0, with a come-from-behind win in the MAC championship game and then a win the GoDaddy.com Bowl against Middle Tennessee. Dysert threw for 2,406 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and completed 65 percent of his passes. Boucher threw for 1,120 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions, and completed 64 percent of his passes. With a new head coach on Don Treadwell, both go in with clean slates and an opportunity to impress.

Ohio

Who’s out: Boo Jackson

Who’s competing: Jackson and Phil Bates Bates have been involved in quarterback competitions themselves, so being in this position is nothing new for Bates. But this is opportunity to prove once and for all why he deserves to be the starter after taking a back seat to Jackson last season. He is a senior and the most experienced quarterback on the roster. But two will push him -- Kyle Snyder and Tyler Tettleton. Snyder redshirted as a true freshman last season, and Tettleton also redshirted and will be a sophomore. Tettleton attempted 23 passes in 2009.

Temple

Who’s competing: Chester Stewart began last season as the starter before then-coach Al Golden decided on a switch and put Mike Gerardi into the starting lineup during the Bowling Green game in October. Gerardi started the rest of the way, but it wasn’t enough to get the Owls into the MAC championship game. With new coach Steve Addazio taking over, both are in contention to become the starter. There is one more player in the mix -- Chris Coyer, a 6-foot-3 dual-threat, left-handed quarterback who has drawn comparisons to Tim Tebow. Addazio coached Tebow at Florida. Coyer’s bio says he worked out with Tebow in high school. Plenty of connections there for him to make a serious run at the starting job.

Toledo

Who’s competing: Another intriguing competition here between Austin Dantin, who began 2010 as the starter, and Terrance Owens, who filled in quite nicely down the stretch. Dantin injured his shoulder/collarbone at the end of October and missed the final four games of the season. Owens went 2-2 as a starter, but he ended up with a better quarterback rating than Dantin and threw 13 touchdowns to seven for Dantin.

Other non-AQ bowl misses

December, 15, 2010
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Earlier today, I had a breakdown on why Houston missed a bowl game this season. Now here is a breakdown of several other 2009 bowl teams that missed out in 2010.

Bowling Green

What happened: The Falcons had one of the youngest teams in the country going into the season and they had big shoes to fill with the departure of quarterback Tyler Sheehan and receiver Freddie Barnes. The offense struggled all season, especially the run game, which ranked last in the nation. The Falcons also lost four games by three points or fewer.

Bowling in 2011? Plenty of players return, so they should have the experience, but a big question is whether Matt Schilz can take the next step at quarterback. He already has his go-to target in Kamar Jorden.

Central Michigan

What happened: It's never easy to replace one of the best players in school history in Dan LeFevour, who led the team in rushing and passing last season. Ryan Radcliff held his own at quarterback, but threw way too many interceptions (17 TDs and 17 INTs). The Chippewas struggled to find consistency with their offensive line, failing to protect the quarterback (33 sacks allowed) or establish a decent run game. They also had problems taking care of the football, ranking as one of the worst in the country in turnover margin.

Bowling in 2011? It all depends on the development of Radcliff, and a big-time replacement for linebacker Nick Bellore.

Idaho

What happened: Quarterback Nathan Enderle may have thrown for more yards this season than last, but that is because he had way more attempts. The reason? Idaho could never get its running game going, averaging 88.5 yards a game. The offensive line was a problem because it also failed to protect Enderle -- Idaho gave up 45 sacks this season, third worst in the country. Enderle also saw his completion percentage and yards per attempt drop, and his interceptions go up (from nine to 16). The Vandals were also one of the most penalized teams in the nation.

Bowling in 2011? Leaning no. Idaho is losing Enderle and a lot of senior leadership in defensive end Aaron Lavarias, linebacker JoJo Dickson, safety Shiloh Keoh, tight end Daniel Hardy and receiver Eric Greenwood.

