NCF Nation: Kyle McMahon

What to watch in the MAC this spring

February, 16, 2010
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.

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Posted by’s Graham Watson

Eastern Michigan coach Ron English is undecided as to who will take over for starting quarterback Andy Schmitt, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Michigan on Sept. 19.

The Eagles have been off since that game and both junior Kyle McMahon and freshman Alex Gillett have been taking first-team reps in practice.

Gillett came in at the end of the fourth quarter of the Michigan game after Schmitt was injured and completed 2-of-4 passes for nine yards and rushed for 36 yards.

Gillett is the frontrunner to start this weekend’s Mid-American Conference opener against Temple.

English said on Monday’s MAC teleconference, that he felt bad that Schmitt ended his career with an injury. Schmitt was the team’s best player and a team leader. He finished his career ranked second in school history in career completions (607) and total offensive plays (1,210), third in career pass attempts (966), passing yards (5,867), and total offensive yards (6,745) and tied for fourth in career touchdown passes (33).

In three games this season, Schmitt had completed 51-of-81 passes for 428 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions.

English said Schmitt would still be a part of the team.

“He’s been through a lot here in terms of playing and they haven’t had the great success that they would hope for,” English said. “I just think that he’s very valuable as a person. We want to always have him around. Like I told him, he needs to be at everything. And we’re going to still travel him with the team and keep him with the team because he can help our team that way.”

Eastern Michigan now faces a huge uphill battle at 0-3 and starting a inexperienced quarterback. The Eagles play a Temple team that defeated Buffalo 37-13 last week and is 4-0 all-time against Eastern Michigan.