News & Analysis

College Football: PFF's 2020 Preseason All-MAC Team

No year in college football will be more memorable than the one we are experiencing now, as the impact of COVID-19 has forced most colleges to cancel the 2020 fall football season with the hope of trying to play in the spring.

We aren't here to give you our opinion on whether they should or should not have played in the fall, nor are we going to do that with their attempt to play in the spring. Instead, we want to shine a light on the players who deserve credit for the performances they have put forth over their college careers.

Without further ado, we present to you what would have been the 2020 PFF College Preseason All-MAC Team.

QUARTERBACK

FIRST TEAM: DUSTIN CRUM, KENT STATE

Not only is Dustin Crum the best quarterback in the Group of 5, but he’s also one of the best quarterbacks in the entire country. Most college quarterbacks likely wish they had his arm talent — he had just a 0.7% turnover-worthy play rate a season ago (by far the best in the entire country), while he also ranked behind only Burrow in deep-passing grade. Crum earned a 91.7 PFF grade last year, third in the FBS.

Second Team: Kyle Vantrease, Buffalo
Third Team: Brett Gabbert, Miami (OH)
Honorable Mention: Drew Plitt, Ball State

RUNNING BACK

FIRST TEAM: JARET PATTERSON, BUFFALO

Patterson was not only the fifth-most-valuable running back in college football last year, but he was also the sixth-most-valuable Group of 5 running back we have ever recorded. He easily handled a massive workload in 2019 and shined in a Buffalo scheme that runs a considerable amount of outside zone — his rushing grade on those plays led all current FBS backs in 2019.

Second Team: Caleb Huntley, Ball State
Third Team: Tyre Shelton, Miami (OH)
Honorable Mention: Xavier Williams, Kent State

RUNNING BACK

FIRST TEAM: DE’MONTRE TUGGLE, OHIO

Ohio’s rushing attack was set to benefit massively in 2020 by giving Tuggle more opportunities. He’s a breakaway threat any time he gets the ball. Last year he had five touchdown runs of 10 or more yards, fourth in the MAC.

Second Team: Bryant Koback, Toledo
Third Team: Kobe Lewis, Central Michigan
Honorable Mention: Kevin Marks, Buffalo

WIDE RECEIVER

Eastern Michigan Eagles receiver Quian Williams catches a touchdown against Pittsburgh during the first half of the Quick Lane Bowl, Thursday, December 26, 2019 at Ford Field in Detroit. Credit: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press, Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC
FIRST TEAM: QUIAN WILLIAMS, EASTERN MICHIGAN

Williams is one of the most reliable receivers you’ll see this year. He hauled in 98.1% of his catchable targets in 2019 (fourth in the FBS), which led to a 144.6 passer rating when targeted that ranked seventh among qualifying FBS wideouts.

Second Team: Jack Sorenson, Miami (OH)
Third Team: Justin Hall, Ball State
Honorable Mention: Shane Hooks, Ohio

WIDE RECEIVER

FIRST TEAM: ANTONIO NUNN, BUFFALO

Nunn closed out the 2019 season with one of the hottest stretches of play we saw at the position. In his final six games, the Buffalo pass-catcher produced an 88.0 receiving grade that ranked seventh in the FBS. He’s a big-time vertical threat and earned the second-highest grade in the FBS on vertical routes over those final six outings.

Second Team: Yo’Heinz Tyler, Ball State
Third Team: Isaiah McKoy, Kent State
Honorable Mention: Cole Tucker, Northern Illinois

WIDE RECEIVER

FIRST TEAM: SKYY MOORE, WESTERN MICHIGAN

Moore was the fifth-highest-graded WR in the MAC last year … as a true freshman. He runs a nice and sudden hitch, which led to most of his production, in fact, as 23 of his 51 catches came via the hitch route. He also has top-notch balance, and that helped him break 12 tackles after the catch in 2019.

Second Team: JaCorey Sullivan, Central Michigan
Third Team: Isiah Cox, Ohio
Honorable Mention: Kalil Pimpleton, Central Michigan

TIGHT END

FIRST TEAM: RYAN LUEHRMAN, OHIO

Luehrman is a reliable chain-mover for Ohio and should see an increased workload whenever he next sees the field. He dropped just one of his 29 targets past the sticks in 2019, and he earned a 73.3 receiving grade on the year, 20th of 70 qualifying FBS tight ends.

Second Team: Quintin Morris, Bowling Green
Third Team: Daniel Crawford, Northern Illinois
Honorable Mention: Bryson Cannon, Eastern Michigan

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

FIRST TEAM: KAYODE AWOSIKA, BUFFALO

Awosika has been one of the top Group of 5 tackles in each of the last two seasons now. Since 2018, he’s been the 13th-most-valuable tackle in the FBS and has earned PFF grades of 82.2 and 81.7 in those two years, third and second in the MAC, respectively.

