College football is here, and with few exceptions, hopes are high across the country.
With even fewer exceptions, the ceiling for each Div. I FBS college team is tied directly to the quarterback position.
To get you ready for tonight’s kickoff and the glorious months ahead, below are notes on the quarterback(s) of each of Ohio’s major-college football teams. Historical notes and subpar attempts at humor come free of extra charge.
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Quarterbacks are listed in order of projected production for 2012. Study up.
THE GUY: Senior Zac Dysert, who has the third-most career passing yards among active NCAA quarterbacks and is a legitimate NFL Draft prospect next April. He’s thrown for 8,530 yards and 48 touchdowns in 34 career games and seems poised for another big year as his top receiver, junior Nick Harwell, also returns. Dysert is an outstanding leader and this season is Miami’s first-ever three-time football captain.
THE OTHER GUY: Dysert is no longer sharing anything, but Austin Boucher stepped in at the end of Miami’s 2010 MAC title season after Dysert suffered a lacerated spleen late in the year. Boucher, who had a scholarship offer from Ohio State, among others, when he came out of Kettering Alter High School, would start for plenty of teams nationwide — not just in the MAC. Here, he’s a junior waiting his turn.
NOTABLE GUY FROM THE PAST: The Ben Roethlisberger-led 2003 Miami team probably stands as the last truly great team out of the MAC. Roethlisberger has won a couple Super Bowl rings since leaving Miami before his senior year. In a strange coincidence, Dysert almost transferred from tiny Ada High School to Findlay, Roethlisberger’s alma mater, during his high school days. Way back then, Dysert wanted more exposure and better competition. He’s getting plenty of both now.
THE OUTLOOK: If Dysert can survive the hits he’s going to take from Ohio State’s deep and talented defensive line Saturday, he should have another big season. The Redhawks lost a bunch of close games last year and feel they’ll be right in the mix in the MAC East if they stay healthy this year. Dysert will be on the Senior Bowl radar and will have a chance to make himself some money with strong performances this fall.
THE GUY: It’s still officially up in the air. Toledo employed a two-quarterback system last year and will do so again this year. New head coach Matt Campbell will name a starter for Saturday’s opener at Arizona, but both Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens will play two series and the team will proceed from there. That’s similar to what the Rockets did last year, when Dantin, now a senior, was the regular starter but Owens, a junior lefty, finished the season with the hotter hand.
THE OTHER GUY: Sometimes, it will be Dantin. Sometimes, it will be Owens. It’s not ideal, but it’s what Toledo is doing — and it’s what Toledo is used to doing. The Rockets won nine games last year and scored plenty of points, so it can work again. The third-stringer, Dwight Macon, could see time in the return game and at wide receiver and could even take a few snaps at quarterback to keep defenses off balance. Macon was so impressive in the spring that he was the first selection in the player draft for spring game teams.
NOTABLE GUY FROM THE PAST: Bruce Gradkowski is set to begin his seventh NFL season. He’s the backup to Andy Dalton with the Bengals after previous stops in Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Cleveland and Oakland. Gradkowski set 27 Toledo passing records in his time as the Rockets starter from 2003-05.
THE OUTLOOK: Some think Owens is ready to take a leap, but Dantin has the experience of 22 career starts and has earned the trust of his huddle. Here’s what Campbell said about the situation at MAC Media Day in July: “They are two great players that have a tremendous amount of leadership ability, and for the last three years those guys have both been in pressure packed situations. Both have gotten better statistically and with what they’ve done for our program. The only non-ideal part is what people make of it. Internally here, we feel lucky about the situation.” OK, then. Both will play, and both can help Toledo to another successful season.
THE GUY: Tyler Tettleton, a mobile member of the under 6-foot club who set 12 school records when he threw for 3,302 yards last season. The Bobcats won 10 games last year, and the son of former Major League Baseball player Mickey Tettleton emerged as one of the nation’s top all-purpose producers. Not bad for a guy who tore his ACL as a high schooler in Norman, Okla., and afterwards had scholarship offers only from Ohio and New Mexico.
