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2014 Fierce 40 Previews: #35 Bowling Green

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 8, 2014

#35 Bowling Green Falcons

 

2013 Recap:

A 10-win season is always a good thing, especially when you upset Northern Illinois for the MAC Championship, a team that was undefeated headed into that game. Bowling Green lost a tough bowl game with Pitt 30-27, but they were in the game until the very end.

 

Coaching:

Dino Babers was able to lead Bowling Green to the Conference title in only his second season at the helm. Most of the staff is intact as well as the key players on offense in the skill positions, so the future is bright for Bowling Green.

 

Offense

 

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

Matt Johnson didn't start the opener last season but he entered the game against Tulsa and promptly never looked back. The Harrisburg, PA native is now a dark horse Heisman candidate as he posted just under 3,500 yards passing last season and led Bowling Green to an upset win in the MAC title game over Northern Illinois. Johnson had 30 touchdowns with only 7 interceptions. He isn't a tall prospect and won't run for a ton of yards, but he moves around the pocket well as Bowling Green utilizes many packages where Johnson will throw while rolling out or on the run. While Johnson may be the best prospect, his importance is equaled by running back Travis Greene who ran for a school record 1,594 yards last season. Greene is a complete back because he is very good in pass protection and Johnson claims he has the best hands catching the football on the team. If throwing Greene at you isn't enough, try 255-pound backup William Houston as the ultimate change-of-pace and short yardage back. This offense is capable of scoring over 400 PPG over the course of the season and is a blast to watch.

Best Draft Prospect: Matt Johnson QB 7th Round 2016.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Bowling Green spreads the ball around well, so even though they only have 1 starter returning from last season they have an abundance of experience and talent. Ryan Burbrink is listed as a draft prospect but that has more to do with the fact that he is an up-and-coming return man that is overlooked when it comes to ranking the best returners in the country. Burbrink is understandably good after the catch and he will be joined with starters Ronnie Moore and Heath Jackson. Put these two starters together and you have over 900 yards with 10 touchdowns and 60 catches; that's a formidable combination. Bowling Green had 7 players catch at least 20 passes a season ago, so once again  spreading the ball around will be key.

Chris Pohlman is listed as the starting tight end although he will line up as a fullback more than he will along the line of scrimmage. Pohlman is used more as a spread formation blocker and saw action in all 14 games a season ago. Expect Gehrig Deiter to be the top reserve off the bench for Bowling Green and has the best chance at reaching the 30 reception mark. This is a deep group without a superstar.

Best Draft Prospect: Ryan Burbrink WR 7th Round 2016.

 

Offensive Line:

The last line I used to describe the receivers can also be used to accurately describe the offensive line; a deep unit without a true superstar. Logan Dietz may be the most talented player along the line at right tackle but Alex Huettel may be the most versatile as he moves from guard to center for the season. There is a chance J.J. Beggan may also move into the lineup but the current guards are slated to be senior Darion Delaney and freshman Ryan Hunter. Bowling Green has a nice mix of size and agility and they were the least penalized unit in the conference a season ago. When you have an explosive offense, the last thing you want to do is be flagged for holding or another infraction that stalls a drive. This unit could be among the top three in the conference.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A

 

Defense

 

Defensive Line:

Bowling Green got a lot of pressure on the quarterback a season ago but not necessarily a lot of sacks. The top sack artist Ted Ouellet was drafted meaning that new starter Taylor Royster is the top returning sack man with only 3.5. It's amazing that Bowling Green and their defense only gave up 16 PPG last season as most of their success came from a strong secondary rather than their front line. Defensive ends Bryan Thomas and Charlie Walker are back and they both seem to be more stout against the run game than getting after the quarterback. Royster did not start last year and he is a bit of a wildcard as he was seen as a more of a motor guy and Bowling Green hopes his productivity does not fade with increased playing time.  Jhalil-Nashid Croley is a player that seems to excite the coaching staff and may be a year away from being a key contributor. If Bowling Green wants to replicate their success it will be with about 8 players up front rotating in and out to stay fresh.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A

 

Linebackers:

The linebackers look to be the strength of the defense as D.J. Lynch along the outside is a legitimate prospect and led the team last season with 85 tackles and 8 for a loss. Lynch is a complete linebacker that can play the pass and offers great sideline-to-sideline pursuit skills. Fellow senior Gabe Martin had only 36 tackles after only playing half the season, but if healthy, he is nearly as adept as Lynch. The middle of the defense is where the Falcons will have a new starter but the question is who. The Falcons have the luxury of having two players that have the talent and ability to start in highly touted freshman Nate Locke and experienced senior and special teams ace Paul Senn. It's a nice luxury that the Falcons have more starters than starting spots, making this the top unit in the MAC and one that has balance all over the field and no glaring weakness.

Best Draft Prospect: D.J. Lynch LB 6th Round 2015.

 

Secondary:

This was a unit that saw a couple of players head into the NFL after last season and they were extremely well-polished. The linebackers are the strength but the secondary is not necessarily a weakness. Ryland Ward is back at safety and the cornerbacks have decent size. Nick Johnson is a freshman that has seemed to win a starting spot and big things are expected from him. Jude Adjei-Barimah saw quite a bit of action a season ago and seems to be the other starter. Isaiah Gourdine and Brian Sutton are in a neck-and-neck battle for the other safety spot and it's likely we will see extended playing times for both. While there is talent in the secondary, replacing Boo-Boo Gates may be harder than many imagined.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A

 

Special Teams:

Replacing Brian Schmiedebusch at punter will be tough but Bowling Green is confident they have their man in Joe Davidson. Tyler Tate was a wildcard entering last season and he wound up a very impressive 18-22 on the season. Ryan Burbrink will be a valuable asset on special teams and could even help the team pull out a game or two just based on special teams contributions.

Best Draft Prospect: Ryan Burbrink WR 7th Round 2016.

 

Schedule:

The schedule is extremely favorable and aside from the road game in Madison to face the Badgers in mid September, this could be the team from a “mid-level” conference that makes noise on the year. Only once all year will Bowling Green play back-to-back road games.

 

Draft Outlook:

Bowling Green had a few more prospects in years' past but they are healthy once again. Matt Johnson and Travis Greene can put up monster numbers so everyone seems to be making a big deal that both are from this team.

 

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