Marshall

What happened: Inconsistency at quarterback, along the offensive line and in the kicking game. Marshall struggled to run the ball, ranking No. 113 in the country and averaging 97.2 yards a game. Much of that was because of a young offensive line. The scoring suffered, too, as the Herd only averaged 20.8 points a game.

Bowling in 2011? Depends on what happens with the quarterback and offensive line. Brian Anderson is gone, leaving A.J. Graham and Eddie Sullivan as the lone returners with experience.

Temple

What happened: The Owls were bowl eligible at 8-4, but were not chosen to go bowling, thanks in part to two straight losses to close the year to Ohio and Miami (Ohio). Turnovers hurt in the loss to the Bobcats, and the offense just never showed up against the RedHawks. Leading rusher Bernard Pierce was banged up all season, though Matt Brown did a nice job filling in. The Owls also made a quarterback change midway through the season, finishing up with Mike Gerardi because Chester Stewart was too inconsistent.

Bowling in 2011? Depends on who Temple hires to replace Al Golden. There is talent here. Can the new coach continue to build on what Golden did the last two seasons?

Wyoming

What happened:A brutal schedule is what happened. After opening against Southern Utah, Wyoming played eight straight bowl teams, including nonconference games at Texas and home to Boise State. The offense took a step back, ranking No. 116 in total offense and 107 in scoring offense. Despite speculation that he may transfer, quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels will return. The Cowboys also dealt with tragedy early in the year when freshman Ruben Narcisse was killed in a car accident Sept. 6.

Bowling in 2011? It is going to be close. Wyoming has an easier out of conference schedule, but it does play two FCS schools. That means the Cowboys have to get to seven wins. They get Nebraska and TCU at home, but Air Force, Boise State and San Diego State on the road.

Lunchtime Links

October, 22, 2010
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These should help get you through the last day before a huge Week 8 Saturday.

TCU coach Gary Patterson said Ed Wesley was never in harm's way, trying to calm a brewing storm over a verbal confrontation he had with the team doctor that was caught on camera. Wesley had sustained a concussion, but now Patterson and Dr. Sam Haraldson are blaming poor communication on the incident.

Utah comes out a big winner in Pac-12 divisional alignment.

Boise State is focusing on finishing strong.

If Fresno State center Joe Bernardi can play against San Jose State, he will see a familiar face on the opposite sideline: his father, Gary, the Spartans' offensive line coach.

Houston is working to tighten up its third-down defense.

Trey Ragland will kick field goals for UAB this weekend, taking over for Josh Zahn, who is just 3-of-12 on the season.

UCF RB Ronnie Weaver landed in the right place.

Football pedigree is a vital part of the search for a new coach at North Texas.

Temple is going with two quarterbacks against Buffalo -- Chester Stewart and Mike Gerardi.
We told you about quarterback battles still going on among the non-AQ schools in a two part series yesterday: Part I and Part II.

Here is a look at the quarterback battles that have already been decided as we close in on the start of the season:

Akron

Winner: Patrick Nicely.

Buzz: Nicely and Matt Rodgers played pretty evenly throughout fall camp and split the reps evenly. But Nicely emerged thanks to his play throughout the spring and camp. He started seven games as a true freshman in 2009, completing 120 of 222 passes for 1,349 yards and six touchdowns.

Bowling Green

Winner: Matt Schilz.

Buzz: With Tyler Sheehan gone, Bowling Green turns to the redshirt freshman, who has never thrown a pass in a collegiate game. The Falcons have had much stability at the quarterback position, so it will be interesting to see how Schilz does this season.

Colorado State

Winner: Pete Thomas.

Buzz: The highly touted true freshman enrolled in school early and beat out redshirt freshman Nico Ranieri. The last time a freshman started at quarterback for Colorado State was Caleb Hanie in 2004.

[+] EnlargeStewart
Hunter Martin/Getty ImagesTemple's Chester Stewart needs to improve his completion percentage for the Owls to succeed this season.
Louisiana Tech

Winner: Steven Ensminger.

