Whatever happened to the MAC conference QBs?
October 4th, 2012 By Danny Sheehan
The Mid-American Conference is one of the lower profile conferences in Division I football, with member schools such as Eastern Michigan and Akron toiling in anonymity. The conference boasts the highest graduation rate of any in Division I, but on the field they do not host the same talent as some of their counterparts in the bigger budget, upper tier conferences that dominate the landscape of college football.
There was, however, a period of time not long ago when the MAC conference had quarterbacks scattered throughout the NFL; in fact, at one point there were as many starting quarterbacks from the conference as from any other.
Once upon a time
The year was 2006, and Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers, Chad Pennington of the Jets, Byron Leftwich of the Jaguars, and Charlie Frye of the Browns had the Mid-American known as the “Conference of Quarterbacks.” By week five of the season, rookie Bruce Gradkowski of Toledo had taken over the reins in Tampa Bay, giving the MAC five starters at the highest profile position in sports, from a conference so obscure that the average fan would be pressed to name five members. The MAC was praised as a haven for development at the position, and analysts were in search of the next one to emerge.
Then, suddenly, the well ran dry. There have been a few quarterbacks drafted since that pinnacle of 2006, but there has not been a MAC quarterback since Gradkowski that has started a game, and there has not been a high profile selection in years. What happened?
The Mid-American Conference has been in operation since 1946, with a core of schools from Michigan and Ohio making up the majority of the membership. A few schools have come and gone, such as Temple, Central Florida, and Marshall (twice), but the MAC has remained relatively unscathed from the dramatic changes that have occurred in many of the major conferences recently. Throughout its history, it is probably best known football-wise for being a starting point for many great coaches---Miami of Ohio may be known for Roethlisberger, but it is best known as the “Cradle of Coaches,” as Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Weeb Ewbank, Ara Parseghian, and Sean Payton are just a few of the coaches to graduate from the Oxford, Ohio school. Other big names to have started or passed through the conference include Ohio State’s Urban Meyer beginning his career at Bowling Green and Alabama’s Nick Saban graduating from Kent State.
The perception began to change over time, however. The MAC went from being known as a breeding ground for coaches to one for young arms. First there was Charlie Batch, a second round selection by his hometown Detroit Lions out of Eastern Michigan University in 1997. Pennington and Leftwich were first rounders from Marshall in 2000 and 2003, respectively, and Roethlisberger was taken in the first round from Miami (OH) in 2004. Frye later followed as a third-rounder from Akron in 2005 and Gradkowski as a sixth-rounder in 2006 from Toledo. This flurry of eventual starters made observers take notice, and suddenly players such as Omar Jacobs of Bowling Green and Nate Davis of Ball State were being looked at as possibly the next in line. Dan Lefevour was drafted by Chicago in Round Six in 2010, but the MAC has stopped producing NFL starters as quickly as it began doing so. Therein lie the real key to this discussion; rather than asking where all the MAC quarterbacks have gone, we should be asking ourselves: Where did they come from to begin with?
Before Batch kicked off the MAC QB boom, there were very few quarterbacks to come from the conference historically. Gary Hogeboom graduated from Central Michigan in 1980, and his journeyman career in the NFL was probably the most impressive that anyone who played in the conference could muster until the likes of Batch, Pennington, Leftwich and Roethlisberger. In the early 1990s, scholarships were reduced from 95 to 85 for Division I football teams, and now a number of quarterbacks who would have gotten scholarships to sit as backups at higher profile universities were going to smaller schools rather than walk on and pay tuition. The MAC conference also offered the opportunity for a quarterback to start for three or four seasons. That experience gained was a key to the success of many of those who graduated to the pros, as was the fact that the offenses in the league typically featured more wide-open, pass-happy styles of play.
That there have not been any starters to come from the conference since the great boom of the late 90s-to-mid-2000s is not as surprising when you consider that there really were not quarterbacks emerging from the conference beforehand. Frye, Gradkowski, and Batch are the only quarterbacks from their schools to play in the league. Ohio and Ball State have yet to have anyone play in an NFL game at the position. Western Michigan boasts Ed Chlebek, who tossed four passes over two games off the bench for the Jets in 1963. Kent State has two former QBs on rosters that have started games in the NFL, but at wide receiver—Josh Cribbs with the Browns and Julian Edelman with the Patriots.
It is also worth noting the fluky nature of some of those who made it to the NFL ending up at the colleges that they did. Pennington was lightly recruited out of high school in Knoxville, Tennessee, and helped lead Marshall as they transitioned back into Division I. Marshall was only in the MAC for a few seasons, and featuring Pennington throwing to Randy Moss, they overwhelmed the conference with their passing attack during their brief stay. Roethlisberger, despite his prototype quarterback size and arm strength, slipped through the cracks and off the radar of many of the bigger schools because he only started one year of high school at the position.