THE OTHER GUY: Tettleton’s success last season combined with the fact he has two years of eligibility left led to the exit of last year’s backup, Barberton, Ohio native, Kyle Snyder, who transferred to Southeast Missouri. Redshirt freshman Derrius Vick is second on the depth chart.
NOTABLE GUY FROM THE PAST: If Tettleton keeps it up, in late October or November he’ll pass Sammy Shon (1978-81) as Ohio’s all-time leading passer. You could probably win a few wagers on Court Street in Athens with that trivia question.
THE OUTLOOK: The Bobcats bring back proven talent at almost every position except wide receiver, so Tettleton can’t expect anything to come easy this season. But the program has momentum and has its on-field leader, and if the Bobcats can win at Penn State this weekend they’ll probably be favored in every game the rest of the year.
THE GUY: Speedy sophomore Braxton Miller, who’s The Guy basically by default but has earned effusive praise from new coach Urban Meyer, who even said Miller is the most dynamic athlete he’s ever coached at the position. Meyer has pushed Miller in other ways, too, and seems pleased with the strides Miller has made as a leader. He needs to continue making strides as a passer, but the plan is in place for Miller to grasp things this year and push the Buckeyes to higher heights in 2013 when they’re again eligible for postseason play.
THE OTHER GUY: Junior Kenny Guiton, one of several players to earn praise from Meyer for making a total turnaround. Though he’s never played a meaningful game snap, Guiton has made enough of an impression on his coaches and teammates to think he could keep the ship afloat if he needs to. With Miller running as much as he might in this new offense and taking a bunch of hits, Guiton will need to be ready on a moment’s notice.
NOTABLE GUY FROM THE PAST: It’s really hard to believe that a year ago Miller was playing behind Joe Bauserman, but that’s the situation Ohio State was in. In a near-loss to Toledo in Week Two last season, Miller didn’t play at all. And if you’re shaking your head about the selection of Bauserman as a notable guy from the past, who did you want? Terrelle Pryor?
THE OUTLOOK: Urban Meyer has hinted that Guiton could see some action; he even said something to the effect of it’s possible that both Miller and Guiton could be on the field at the same time. Miller isn’t just the spotlight player but he’s also probably the Buckeyes’ most dangerous runner right now with Jordan Hall getting back to health. Meyer has called Miller a “caged tiger” because he hasn’t been hit or been able to run much in practice, and the lock gets removed from that cage Saturday at noon.
THE GUY: Matt Schilz, a redshirt junior and third-year starter. The light came on last year for the California native as went from 8 touchdown passes in 2010 to 28 last year, tied for the most in the MAC. His 3,024 passing yards were the sixth-most in school history, and there’s reason to believe he can surpass both of those numbers this season.
THE OTHER GUY: This year’s Falcons are going as far as Schilz can take them. Second on the depth chart is David Johnson, a redshirt freshman from Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt High School. That’s the alma mater of Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, University of Cincinnati running back Jameel Poteat and Ohio State freshman defensive end — and future star — Noah Spence.
NOTABLE GUY FROM THE PAST: Josh Harris was the first quarterback to master Urban Meyer’s up-tempo spread offense and direct it at a pace that many opposing defenses couldn’t match. Meyer has praised Harris as much as he’s praised Alex Smith and Chris Leak — and almost as much as that Tebow guy — in conversations with the media about his past teams since taking the job at Ohio State. Harris, who grew up and now lives in Columbus, was at Meyer’s introductory press conference last November.
THE OUTLOOK: Bowling Green has a chance to be good with seven offensive and 10 defensive starters returning, and Schilz is one of the biggest reasons why. He’s a junior captain because he needs to lead, and he’s a proven producer in a league that’s had its share of shootouts through the years.