Second Team: Tommy Doyle, Miami (OH)
Third Team: Mark Brooks, Western Michigan
Honorable Mention: Marques Cox, Northern Illinois

OFFENSIVE GUARD

FIRST TEAM: NICK ROSI, TOLEDO

Rosi plays with great leverage in the running game. The man just opens up holes, and his positively graded run-block rate — first in the MAC and ninth among FBS guards — can attest to that. He’s also stout in pass protection, as evidenced by his first-ranked grade in the MAC when it came to true pass sets.

Second Team: Julian Sams, Kent State
Third Team: Mike Caliendo, Western Michigan
Honorable Mention: Curtis Blackwell, Ball State

CENTER

FIRST TEAM: MIKE NOVITSKY, BUFFALO

Novitsky now has a season of starting experience under his belt and will look to improve upon his rollercoaster season in pass protection. Most of his worst performances in that facet came earlier on in the year, as four of his first five games ended in sub-60.0 pass-blocking grades. From Week 6 on, he didn’t allow a single pressure, though he did have one poor game in Week 10 when he stumbled to 20.7 pass-blocking grade. Novitsky’s work as a run-blocker was a bit more consistent, however, as he actually finished with the 19th-best run-blocking grade in the FBS over the course of the year.

Second Team: Nick Sink, Ohio
Third Team: Luke Doerger, Toledo
Honorable Mention: Mike Van Hoeven, Eastern Michigan

OFFENSIVE GUARD

FIRST TEAM: DEREK SMITH, CENTRAL MICHIGAN

Smith kicked back inside to guard after struggling at tackle in 2018, and he found far more success. He produced a 76.6 pass-block grade and 71.2 run-block grade in 2019, both of which ranked fourth among MAC guards.

Second Team: Tim Tanner-Blair, Bowling Green
Third Team: Nathan Monnin, Kent State
Honorable Mention: Jordan Asbury, Western Michigan

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

FIRST TEAM: LUKE GOEDEKE, CENTRAL MICHIGAN

Goedeke is the best run-blocking tackle in the MAC. He produced an 81.0 run-blocking grade in 2019, 21st among FBS tackles. He could add more to his frame, and his agility is lacking, but there’s a lot to like with Goedeke heading into Year 2 as a starter.

Second Team: Jaylon Moore, Western Michigan
Third Team: Brain Dooley, Eastern Michigan
Honorable Mention: Derek Downs, Bowling Green

 


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INTERIOR DEFENDER

FIRST TEAM: ROBI STUART, CENTRAL MICHIGAN

Central Michigan has a terrific group of pass-rushers, and Stuart is the best of the bunch. He recorded an 80.4 pass-rush grade last season, leading all MAC interior defensive linemen who were set to return in 2020.

Second Team: Eddie Wilson, Buffalo
Third Team: Ralph Holley, Western Michigan
Honorable Mention: Weston Kramer, Northern Illinois

INTERIOR DEFENDER

FIRST TEAM: ANDREW SHARP, MIAMI (OH)

Sharp broke out in the second half of the 2019 season. He has not quite reached that “elite” level, but he has proven to be a reliable interior defensive lineman nonetheless. Sharp produced a 76.9 PFF grade from Week 7 on, which trailed only his former teammate Doug Costin and fellow first-teamer Stuart.

Second Team: Tico Brown, Central Michigan
Third Team: Jacques Bristol, Central Michigan
Honorable Mention: Zayin West, Kent State

EDGE DEFENDER

FIRST TEAM: TAYLOR RIGGINS, BUFFALO

Riggins has an array of pass-rush moves (including a crafty inside spin), but that's just one of the many reasons why he is among the five best edge rushers in FBS. He’s coming off a year in which he posted a 90.1 pass-rush grade, and he has strung together the ninth-best win rate in the FBS since 2018.

Second Team: Ali Fayad, Western Michigan
Third Team: LaQuan Johnson, Central Michigan
Honorable Mention: Terrance Taylor, Toledo

EDGE DEFENDER

FIRST TEAM: MALCOLM KOONCE, BUFFALO

In case you didn’t know already, Buffalo has two of the top 10 edge rushers in college football. Only two edge rushers posted higher win rates than Koonce (24%) in 2019. He’s a threat to push the pocket on any given play.

