(Our spring wraps are a recap of events from spring practices from around the country. For more detailed information on each team see our Conference Look Aheads)
The MAC continues to climb the charts of fantasy-worthy conferences, and spring practice reports support our opinion that those in All-120 leagues would be very wise to camp out in the conference known as the "Cradle of Coaches." Yet even if you decide to pass on these under-the-radar gridders on draft day you’ll want to keep tabs on MAC players all season. This is a conference where a walk-on can suddenly emerge as a star fantasy producer, and relatively unknown 5’6” tailbacks can become superstars.
Movers and Shakers (newbies that made noise)
QB Kelly Page, Ball St.
QB Zach Maynard, Buffalo
QB Giorgio Morgan, Kent State
RB Me'co Brown, Northern Illinois
RB Morgan Williams, Toledo
RB Nate Burney, Akron
RB Chris Bullock, Bowling Green
WR Robert Arnheim, Western Michigan
WR Ray Hutson, Bowling Green
WR Bakari Bussey, Ohio
Page and Brown have good upside potential. But unless you are in a MAC-only league, take a wait and see approach on the above names.
The Zips’ spring focus was finding a replacement for running back Dennis Kennedy, but thanks to the continued injury woes of expected starter Alex Allen (hip) and the Achilles surgery of Dale Martin we still have no #1 guy in the backfield. Runner Nate Burney showed flashes this spring, though we still like Allen if healthy.
The big news heading into spring ball was the two new coaches brought in by coach J.D. Brookhart. Former Miami (Oh.) head coach Shane Montgomery will lead the offense and well-traveled QB coach Walt Harris will assist him. And both new coaches will work with a veteran QB in Chris Jacquemain, and all parties leave spring feeling excited about what the offense can do in 2009.
A little bit of running news, passing news and kicking news emerged from Muncie this spring, and each little nugget is newsworthy for the fantasy owner. After all this is a program that saw its quarterback, running back and kicker conclude 2008 among the nation’s leaders in 2008.
New coach Stan Parrish named Kelly Page his starter heading into fall camp, and based on the offensive scheme and Parrish’s experience with some pretty decent college quarterbacks we’re high on Page’s potential. Though clearly the Ball State Cardinals of 2009 will be built around MiQuale Lewis, and the staff took no chances this spring, holding their star tailback out of contact drills.
Spring ended with no decision made on the status of talented kicker Ian McGarvey, who was suspended following a February arrest for DUI.
We’re left to draw three conclusions based on coach Dave Clawson’s first spring in Bowling Green, Ohio. One, quarterback Tyler Sheehan has the potential to exceed his 28 scores of 2008. Two, WR Freddie Barnes, WR Ray Hutson and TE Jimmy Scheidler will serve as Sheehan’s primary receivers, with Barnes being the big producer. Three, the running attack has RBBC written all over it.
If spring is any indication we’ll see Chris Bullock, Chris Dunlap and eventually Willie Geter battle for regular carries, making each one to avoid for now.
This spring’s emergence of Zach Maynard was great news to owners that have invested roster spots in running back James Starks and wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt. Both Bulls’ offensive stars are national fantasy factors, but the biggest question entering camp was who would replace Drew Willy? Thankfully Maynard removed all doubt.
This offense will certainly revolve around Starks, who sat out spring drills to deal with some annoying injuries. But a balanced attack is good for all parties.
Central Michigan’s primary mission this spring was to keep dynamic senior quarterback Dan LeFevour healthy. Mission accomplished. Dapper Dan played just one series in the spring game before donning a baseball camp and preparing for a big senior season.
The other development in Mount Pleasant was the likely by-committee approach to the running game, with Butch Jones mentioning a whole bunch of backs as possible starters.
By all accounts new Eastern Michigan coach Ron English had a very successful spring in Ypsi, though the cupboard is far from stocked. Coach was pleased with the development of his offensive line, and this is good news to owners of senior quarterback Andy Schmitt, a gunslinger who may have to fire about 50 times per outing to give the Eagles a puncher’s chance in 2009.
It’s safe to a say that a 3-0 defensive battle during the spring game doesn't exactly instill a whole bunch of confidence in fantasy freaks. Of course we’re willing to cut the Golden Flashes a little slack considering stud running back Eugene Jarvis was held out of the game following light duty this spring to minimize the risk of injury. Like James Starks at Buffalo we know what we have in Jarvis, a top fantasy back. Though we can’t say we’re thrilled that he will be returning punts this fall as well.
In other Kent State news strong-armed Giorgio Morgan appears to be leading the QB race over Anthony Magazu heading into fall camp. Neither inspires in a Julian Edelman kind of way. And tight end Justin Thompson missed spring drills due to knee surgery.
Despite the arrival of former Irish offensive assistant Mike Haywood, this spring did little to inspire fantasy owners looking to raid Oxford. Quarterbacks Daniel Raudabaugh and Zac Dysert were steady but not spectacular.
Until Haywood can fire up his recruiting train we’re likely looking at one team in the MAC that would like to engage in some defensive slugfests.
Young Me'co Brown was the story of the spring, and reports had the young back making huge strides, so many in fact that he’s likely to push Chad Spann for the starting running back job this fall. Otherwise there are plenty of MAC schools to raid before you start nabbing Huskies.
Spring reports from Frank Solich’s Ohio camp depict a quarterback battle between Theo Scott and Boo Jackson that will likely continue into the fall. Bakari Bussey is a young wide receiver that earned the praise of his coach, and with his size he’s one to watch.
Running backs Kee-Ayre Griffin and Joe Jones each had a nice spring, and they’re looking like a couple of fellas willing to share carries. Vaughn Charlton and Chester Stewart will continue to battle for the starting quarterback job, and wide reciever Delano Green should join Jason Harper as leaders of the passing attack.
The first spring under former Oklahoma State assistant Tim Beckman was rather uneventful. It’s unlikely we'll see Stillwater-style fireworks at the Glass Bowl this season, though there may be some that emerge. Quarterback Aaron Opelt hurt his shoulder during spring ball, but he should be ready for fall camp.
Based on the spring game it looks like running back Morgan Williams will carry the load, and should the offense begin to click he could be a factor, especially down the stretch, when Toledo will likely need to engage in some shootouts to hang around.
We aren’t worried about Tim Hiller sitting out spring camp following ACL surgery in January, and now that the quarterback is heading on a mission to Trinidad we’re even more confident that he’ll be good to go this fall. Expect him to wing the pigskin to WR Juan Nunez frequently as someone has to step in for the departed Jamarko Simmons.
We read the name of WR Robert Arnheim quite a bit this spring, and he led all Bronco pass catchers with 6-115-1 in the spring game. Just a name to file away.