Looking to the future, we find ourselves asking the same question that analysts, scouts and fans have been asking for years—who is next? Is there anyone that looks like he can join the list of starting NFL quarterbacks to have come from the anonymity of the MAC Conference? After all, the same combination of factors that had players emerging as starters less than a decade ago still exist; it is just a matter of someone emerging.
There appears to be a couple of candidates to bring some notoriety back to the Conference of Quarterbacks. In fact, two of the top fifteen on DraftNasty’s Quarterbacks list are from the MAC. Zac Dysert of Miami of Ohio is a four-year starter who will almost certainly join fellow RedHawk Roethlisberger in the NFL, and he has a good chance to wind up being the highest drafted quarterback from the conference since Big Ben finished up his career in Oxford. He is big and strong at 6-4, 228 and has been very productive over his career, with a chance to rewrite the record books for his school by the time he is done playing. As the first three-time captain in school history, Dysert has what NFL coaches are looking for as an experienced, productive player who shows leadership at the most important position on the field. His completion percentage has improved each year of his college career, a trend which is continuing early in his senior season. Western Michigan’s Alex Carder is another experienced quarterback who could have his name called during the next NFL Draft. He has good size as well at 6-2, 225 and is in his third year as a starter for the Broncos. He has been highly productive throughout his career as well, throwing for 31 touchdowns as a junior.
Looking forward, Ohio University has a chance to have their first NFL quarterback, as junior Tyler Tettleton emerged as a star last year as a sophomore, leading the Bobcats to a 10-win season and their first ever bowl victory. The son of former major league baseball player Mickey Tettleton, Tyler is a bit undersized at 6-0, 200 pounds, but he has already broken multiple school records. He will have to overcome his lack of great size and prototypical arm strength.
Toledo has a developing QB as well in Terrance Owens, a rangy left-hander. Owens has more size than Tettleton at 6-4, 195 pounds, and he is developing into a fine passer. He will have another year plus to show NFL scouts that he is worth their time. If he can get stronger, Owens has the size and accuracy (72% completion rate last season as a sophomore) to entice teams into giving him a look. Owens certainly has the athletic ability: he was drafted by the San Diego Padres in this year’s Major League Baseball draft, despite not having played baseball since his freshman year of high school.
History shows that the odds are long for MAC quarterbacks starting in the NFL, but the great boom at the turn of the century has teams keeping their eye on the conference. This year seems as likely a year as any since Roethlisberger, Frye and Gradkowski were throwing passes that the conference will produce a few draft choices next April. In a league where non-D1 passers like Tony Romo, Joe Flacco and Ryan Fitzpatrick are all established starters, scouts are searching everywhere for signal callers who can handle an NFL defense. And in a passing league, good passers are always at a premium. It only makes sense that teams looking for a new signal caller should include the "Conference of Quarterbacks" in the search.
Got an item? Please send an email to [email protected]
Want to read the rest of this DraftNasty.com Article for FREE?
Register an Account for FREE by clicking here.
Already got an Account? Login by clicking here.
Posted by Veky on Oct 15th, 2012Too many misses on 1st round QBs make me wary of buinrng a pick on a gamble. As for the 9/11 game, I'm fine with them playing. In fact, I think we have been dwelling on it for far too long. God Bless America during 7th inning stretches of baseball games began to irritate me many years ago and, coupled with what has transpired since that date in history (unjust war in Iraq and seemingly never-ending war in Afghanistan), it's kind of lost the essence of unity it once resembled. Sorry about the semi-political post and all respect toward those who lost loved ones nearly a decade ago. Just throwing in my two cents. Peace.
Posted by njmfbyy on Oct 16th, 20129MyRxt pfpeyszcfrtv
Posted by jyqydf on Oct 18th, 2012TfBKZA , [url=http://ykfykkiovlgh.com/]ykfykkiovlgh[/url], [link=http://gixwivanhkpl.com/]gixwivanhkpl[/link], http://frilttnkiduy.com/
Posted by bgzkeajp on Oct 19th, 2012sJ6161 oocerzozozck
Posted by oybfihrkbdv on Oct 19th, 2012vuTHhp , [url=http://ljlzalkvnztq.com/]ljlzalkvnztq[/url], [link=http://qdblvuwlxkbk.com/]qdblvuwlxkbk[/link], http://qmpgvqqvecqs.com/
Leave a Reply