Buzz: The Auburn transfer found new life under new coach Sonny Dykes’ spread offense. After playing tight end last spring under former coach Derek Dooley, Ensminger was able to beat out Ross Jenkins, who started parts of the past two seasons.

Marshall

Winner: Brian Anderson.

Buzz: The incumbent survived a challenge from A.J. Graham, Eddie Sullivan and former Clemson player Willie Korn to emerge as the starter once again. Korn ended up transferring. Important to note: Anderson is learning his third different offense, now that new coach Doc Holliday is there.

New Mexico

Winner: B.R. Holbrook.

Buzz: Holbrook won the job over freshman Tarean Austin and Brad Gruner, and coach Mike Locksley cited his knowledge of the offense, the way he moved the team during scrimmages and his mostly error-free play.

New Mexico State

Winner: Matt Christian.

Buzz: Coach DeWayne Walker went with the junior college transfer over Jeff Fleming, who was 1-7 as a starter last season. Christian had been nursing a sore elbow during camp. Watch for Andrew Manley, a freshman from Hawaii, in case Walker decides not to redshirt him.

North Texas

Winner: Nathan Tune.

Buzz: Tune got the opportunity to compete for the starting job with Derek Thompson after last season’s starter, Riley Dodge, moved to wide receiver because of the accumulation of injuries to his arm. Tune, a former walk-on, has served as the backup the past two seasons.

Temple

Winner: Chester Stewart.

Buzz: Stewart emerged as the leader for the job during the spring when Vaughn Charlton moved from quarterback to tight end. Stewart played last season but had his struggles, completing 40 percent of his passes, throwing for three touchdowns and three interceptions.

UAB

Winner: David Isabelle.

Buzz: Isabelle won the job over Bryan Ellis to replace Joe Webb. Coach Neil Callaway cited Isabelle’s athleticism, but also said Ellis would play this season. Isabelle has played in spot duty behind Webb.

Western Kentucky

Winner: Kawaun Jakes.

Buzz: The sophomore started eight games last season, and coach Willie Taggart says Jakes has shown potential to be a very good quarterback in the new West Coast offense that is being installed. Jakes missed nearly all of spring after injuring his ankle during a pickup basketball game and had to work his way back into Taggart’s good graces.
Chester Stewart was officially named starting quarterback at Temple over the weekend, an announcement that was a mere formality.

Stewart emerged as the starter during the spring following a competition with Vaughn Charlton, who started for the majority of 2009. Charlton was moved to tight end just before the spring game, clearing the way for Stewart to take over.

"It’s apparent to the staff and perhaps more significantly his teammates, that after two weeks of training camp, Chester has unmistakably distinguished himself as the starting QB both on and off the field,” Coach Al Golden said in a statement released by the school.

Stewart has started seven games -- four last season and three as a redshirt freshman in 2008. Stewart went 26-of-65 for 514 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions while rushing for two touchdowns in relief of Charlton last season. Indeed, Stewart is more mobile than Charlton and adds a different dimension to the offense. With Bernard Pierce returning in the backfield, along with both starting receivers, the Owls could make big gains.

One area Stewart has really worked on his is accuracy. He only completed 40 percent of his passes last season (compared to 50 percent for Charlton). Offensive coordinator Matt Rhule said Stewart completed 70 percent of his passes in the last scrimmage Temple had.

"We feel extremely confident in his ability to move our team,” Matt Rhule said in a statement. “He has demonstrated poise, maturity, and production throughout camp.”

Redshirt freshman Chris Coyer and redshirt junior Mike Gerardi will serve as the backups. Temple opens the season Sept. 3 against Villanova.

