Got talent? Here is a breakdown of where your favorite college football team stands going into National Signing Day on Wednesday, according to CollegeFootballNews.com (Rankings based on CFN’s preseason team rankings within the conference):
1. Ohio (10-4)
What’s Needed Now: Not a lot. Last year’s class was huge after a few light ones and this year there isn’t much room for new bodies. The defensive line will get a little bit of instant help from the JUCO ranks with Wade Wells and Ty Branz for the ends, and JUCO transfer Matt Waters will help out the receiving corps, but last year was about the future.
Team Concerns: The MAC East champion gets almost everyone back on defense, but it loses heart-and-soul linebacker Noah Keller in the middle. The offense has to find a new starting running back for Donte Harden, and LaVon Brazill and a few key targets are gone. Overall the Bobcats are experienced and should be in the hunt for the MAC title, but the backups need to start playing a bigger role in the rotation.
2. Kent State (5-7)
What’s Needed Now: Talent. After bringing in a few lousy recruiting classes, the Golden Flashes have to find players and this class has them. There might not be any star power, but it’s a big class that has a little something for almost every spot. The highest-rated prospect is kicker Anthony Melchiori, and he’ll push Freddy Cortez for the starting job this year.
Team Concerns: The defense loses two good starters, meaning even more emphasis will be on Roosevelt Nix to carry the front seven. Both corners are gone and it’ll be a fight for both jobs. The offense that’s been so inconsistent loses a few targets and center Chris Anzevino, but it should be among the MAC’s most experienced attacks.
3. Temple (9-4)
What’s Needed Now: Receivers. Steve Addazio wants a passing game, and it’s going to come from a loaded receiving corps helped by a third straight class of prospects. It’s a huge haul of targets coming in, but the running game isn’t being ignored with Montrell Dobbs a terrific talent who could fill in for the departed Bernard Pierce right away. Defensively, the secondary gets a ton of talent with safeties Sam Benjamin and Stephaun Marshall the best tandem recruited by anyone in the MAC.
Team Concerns: The offense has to be more consistent, and it has to do it with Pierce off to the NFL a year early. The Owls have talent, but the experience is lacking with four starters gone off the line and top receiver Rod Streater. The defense has a ton of work to do with Adrian Robinson and Morkeith Brown gone on the ends and linebacker Tahir Whitehead and four starters gone in the back seven.
4. Miami University (4-9)
What’s Needed Now: Defensive line. The RedHawks continue to go after big class after big class with the lines getting the most help. The offense hasn’t gotten anything out of the line over the last few years, and this class has quality more than quantity. The defensive front gets the most talent with decent athletes at tackle and a few nice players for the end. The receiving corps should get some immediate help.
Team Concerns: The O needs a few new receiver options with Chris Givens and Kendrick Bruton done. Brandon Brooks was the heart and soul of the offensive line, but the other four starters are back. The linebacking corps loses Jerrell Wedge and Ryan Kennedy and free safety Anthony Kokal is done, but the defense is full of experience.
5. Buffalo (3-9)
What’s Needed Now: The passing game is getting the attention with more options coming in to push for the job in the near future. There are some players already in place, including part-time starter Alex Zordich, but the Bulls need an upgrade. Turner Gill went after quarterbacks and receivers a few years ago and Jeff Quinn is looking down the road when that class matures. Improving the secondary is also needed, and Quinn is bringing in enough to address the losses to come in 2014.
Team Concerns: The Bulls have to do more defensively on a consistent basis, and that should come with eight starters returning. However, free safety Josh Copeland was a key all-around run stopper, serving as an extra linebacker, and tackle Richie Smith was the team’s most experienced defender. QB Chazz Anderson didn’t set the world on fire, but he had a decent season.
6. Akron (1-11)
What’s Needed Now: New head coach Terry Bowden has to find as much help for the offense as possible … now. Last year’s class brought in plenty of receivers, but the line has to be night-and-day better. This class will upgrade the front five, while going after a few backs to improve a woeful running game is a must.
Team Concerns: Defensive tackle is a concern with three of the key parts of the rotation gone. Overall this is a young team that can afford to lose players from a miserable run, but it’s still not a plus to take away four starters from the offensive line. Always busy punter Zack Campbell is done.
7. Massachusetts (5-6)
What’s Needed Now: New head coach Charley Molner wants more offense and it should come from this class, at least in the backfield, with RB Stacey Bedell leading the way. Molner came on so late that there hasn’t been much of a recruiting season, so there’s going to be plenty of scrambling after Signing Day just to find players. The defense will come next year.
Team Concerns: Upgrading the quarterback situation is a must in case Kellen Pagel has a problem and the loss of RB Jonathan Hernandez leaves an immediate opening for Bedell or another prospect to take over immediately. The defensive line has to be far, far better or it’s going to be a long first year in the MAC.
