Bowling Green Falcons
Mike Jinks was an interesting choice as the new head coach of the Falcons before last season, to say the least, and Bowling Green took a major step back in his first season after replacing Dino Babers, who had left for Syracuse. Several issues that plagued this team last season could still be issues this fall, so will this team stay in the upper half of the their division, yet miss a bowl game again, or will they sink farther into the depths of what appears to be a two team race in the MAC West?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
The run game should be the strength of the offense this season, as Jinks came to BGSU after working as the RB coach at Texas Tech. Donovan Wilson has slipped ahead of Josh Cleveland as the lead candidate to start at RB after the departure of lead rusher Fred Coppet. Cleveland and Wilson will both likely get plenty of turns with the ball, as they combined for 1152 yards rushing last season as backups. Cleveland has more of the big play potential that the Falcons will need, as he averaged 6.43 yards per carry to Wilson's just over 4.5 per carry.
The receiving corps is getting plenty of attention, even if Scott Miller is the lone returning starter. Miller led the team with 72 receptions last fall for 968 yards and 10 scores, and was first team All-MAC. JC transfer Datrin Guyton will likely step in, and is highly regarded, but will need to win a job in fall camp. Teo Redding caught 31 passes, and is in a battle for a position as well, but brings experience. Marquis Zimmerman and Janarvis Pough are also up for major reps this fall as well.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
James Morgan started seven games as a freshman last season, and was thrown largely to the wolves. He did manage to pass for 2082 yards and 16 TDs in those seven games, but he also managed to throw 15 INTs, meaning that he was not entirely ready to shoulder the load. He also completed just 56% of his attempts. The hope is that he will show some growth as the full time starter this fall, but one has to be concerned that he may not have, and he has plenty to prove.
The line is also a concer for the staff, as there is a general lack of experience and depth. Ryan Hunter (LT), Lorenzo Taborn (LG), and C Tim McCauliffe all return, but if any one of them is injured, the level of talent falls of dramatically.
Jake Suder is back at PK, but was a bit all over the place last fall. While he did manage to hit 9/12 FG attempts, he also managed to miss three PAT tries last fall, and that is a problem for an offense that scored just over 24 points per game.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
This football team allowed 38.3 points per game last season, so having something to be excited about is all relative.
The secondary will likely be the strength of the defense this season, as several injured players return to action after missing most, or all of last season. CB Jack Walz, CB Ben Hale, and CB Clint Stephens all played in either one game, or no games last fall due to injuries, and are all back. JC transfer Fred Garth looked solid in spring ball, and may move up to start. Cameron Jeffries is back at CB as well. Jamari Bozeman is back at FS, and finished with 71 tackles last fall, and led the team with three INTs. Robert Jackson, Jr. (CB) and Jerry McBride III (SS) both figure in for larger roles as well.
Joesph Davidson is a gem at Punter, and averaged over 45 yards per punt last fall. He will be one of the most important pieces to this football team this season.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The Falcons allowed 190.9 yards rushing per game last fall, and there is no clear answer as to how to improve on that number. The line returns just two starter in DE Davis Konowalski and DT Gus Schweiterman, but the line does not boast one single player over 300 lbs, and the ends look more like smallish LBs.
Brandon Harris returns, but is the lone starter returning at LB. He finished with 51 tackles last fall, and will be asked to do much more this time around. He is, like the line, also on the smaller side, and that could spell trouble in the physical side of the game for this football team. The Falcons play in a 4-2-5 set on defense, and half of the front six will be compiled of new starters.
9/2 at Michigan State, 9/9 South Dakota, 9/16 at Northwestern, 9/23 at Middle Tennessee, 9/30 Akron, 10/7 at Miami (Ohio), 10/14 Ohio, 10/21 Northern Illinois, 10/31 at Kent State, 11/7 at Buffalo, 11/15 Toledo, 11/21 at Eastern Michigan
Bowling Green did manage to win three straight at the end of last season to get to 4-8, but that run came against the weakest part of their slate, and the schedule has a similar setup this fall. I see the Falcons heading into mid-week games in November at 2-6, and another 4-8 finish may very well be likely, unless injuries settle in, and then it could be far worse. If that occurs, Jinks could very well find himself on the hot seat in 2018.