Temple spring wrap

May, 6, 2010
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2009 overall record: 9-4

2009 conference record: 5-1 (T 1st/MAC East)

Returning starters
Offense:
9, defense: 7, punter/kicker: 1/1

Top returners
RB Bernard Pierce, DB Jaiquawn Jarrett, LB Elijah “Peanut” Joseph

Key losses
LB Alex Joseph, TE Steve Maneri, DB Dominique Harris, NT Andre Neblett, OL Devin Tyler (all in NFL now)

2009 statistical leaders (* denotes returners)

Rushing: *Bernard Pierce (1,361 yards / 16 TDs)
Passing: Vaughn Charlton (1,390 yards / 10 TDs)
Receiving: *Joe Jones (387 yards / 1 TD)
Tackles: Alex Joseph (49-31-80 tackles / 5.5 TFL)
Sacks: *Adrian Robinson (13 sacks)
Interceptions: *Marquise Liverpool (3 int.)

Spring answers

1. Quarterback competition settled: One of the biggest questions heading into spring was about the starting quarterback. Both Vaughn Charlton and Chester Stewart played a year ago and the competition was heated through the early portion spring. However, as Stewart started to take the edge, Charlton decided to switch to tight end. Charlton is now the team’s top tight end and coach Al Golden expects him to have a big year.

2. Building O-line depth: The starting offensive line was a little nicked up this spring, which allowed several younger linemen to get quality reps and experience. That will definitely pay off, especially if any of the injuries become nagging.

3. Leading the linebackers: Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio took over as the linebackers coach this spring and the change in that position group was almost immediate. Elijah Joseph is the only returning linebacker with quality starting experience, but the Owls have quality players in Tahir Whitehead, Marcus Green, and Jordan Martin.

Fall questions

1. Can Pierce stay healthy? Running back Bernard Pierce had a breakout season a year ago and was largely the reason why the Owls went on a nine-game winning streak. However, he suffered a shoulder late in the season and wasn’t healthy for the rest of the year. Pierce could easily have another 1,000-yard season if he stays healthy.

2. Backup QBs making a push: Chester Stewart is the starting quarterback, but the Owls haven’t used just one quarterback the entire time Golden has been the coach. Chris Coyer and Mike Gerardi both had good springs and they’ll both be competing for reps in the fall.

3. Fixing special teams: The Owls were good on kick and punt returns, but the challenge for new special team coach Sean Desai is getting the punting up with the rest of the conference. The Owls averaged 32.55 yards per punt with Jeff Wathne, but sophomore Brandon McManus has a chance to earn the starting role and make that average better.
Vaughn Charlton opened the 2009 season as Temple’s starting quarterback; he’ll open the 2010 season as the starting tight end.

Charlton, a junior who spent most of the spring in a fierce quarterback competition with sophomore Chester Stewart, was moved to tight end before the spring game on April 17, and has risen to the top spot on the Owls’ depth chart.

[+] EnlargeVaughn Charlton
Mark Goldman/Icon SMIVaughn Charlton would have likely been the No. 2 quarterback if he didn't change positions.
"He [Charlton] wanted to do it," coach Al Golden said during the Mid-American coaches teleconference Tuesday. "He saw there was a need there. We weren't getting the production that we wanted … He thought it was a good move for him, and in the end it was like we grew as a team because he’s supporting Chester and Chester’s supporting him.”

Last season, Charlton played in 12 games at quarterback and completed 94 of 190 passes for 1,231 yards and nine touchdowns. He has no tight end experience at the collegiate level, but Golden said what Charlton lacks in technique he makes up for in willingness to work hard and learn.

"This isn't a stopgap measure,” Golden said. “This is a kid that runs well, that’s 250 pounds at 6-5, he’s got excellent hands, a great concept of how to run routes and when to sit down in zones because of his days at quarterback. So, he’s someone we’re really excited about.”

Golden said that as spring progressed it was clear that Stewart, who had come on late last season as a threat to Charlton’s starting role, had moved into the starting spot. Last season, Stewart started three games and won all three. He completed 26 of 65 passes for 514 yards and three touchdowns on the season.

