Anthony Turner replaces record-setting QB Omar Jacobs who bolted early for the NFL. Turner was the MAC’s top rated freshman prospect two years ago. Last season Turner played when Jacobs was hurt during the middle of the season and completed over 60% of his passes for nearly 500 yards, two TDs and four INTs. Turner is a terrific athlete who may not put up the gaudy numbers of Jacobs, but will still be one of the better QBs in the MAC this season. A downside to Turner’s continued development is that much of receiving and running corps graduated. BG will not average as much as their 284-yards per game through the air this year, which ranked 17th nationally. Freddie Barnes, Tony Hunter and Tyler Sheehan are the backups.
Running Backs BGSU graduated PJ Pope and BJ Lane who together rushed for nearly 1,200 yards last year. Dan Macon, a very physical (6-1, 210) specimen, is the starter this year after taking a redshirt last season. Macon hasn’t played very much during his career but certainly has the size and speed to be successful in the Falcons wide-open spread offense. Bobby Thomas recorded 243-all purpose yards last year as a true freshman and is the top reserve RB. Pete Winovich is a ‘jack of all trades’ type of player and will line up as a RB, FB, TE or even a receiver in certain alignments. As a team last season, the Falcons rushed for 144-yards per game. They may exceed that this year if they dedicate themselves since QB Anthony Turner can certainly run well and due to the current RB depth listed.
Receivers/Tight Ends Year in and year out the Falcons put together one of the league’s top receiving corps but replacing Charles Sharon and Steve Sanders will be very difficult. Together they accounted for nearly 2,000 yards last year and 20 TDs. Who will step up and make up for those numbers? Ruben Ruiz come into the program as a JUCO TE prospect last season but the 6-4 250-pound senior (who looks like KC Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez) will line up more at WR this season. Ruiz only made 11 receptions last year but will be a big part of the offense this fall. Corey Partridge and Marquis Parks also return but together they combined for just 32 receptions in 2005. Sean O’Drobinak is the TE. There is talent within the overall receiving unit but the question remains, can these new starters continue to tremendous production that their predecessors have done over the past three seasons.
Offensive Linemen All-MAC Kory Lichtensteiger is one of the MAC’s best offensive linemen and already has been receiving interest from NFL scouts. Lichtensteiger has played OG most of his career but will likely be moving to center this fall. The O-line also returns Derrick Markay and Drew Nystrom. John Lanning and Kevin Huelsman are the new starters but each has a lot of game experience. Eight of BG’s top ten O-linemen return this fall making this area a team strength. There is very good size, experience, depth and a few highly talented individuals in this unit. Overall the OL should be better than last years.
Defensive Linemen The defensive line will have a lot of youth this fall and will lack Division I-A size. Devon Parks (6-3, 250) and Diyral Briggs (6-4, 220) are the defensive ends. Each has good speed but lack the bulk to continuously take on 320-pound offensive tackles. Thomas James, Joe Schaefer and Darius Smith are the top backups. The interior DTs are Nick Davis (6-3, 275), Matt Leininger (6-3, 280) and Brad Williams (6-3, 260). True freshmen DJ Young (6-5, 285) and Orlando Barrow (6-2, 270) will be asked to contribute right away. Last year BG gave 173-yards per game on the ground, which ranked 83rd nationally. They will be hard-pressed to repeat those figures again unless the youngsters come in and really impress.
Linebackers The graduation losses were significant at LB and the Falcons desperately need some new faces to step up right away. Terrel White generated 100-total tackles last year and earned all-conference recognition. He is the lone returning starter in this area. Erique Dozier moves over to the other OLB spot after playing safety last year. He has terrific speed (4.45/40) but lacks size at 6-1 205. John Haneline, Cody Balser and Nick Lawrence are vying for the starting MLB. Highly recruited Brandon Jackson may see immediate playing time as a true freshman.
Defensive Backs CB Antonio Smith had two INTs returned for TDs last year. The other CB is Kenny Lewis. BG has two very solid safeties in Deaudre Perry and Loren Hargrove. Both are in the 6-foot 210 range and can run and hit with the best. True freshman PJ Mahone is one of the best recruits entering the MAC this year – he will see playing time in defensive backfield this fall. Jamal Brown is another highly recruited freshman (originally as a RB prospect) who may see time right away at CB. The Falcons ranked 37th in pass defense giving up 205-yards per game through the air, a number that should improved this year.
Special Teams BG missed eight extra point tries in 2005 – worst in the MAC. Two highly recruited true freshmen will likely handle the kicking duties this fall in PK Sean Ellis and punter Alonso Rojas. Both are Floridians so it remains to be seen how effective these two will kick during the cold November weather of NW Ohio and in a stadium known for strong winds. Brandon Jones and Corey Patridge are the return specialists. BGSU’s special teams play may be feast or famine this fall – no one knows.
Final Thoughts BGSU has been on a role with five straight winning seasons since 2001. During this time period the Falcons have posted an impressive 41-14 record and have posted wins over Missouri (twice), Northwestern (twice) and Purdue. Last year was supposed to be the year that BG would finally win the conference title for the first time since 1992. What resulted as a disappointing 6-5 season that saw Omar Jacobs get hurt and ultimately leave early for the NFL. This year BG is rebuilding a little but still has the players to make a run at the east title since there is no clear cut favorite in that division. The Falcons have a very good offensive line, some under-rated RBs who will have a good ’06 season, a capable QB in Anthony Turner, and some good youngsters at WR who should blossom. The defensive line is where the issues really come to play since there is limited depth and very little size. Questions also remain within the LB corps and special teams area. Toss in road games against Wisconsin (in Cleveland), Ohio State, Ohio, CMU, Akron and Toledo and it’s hard to see much more than a 6-6 or 7-5 record. BG may find themselves in another bowl (third in the last four years) but that will be a long shot given this schedule.
Mark it down! The Falcons will beat Temple again – but not by as much. Talk about a laugher, BG has scored 70-points on Temple each of the last two seasons in lopsided wins (70-16 & 70-7). The Falcons also beat the Owls by 19 points in 2001. This year’s BG team does not have the same offensive firepower as the last two seasons and may only beat Temple by three or four touchdowns.
Schedule Analysis Very interesting - BG basically has four home games since the Wisconsin contest will be played in Cleveland. A no-win situation at Ohio State is offset with trips to Florida International and Temple. Crossover games are Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Toledo. Hosting Miami is a plus, traveling to Akron and Ohio is not.
Most Important Game At Ohio on September 30. The Falcons are 4-0 against Ohio since 2001 and have won each contest by an average of 30 points. This year the Bobcats look to be much improved and this game will be their early season litmus test. BG cannot afford an early September MAC loss with road trips to Central Michigan, Akron and Toledo to follow. A win in Athens keeps BG in the MAC East Division hunt.