1. Western Michigan (7-6)
What’s Needed Now: Wide receivers. Lots and lots of wide receivers. The Broncos have spent years on the line and now it’s time for the pass protection to shine while giving Alex Carder time to work all the new options. The receiving corps loses a ton of talent, and it’ll be a must for JUCO transfers Justin Collins and Darrin Duncan, among others, to become ready to play right off the bus.
Team Concerns: If the recruits don’t come through, then receiver is a major problem with Jordan White, Robert Arnheim and Chleb Ravenell all gone. The defense loses tough tackle Drew Nowak and corner Aaron Winchester, but experience isn’t a problem. The kicking game needs new options with P Ben Arner and PK John Potter gone.
2. Northern Illinois (11-3)
What’s Needed Now: This year is about the lines; next year will take care of the skill players. Dave Doeren came up with a MAC title in his first season and now he’s pulling in a decent class, but not a great one. The quarterback situation is being addressed for the future and the always great Huskie offensive line is getting more prospects. Defensively, the stars are in the linebacking corps that should pay off relatively soon.
Team Concerns: Chandler Harnish. NIU was able to run the ball over the last few years because of the talent in the backfield and the mobility of Harnish, who did a little of everything for a team that should’ve won two MAC titles. The offensive line always comes up with good players, but it might take awhile to replace center Scott Wedige, tackle Trevor Olson and four starters.
3. Toledo (9-4)
What’s Needed Now: New head coach Matt Campbell is getting most of the players former head man Tim Beckman went after, and he’s bringing in a huge class led by a great group of linemen. The lines hadn’t been addressed for a few years and now Campbell is making up for it with plenty of offensive tackles to develop for the near future and some ready-made defensive tackles who can step in and contend for jobs right away. The Rockets need them.
Team Concerns: Both starting tackles are gone and three starters are gone from the secondary. Defensive back was the bright spot in the 2009 class, and now all the key prospects will get their chance to show what they can do. The offensive line will take a step back after losing three starters, but the biggest problem on offense is the loss of Eric Page, the do-it-all weapon who left early for the NFL.
4. Ball State (6-6)
What’s Needed Now: Here come the defensive linemen. Past coaching staffs worked on several areas and it started to pay off last year with a strong 6-6 season, but the defensive line needs more help in a hurry. It’s asking too much for the defensive tackles being brought in to play right away, but they need to bulk up the depth soon. The offensive line is getting a nice class of options for the interior.
Team Concerns: The defensive line loses three starters including both ends and a couple of key backups. Both safeties are gone including veteran playmaker Sean Baker, but most of the back seven returns. The offense is loaded with experience and should be stronger, but the recent recruiting classes have to boost a receiving corps that loses Briggs Orsbon and Toriel Gibson.
5. Bowling Green (5-7)
What’s Needed Now: Offensive tackle. Apparently, it’s time to start blocking someone with most of the emphasis on offensive tackle with a strong MAC class being put together. Defensively, the linebacking corps is loading up for the second time in three years, especially for the inside, with some terrific athletes coming in. After a few years in the weight room, there’s a lot to be excited about.
Team Concerns: Will the Falcons have a running game? That’s why the focus on the offensive line, but four starters are back and they have to be better. However, center Ben Bojicic was among the best in the MAC. The receiving corps will struggle without Kamar Jorden and Adrian Hodges and it’ll be up to several untested players to show they’re ready to play
6. Central Michigan (3-9)
What’s Needed Now: The secondary needs a lot of help. Head coach Dan Enos has struggled in his first few seasons and needs as many options as possible to battle for jobs right away. This is a huge class with a little something for all spots, but safety will be the strongest position and the offensive line will get a big boost. The receiving corps is apparently set with just a few prospects coming in.
Team Concerns: The Chippewas have to start getting more out of an inconsistent offense, and it should happen with nine starters returning. However, a good running back has to step in for Paris Cotton and tight end David Blackburn is a key part gone. The defense loses two starting linebackers – Mike Petrucci and Armond Staten – and corner John Carr.
7. Eastern Michigan (6-6)
What’s Needed Now: Defensive line, defensive line, defensive line. After a stunning turnaround season, EMU and head coach Ron English are going after defensive linemen … again. The Eagles went hard after defensive linemen in the last few classes and they’re going after even more with more athleticism, more options and better depth. The offense isn’t being ignored, but outside of WR Quincy Jones, almost all the talent is for the D.
Team Concerns: After years of bringing in defensive linemen, now they all have to shine with four key parts of the rotation gone from the line. Linebacker Marcus English will be missed and both safeties are gone. The offense gets back plenty of starters, but loses receivers Trey Hunter and Corey Welch.