THE GUY: Munchie Legaux, a 6’5 junior from New Orleans who becomes the full-time starter for the first time. He started three games last November after Zach Collaros broke his ankle, and the most important stat is that the Bearcats won two of those three games. His 2011 totals included 749 passing yards and 5 touchdowns, but just a 47 percent completion rate. He ran for 185 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
THE OTHER GUY: According to the school’s official news release, Legaux “edged out” fifth-year senior Brendon Kay in a training camp competition for the starting job. Redshirt freshman Patrick Coyne is the third-stringer, followed by a pair of true freshmen.
NOTABLE GUY FROM THE PAST: Legaux has big shoes to fill. Collaros was more runner than passer, but he was the unquestioned leader of the offensive huddle and a proven winner who played a key role on two Big East title teams. Legaux said he spoke with Collaros at length last spring about the importance of embracing the leadership role and commanding the huddle. Legaux said UC coach Butch Jones told Legaux repeatedly that he needs to be the “alpha male.”
THE OUTLOOK: Cincinnati is replacing plenty of departed talent on both sides of the ball, but Jones still wants to employ a multi-faceted, up-tempo offense. He needs Legaux to lead and accurately distribute the ball for things to click. Look for the Bearcats to be a run-heavy offense early and hope to let Legaux grow as the season goes on.
THE GUY: Dalton Williams, a senior who was the backup at FCS program Stephen F. Austin a year ago. Last year’s quarterbacks, Clayton Moore and Patrick Nicely, have left the program. Nicely is now the starter at Div. II Lake Erie College. Williams — who’s listed at 6’4, 230 — transferred in for Terry Bowden’s first year as coach and is immediately eligible under the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule.
THE OTHER GUY: Redshirt freshman Kyle Pohl pushed Williams through training camp but will settle for the backup role. A graduate of Germantown Valley View High School in the Dayton area, Pohl will have the advantage of learning Bowden’s system as he’s groomed for a on-field role in the future.
NOTABLE GUY FROM THE PAST: Where have you gone, Charlie Frye? Here’s the answer: Frye, who starred at Akron and was a third-round pick of the Browns in 2005, is now the offensive coordinator at Jones High School near Orlando. The head coach is his former Browns teammate, Kenard Lang. Akron went to the Motor City Bowl in 2005, the year after Frye departed, with Pitt transfer Luke Getsy at quarterback but hasn’t had a winning season since.
THE OUTLOOK: Akron has been the worst team in FBS football the last two years. If Williams is the upgrade Bowden hopes he’ll be, the Zips can start making a climb this season. Williams’ career totals at Stephen F. Austin include completing 72-of-110 passes for 724 yards and 7 touchdowns. He has some talented receivers, and if the Zips can keep him upright they can win a couple — maybe more — this season.
THE GUY: Senior Spencer Keith reclaimed the job in a training camp battle. It’s his fourth year on the job, but part of the reason he had to win it again is that his freshman season was probably his best and his junior season was statistically his worst. Keith is a smart, experienced player who will be asked to provide leadership and minimize mistakes for a team that will rely on its defense, especially early on.
THE OTHER GUY: There are two, actually. Keith had to hold off junior college transfer David Fisher and true freshman Colin Reardon to win the starting job. The mobile Reardon might be the future, but the Flashes are very much focused on the present and trying to make a bowl game for the first time in 40 years.
NOTABLE GUY FROM THE PAST: Two former Kent State quarterbacks play in the NFL. They just don’t play quarterback. Joshua Cribbs and Julian Edelman are return specialists and backup wide receivers for the Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots, respectively. Cribbs, the NFL’s all-time leader in kickoff return touchdowns, was Kent State’s quarterback from 2001-04, and Edelman replaced him in 2005 after transferring from a junior college in California.
THE OUTLOOK: Keith will hand the ball plenty to 250-pound running back Trayion Durham and should benefit from a veteran offensive line. He’ll have to convert third downs and maximize his opportunities in the passing game. Kent State has the pieces in place to post a winning season and contend for the MAC East title.