“I thought clearly he comes out of spring as the No. 1 quarterback,” Golden said. “He finished the last three or four practices completing over 65 percent of his throws and was clearly the guy making the most plays. And most of them were with his arm and not his feet, which we know he can do. So, I was really pleased with him.”

Golden said he also was pleased with the play of redshirt freshman Chris Coyer, Stewart’s primary backup, and junior Mike Gerardi, which gave him enough confidence to move Charlton from under center.

Golden acknowledged that he would have liked to have moved Charlton to tight end a couple of years ago, but because the program was changing and the Owls didn’t have the depth at quarterback, a move didn't make sense. Now, Golden said, he thinks the move will pay dividends for his program.

“It’s a much more comfortable position for him in terms of his leadership and his personality,” Golden said. “I think it’s a match … Now we're going to have two leaders in the huddle instead of just one.”

What to watch in the MAC this spring

February, 16, 2010
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Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each team in the MAC heading into the spring:

Akron Zips

Spring practice starts: March 24

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

" New head coach Rob Ianello takes over an Akron squad that hasn’t had a winning season since 2005. The Zips struggled last year averaging 19.25 points per game on offense and gave up 28.75 points per game on defense. This spring's goal will be to find playmakers to bring both sides of the ball on par with the rest of the league.

" The Zips had a running back by committee system last year, but none of their backs had more than 250 yards. Two of the team’s top three rushers are gone and the rest are freshmen and sophomores. Ianello signed five tailbacks in his first class.

" The defense struggled to put pressure on the quarterback as the Zips finished with 11 sacks. Opponents scored touchdowns on 66 percent of opportunities inside the red zone. Shoring up the defensive line and the linebackers will be an emphasis this spring.

Ball State Cardinals

Spring practice starts: March 24

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

" Sophomore quarterback Kelly Page tries to regain the starting role after missing the second half of the season with thumb surgery. The Cardinals were winless with him in the lineup, but he improved as the season progressed. Redshirt freshman Aaron Mershman will vie for the role in the spring before highly-touted recruit Keith Wenning joins the competition in the fall.

" Running back MiQuale Lewis and tight end Madaris Grant are both awaiting word from the NCAA about a possible sixth season. Both are team leaders and are the top players at their respective positions.

" Losing defensive coordinator Doug Graber is a blow to the Cardinals. Although he was only with the team for a season, the defense was one of the team's bright spots and got better as the season progressed. The Cardinals have yet to name a replacement.

Bowling Green Falcons

Spring practice starts: March 19

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:

" Replacing quarterback Tyler Sheehan will be one of the biggest chores since he took 95 percent of the snaps for the past three seasons. Aaron Pankratz was the backup last year and the leader heading into spring. But redshirt Matt Schiltz, walk-on Kellen Pagel and December enrollee Caleb Watkins will all be in the mix.

" Freddie Barnes was the Falcons best offensive weapon and it will be hard to find a replacement. Overall, the Falcons lose three of their top five receivers, and one of those returning is running back Wille Geter.

" Rebuilding the defense will be a priority after losing seven players, including the entire line backers corps and three-fourths of the secondary. There is a lot of young talent waiting, it is just a matter of gelling during spring ball.

Buffalo Bulls

Spring practice starts: March 20

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

" Losing quarterback Zach Maynard, who decided to transfer last month, hurt their offense. He would have been the starter heading into the season, but now sophomore Jerry Davis and redshirt freshman Alex Dennison will duke it out this spring before two freshmen arrive in August.

" The Bulls have to replace top receivers Naaman Roosevelt and Brett Hamlin and have several candidates to do so. Juniors Terrell Jackson, Marcus Rivers and Ed Young, and redshirt freshmen Fred Lee and Alex Neutz will compete for playing time.

" New head coach Jeff Quinn is going to install a more wide-open offensive system at Buffalo, however finding the right guys to play it will be a challenge. There are athletes remaining at Buffalo, but the loss of players such as Maynard and Roosevelt will make the transition slower.

(Read full post)

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