The explosive offenses that define the Mid-American Conference start with outstanding quarterback play. From Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich; to Ben Roethlisberger, Josh Harris, Josh Cribbs and Charlie Frye; to Dan LeFevour, Chandler Harnish and Zac Dysert; and now, Jordan Lynch leading the next generation of MAC quarterbacks.
Many teams around the MAC are breaking in new starters this season, which makes ranking them a bit of a crap shoot. A surprise could emerge, much as the clear-cut No. 1 did in 2012.
1. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
One of the big questions in MAC football this time a year ago was how Northern Illinois could replace quarterback Chandler Harnish. The Northern Illinois play maker was a four-year starter and the soul of two double-digit-win teams.
Jordan Lynch didn’t just fill in for Harnish; he actually outdid his predecessor. Lynch closed the regular season with superior statistics to Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.
2. Tyler Tettleton, Ohio
Before Lynch’s emergence, Tyler Tettleton was the MAC’s premier dual-threat quarterback.
Last season, he took a step back statistically virtually across the board: he accrued 3306 yards, 28 touchdowns and 64.2 percent completions; 658 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011, opposed to 2844 yards, 18 touchdowns and 62.1 percent completions with 244 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 2012.
Nevertheless, Tettleton was still quite effective. He threw just four interceptions all season.
3. Keith Wenning, Ball State
Keith Wenning’s ranking is dependant on his recovery from knee surgery, though head coach Pete Lembo said the quarterback should be available by Week 1.
The MAC has consistently produced quarterbacks over the last decade who command attention from NFL scouts. The most recent was Miami’s Zac Dysert. Wenning could be the next.
He has NFL size at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds. He also sees the field well. Last season, that translated to a 65.4 percent completion rating and nearly 3100 yards. Cutting down on turnovers and unleashing a more consistent deep ball are key to Wenning having a breakout season. He’ll have one of the nation’s best wideouts helping in that endeavor, Willie Snead.
4. Terrance Owens, Toledo
Toledo has a two-quarterback rotation no longer. Austin Dantin’s graduation means the show is Terrance Owens’ exclusively.
Owens’ passing numbers regressed somewhat in 2012 from 2011, but he was used in more of a two-way role. Last season, he rushed for 395 yards and five touchdowns. That added facet to his game makes Owens an intriguing weapon alongside standout running back David Fluellen. Owens also has a top tier receiving target in Bernard Reedy.
5. Tyler Van Tubbergen, Western Michigan
As Northern Illinois’ offensive coordinator last season, new Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck helped Jordan Lynch to one of the best statistical seasons of any quarterback in college football.
Departed WMU coach Bill Cubit ran a pass-heavy offense, but Van Tubbergen showed off a rushing ability that should fit nicely with what Fleck ran at NIU. He gained 109 yards and scored two touchdowns on the ground in the Broncos’ final three games, while also passing for over 1000 yards.
Van Tubbergen could very well be the conference’s big, breakout star of 2013.
6. Austin Boucher, Miami
Those of you who tuned into a very good MAC championship game in 2010 will remember Austin Boucher. His 29 completions for 333 yards were both career highs. His stint as starter also featured two-touchdown performances against eight-win Temple, and in the bowl game vs. MTSU. In fact, Boucher was undefeated in a four-game stretch to cap the RedHawks’ 10-win campaign.
He’s spent the last two seasons as understudy to Zac Dysert. There are certainly worse roles to have, as Dysert was selected in April’s NFL draft.
7. Matt Schilz, Bowling Green
Matt Schilz is the conference’s most veteran quarterback, entering his fourth year captaining the Falcon offense. There’s certainly something to be said for his experience, though Schilz must improve his consistency.
His completion percentage has dipped every season. He also saw a drastic drop in his touchdown passes, throwing 14 in 2012 after scoring double that in 28. Schilz also had a rocky finish to the season, throwing six interceptions in the Falcons’ final two regular season games, and completed just 46 percent of his attempts in the bowl game.
8. David Fisher, Kent State
Spencer Keith was something of a complementary piece in a Golden Flash offense that featured Trayion Durham and Dri Archer. David Fisher will fill similar role with each of the KSU running backs returning.
A product of Southern California prep powerhouse Vista and Palomar College, Fisher appeared sparingly in 2012. He had a 60-yard rushing performance against Eastern Michigan, and threw a touchdown in mop-up duty against Towson.
9. Cody Kater/Alex Niznak, Central Michigan
Ryan Radcliff is the only quarterback CMU head coach Dan Enos has known. Radcliff exits on the high note of leading the Chippewas on a season-ending, four-game win streak. Whomever wins the ongoing quarterback competition has that momentum to ride into 2013, as well as one of the conference’s best running backs, Zurlon Tipton, for support.
Cody Kater appeared in two games last season, but attempted passes in only one. He threw for all of 12 yards last season. Still, when Enos and staff broke in Radcliff in his first year as a starter, he passed for a career high 3358 yards.
10. Kyle Pohl/Nick Hirschman, Akron
First year Zips head coach Terry Bowden introduced a pass-heavy offensive scheme last year, and quarterback Dalton Williams flourished. He threw for 24 touchdowns and over 3500 yards. Williams is gone, opening a quarterback competition in Bowden’s season second.
Transfer Nick Hirschman appeared in seven games at Colorado last season, including against Utah wherein he passed 51 times for 306 yards. However, The Akron Beacon Journal reports that Kyle Pohl is the “likely starter.”
Pohl started the season finale against Toledo. He threw for two touchdowns against the Rockets to cap the season with five scores. He tossed another three in a rout of Morgan State.
11. Joe Licata, Buffalo
After assuming the reins from injured Alex Zordich, Joe Licata led Buffalo on a three-game winning streak in the Bulls’ final four-game stretch. He passed for five of his seven touchdowns during that stretch.
Licata is a pure drop-back passer, which is a deviation from previous UB quarterbacks. However, he has outstanding running back Branden Oliver to handle the rushing duties.
12. Mike Wegzyn, UMass
Mike Wegzyn appeared in 11 of UMass’ first 12 FBS games, yet threw just six touchdowns. However, he exhibited some flashes of brilliance and a dual-threat ability.
Four of Wegzyn’s passing touchdowns came against Ohio. He also rushed for a touchdown against Indiana.
13. Tyler Benz, Eastern Michigan
The Eastern Michigan offense isn’t overly reliant on the pass. Still, Tyler Benz having four games wherein he failed to complete 10 passes is problematic.
EMU ranked No. 108 nationally with the pass at just over 170 yards per game. Benz threw for a little over 1500, with the departed Alex Gillette accounting for the rest.