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Pre-Season MAC Quarterback Rankings

IT'S AUGUST!! Which means football is BACK! And you know what else? MAC Football is back. The season starts off with Ball State traveling to Knoxville to play the Volunteers of Tennessee. By that time, QB battles will be settled and coaches will have a game plan ready, Let's take a look at the situations teams are in (or not in)!

1. Rocky Lombardi - Northern Illinois

NIU is one of the few teams in the MAC this season that does not have to worry about who will be under center come week one, as the Michigan State transfer is pretty secure in that role. The redshirt senior from Iowa is coming off a Mid-American Conference championship (beating Kent State 41-23) and a season where he completed 200-of-343 passes (58.3 percent) for 2,597 yards with 15 touchdowns passes and only 8 interceptions. He also ranked 4th on the team with 473 rushing yards on 94 carries. Outside of winning the MAC last season, Rocky led a comeback in Atlanta vs Georgia Tech, completing 11-17 for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns, while rushing for 23 yards on 5 carries. Coach Hammock is ready to defend his team's conference championship, and he knows that he can trust Rocky with this young but talented offense.

2. Daniel Richardson - Central Michigan

Looking at overall offensive production, no school in the MAC is close to Central Michigan. The dynamic duo of Daniel Richardson and Lew Nichols is going to keep defensive coordinators awake at night. Richardson played in all 13 games, but only started the final 9. He was 191-316 (60.4 percent) for 2,633 yards and 24 touchdowns against just 6 interceptions. CMU defeated Washington State in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl where Richardson was 18/24 for 209 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. Yes, the loss of Kalil Pimpleton is a massive blow, (960 yards and 4 TDs) but as long as the offensive line can protect Richardson, and create lanes for Nichols, CMU has a REALLY good chance of going to Detroit this December.

3. Brett Gabbert - Miami (OH)

Gabbert comes into this season having played in 10 games and starting 10 last season, he earned 3rd Team All-MAC, Academic All-MAC Finished the year with 2,648 yards and 26 TDs while throwing only 6 INTs. Threw for 492 yards, third-most in school history (behind Ben Roethlisberger 525 vs NIU and Zac Dryst 516 vs Akron) and five touchdowns at Ohio. Gabbert is joined by redshirt senior Transfer Mac Hippenhamer (who played in 12 games, making 11 starts. He ended the season with 48 catches for 786 yards and 5 touchdowns) and Jalen Walker (played in all 13 games, starting 6 and finished the season with 31 catches for 398 yards and 4 TDs). As an added bonus, Keyon Mozee will be in the backfield (Played in all 13 games, made three starts, and led the team with 556 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns). Coach Martin has high expectations for Brett, even declaring that this is a kid we will see on Sundays.

4. Dequan Finn - Toledo

Last year, the freshman dazzled Toledo fans and MAC fans alike, playing a part in Toledo’s near upset of Notre Dame, and fought off Carter Bradley for the starting gig halfway through the season. Once it was his, he never relinquished it. A shaky first half against Central Michigan in his first game as a starter vanished the rest of the season, where he worked his way to being the least picked off quarterback in the country while completing 57.6% of his passes for over 2,000 yards with 18 scores. Finn also has wheels, rushing for over 500 yards and 9 more scores. The loss of Bryant Koback puts more pressure on the young quarterback, but don’t tell him that. Jason Candle will have his quarterback prepared for all situations this year. If last year was any indication, this is a player to watch out for, and opposing defenses should be prepared to scheme accordingly.

5. Kurtis Rourke - Ohio

The RS Junior (Team Captain) from Ontario, Canada is back under center in Athens this season. Rourke comes off a 2021 campaign where he played in 10 games, Completed 169 passes for 1,801 yards and 11 TDs, rushed for 327 yards on 74 carries with a season-high 75 yards against BGSU. The 2021 Grad Transfer James Bostic (Vanderbilt) brings a dynamic threat to the perimeter. Having played in all 12 games he only caught five passes for 34 yards, He is poised for a breakout year in Athens. Tyler Walton, a RS Senior, also returns this season. Walton played in all 12 games and was second on the team with 380 yards on 32 receptions and 2 touchdowns. Sophomore Miles Cross is also expected to be in the rotation. Tim Albin enters his 2nd year at the helm, and he knows as well as anyone that a good offense starts with a good quarterback. Kurtis is being handed the reigns and looks to get Ohio their first title since 1968.

6. Taylor Powell/Austin Smith - EMU

The Missouri/Troy transfer Taylor Powell enrolled in the spring and was able to participate in spring ball with the Eagles, While at Troy, Taylor played in 6 games, starting 5 before suffering an injury against South Carolina. He completed 125/189 passes for 1,251 yards and 7 TDs. While at Missouri, He played in 6 games during his RS So season, including 1 start, and completed 29/62 passes for 297 yards and 1 touchdown with 2 INTS. Austin Smith joined the EMU football program as an early enrollee during the winter semester of 2021. He made his debut against Texas State. 1/1 for 16 yards. Coach Creighton has his hands full with this decision. Whoever it is, has an absolute STUD at WR in Hassan Beydoun.