Second Team: Karl Brooks, Western Michigan
Third Team: Troy Hairston, Central Michigan
Honorable Mention: Lonnie Phelps, Miami (OH)

LINEBACKER

December 7, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Central Michigan Chippewas linebacker Troy Brown (8) says goodbye to fans as he walks off the field following his ejection for targeting against the Central Michigan Chippewas during the fourth quarter in the MAC Championship game at Ford Field. Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
FIRST TEAM: TROY BROWN, CENTRAL MICHIGAN

Brown came to Central Michigan as a cornerback before flipping to off-ball linebacker, and you can tell by looking at his top-notch coverage play. He has terrific click-and-close ability, which helped him produce more passing stops than any active linebacker in 2019 (21).

Second Team: James Patterson, Buffalo
Third Team: Kesean Gamble, Kent State
Honorable Mention: Keye Thompson, Ohio

LINEBACKER

FIRST TEAM: KADOFI WRIGHT, BUFFALO

Whether he is vying to stop the run, rush the passer or drop into coverage, Wright does his job at a high level. After returning from injury in Week 5 of last season, Wright went on to produce and 86.4 PFF grade that ranked fifth among all FBS off-ball linebackers.

Second Team: Jordan Cole, Northern Illinois
Third Team: Lance Deveaux Jr., Northern Illinois
Honorable Mention: Corvin Moment, Western Michigan

CORNERBACK

FIRST TEAM: ANTONIO PHILLIPS, BALL STATE

Phillips is the lockdown corner in the MAC. He allowed 25 yards or more in coverage just twice in 2019 and has produced the conference’s best coverage grade on the outside since 2018.

Second Team: Patrick Lupro, Western Michigan
Third Team: Justin Clark, Toledo
Honorable Mention: Aapri Washington, Buffalo

CORNERBACK

FIRST TEAM: ILYAAS MOTLEY, OHIO

Motley is a boom-or-bust corner. He doesn’t give up many catches, but when he does, it often tends to be a huge one. Still, he allowed one catch or less in over half of his games in 2019 and had the second-most coverage snaps per catch allowed in the MAC (18.3).

Second Team: Amechi Uzodinma II, Ball State
Third Team: Samuel Womack, Toledo
Honorable Mention: Caleb Biggers, Bowling Green

SAFETY

December 7, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Miami Redhawks defensive back Sterling Weatherford (21) and defensive back Mike Brown (3) leap for a Hail Mary pass against Central Michigan Chippewas wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton (88) and wide receiver Tyrone Scott (19) during the fourth quarter in the MAC Championship game at Ford Field. Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
FIRST TEAM: STERLING WEATHERFORD, MIAMI (OH)

Weatherford is one of the best playmaking safeties in the Group of 5 — he has the range you want roaming around the middle of the field (six plays on the ball when lined up at free safety in 2019). The top-notch coverage skills stay with him when he’s down in the box or slot, too.

Second Team: Bryce Cosby, Ball State
Third Team: Tycen Anderson, Toledo
Honorable Mention: Willie Reed, Central Michigan

SAFETY

FIRST TEAM: JORDAN ANDERSON, BOWLING GREEN

Anderson is excellent at attacking the catch point, and he’s more than capable of playing man coverage. He saw eight targets in single coverage as a true freshman last year and allowed just one first down while forcing four incompletions.

Second Team: Keith Sherald Jr., Kent State
Third Team: Tyrone Hill, Buffalo
Honorable Mention: Alonzo McCoy, Central Michigan

FLEX DEFENSE

FIRST TEAM: EMMANUEL RUGAMBA, MIAMI (OH)

Rugamba has fluid change-of-direction ability, and it showed last season. He made 11 total plays on the ball and racked up 20 passing stops, seven more than any other MAC corner in 2019. He closes ground in a hurry and will rarely give up a big play on his watch.

Second Team: Kyon McKinnie-Harper, Central Michigan
Third Team: Freddie McGee III, Eastern Michigan
Honorable Mention: Blake Bogan, Eastern Michigan

KICKER

First Team: Matthew Trickett, Kent State
Second Team: John Richardson, Northern Illinois
Third Team: Alex McNulty, Buffalo
Honorable Mention: Chad Ryland, Eastern Michigan

PUNTER

First Team: Bailey Flint, Toledo
Second Team: Matt Ference, Northern Illinois
Third Team: Nathan Snyder, Ball State
Honorable Mention: Nick Mihalic, Western Michigan

KICK RETURNER

First Team: Jeremiah Knight, Akron
Second Team: Kobe Lewis, Central Michigan
Third Team: Bryson Denley, Bowling Green
Honorable Mention: Dylan Drummond, Eastern Michigan

PUNT RETURNER

First Team: Dylan Drummond, Eastern Michigan
Second Team: Kalil Pimpleton, Central Michigan
Third Team: Cole Tucker, Northern Illinois
Honorable Mention: Jake Rogers, Bowling Green

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