7. DJ Irons - Akron

Redshirt Junior DJ Irons returns this season and this one will be interesting. Irons starts the 2022 season with a new HC in Joe Moorhead, who was the OC at Oregon between 2020-2022. Irons appeared in eight games for the Zips, including three starts, where he passed for 892 yards, and completed 78 of 120 attempts. He was also the second leading rusher, carrying the ball for 309 yards and two touchdowns. I have him ranked 7th because of the type of offense Coach Moorhead brings, where Irons could thrive, but there will be a learning curve. We have seen Oregon play, their QBs are very active in and out of the pocket. This could be a good fit and get Akron back to its winning ways.

8. Collin Schlee - Kent State (Replacing Dustin Crum)

Replacing Dustin Crum will NOT be easy, Crum took the Flashes to the MAC championship last season. Crum was the 2021 MAC offensive MVP, 2x first team all MAC, and was the 2019 Tropical Smoothie Frisco Bowl MVP, He ended his career with 7,420 yards and 55 TDs. Collin Schlee comes into this season having only seen action in 3 games, 7-13 for 2 TDs and 1 rushing TD. Schlee does however have WR Dante Cephas on the outside who is a DB’s nightmare. Cephas ended last season with 82 receptions and 1,240 yards with 9 TDs. Coach Lewis will have a lot of work to do, but there’s no doubt that Schlee/Cephas can be a great 1-2 punch.

9. Matt Myers - Buffalo (Replacing Kyle VanTrease)

Much like Kent State, Buffalo is replacing a starter in Kyle VanTrease who transferred to Georgia Southern. Kyle started 10 games in 2021 completing 161 of 262 passes for 1,861 yards and eight TDs. He also rushed for 115 yards and 3 scores. Meyers comes into this season having played in 10 games with 2 of them being starts. He threw for 703 yards and 4 touchdowns and rushed for 179 yards and 4 more TDs. Myers will have a second-year EMU transfer Quian Williams to throw it to. Williams started all 12 games at wide receiver and led the Bulls with 64 catches for 835 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also had three, 100-yard receiving games. Coach Linguist will be entering his second season as HC and now will have to work with a QB with only a few games under his belt. Myers has the talent to win ball games, let's wait and see how he does. The upside? There won’t be a head coach change two months before the season begins.

10. Matt McDonald - Bowling Green

The Falcons return Senior Matt McDonald who started all 12 games last season, He finished the year with 2,555 passing yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 4 more TDs. He finished the 2021 season not throwing an interception over his final 115 pass attempts, spanning 4.5 games. He also threw for 200 yards or more in eight of the Falcon's 12 games. On the outside, McDonald will have Tyrone Broden who appeared in 11 of 12 games with nine starts along with Austin Osborne who appeared in all 12 games with nine starts. He also led the team with 64 receptions with 546 receiving yards and 2 scores. The Falcons and Coach Loeffler have a lot of work to do, and he is confident in his QB. We may not be overly high on McDonald right now, but opinions can change, right?

11. Jack Salopek / Stone Hollenbach / Mareyohn Hrabowski - Western Michigan (Replacing Kaleb Eleby)

Coach Lester has his hands FULL with this one, the new QB will be replacing a player who was electric under center during his time in Kalamazoo. Kaleb Eleby finished his career with 3,277 yards, 23 TDs, and only 6 INTs. The Broncos will have 3 options this season when it comes to filling that role. Redshirt Freshman Jack Salopek, who was only 3-5 for 20 yards last season, Stone Hallenbach the Alabama Transfer and Redshirt Freshman Mareyohn Hrabowski, who has no passing stats however, he does have 121 career rushing yards. Coach Lester, having been in this situation himself as a player (starting as a freshman) will have a great idea what his QB situation is once camp gets underway. We spoke with coach about this at media day and his eyes lit up, as this will be a FUN battle to watch, and just may be the most intriguing in the conference.

12. John Paddock - Ball State (Replacing Drew Plitt)

Coach Neu is SUPER high on John heading into this season, Paddock has had a little bit of playing time (During the Penn State game last season) and led the Cardinals down the field on a scoring drive. During the 2021 campaign Paddock went 18-26 for 132 yards in two games. Replacing Drew Plitt is no easy task, as Plitt left Muncie with 9,062 passing yards and 68 touchdowns. Paddock does have weapons around him though, Yo’Heinz Tyler, Jayshon Jackson on the outside and Carson Steele/Will Jones in the backfield. The Biggest question mark will be the offensive line. Plitt was sacked 24 times last season. Can the O-Line protect the young QB? They get their first crack at it against Tennessee on September 1st.



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