Ranking the MAC's signal-callers for 2019
The MAC should have its share of prolific quarterbacks and high-scoring offenses once again in 2019. Ohio’s Nathan Rourke is the clear No. 1 quarterback returning this fall, followed by Western Michigan’s Jon Wassink. Mitchell Guadagni is the frontrunner to start at Toledo, and assuming he’s the No. 1 quarterback for a full season, a place on the All-MAC team would certainly be within reach. Kent State’s Woody Barrett, Akron’s Kato Nelson and Eastern Michigan’s Mike Glass are three potential breakout candidates for 2019.
Ranking the quarterbacks by conference or nationally is no easy task. To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2019. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, having a clear hold on the No. 1 position, previous production, 2019 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the MAC for 2019.
Ranking the MAC's Quarterbacks for 2019
12. Jackson Williamson, Miami (Ohio)
Zero. That’s the amount of career pass attempts by RedHawks’ quarterbacks at the FBS level entering 2019. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the program pursue a graduate transfer this offseason. Williamson played in two games as the backup to Gus Ragland last year and is the frontrunner to start. Freshmen AJ Mayer (redshirt) and Brett Gabbert (true) are names to watch this offseason.
11. Kyle Vantrease, Buffalo
Tyree Jackson leaves big shoes to fill in Buffalo this offseason. With one of the MAC’s top offensive lines and a deep stable of backs, the Bulls can lean on the ground until a quarterback emerges. Vantrease has played in six games (with one start) in his first two years on campus. In limited action, Vantrease has completed 43.9 percent of his passes for 375 yards and two touchdowns to two picks. Redshirt freshman Matt Myers, junior Dominic Johnson and true freshman Trevor Bycznski will push Vantrease for the job in fall practice.
10. Grant Loy, Bowling Green
Uncertainty surrounds Bowling Green’s quarterback situation after Jarret Doege’s decision to transfer in May. Doege was poised to rank among the MAC’s top quarterbacks for 2019, but new coach Scot Loeffler will have to find a new No. 1 option. A graduate transfer seems like a strong possibility for the new staff to explore. For now, Loy’s experience should put him atop the depth chart. The Ohio native has connected on 16 of 28 throws for 341 yards and two scores and rushed for 215 yards and two touchdowns over the last two years.
9. Drew Plitt, Ball State
Riley Neal transferred to Vanderbilt this offseason, but the cupboard isn’t empty at quarterback for coach Mike Neu. Plitt has played in 13 games over the last two years, proving to be a capable option for the Cardinals. In five appearances in 2017, Plitt completed 42 of 84 throws for 430 yards and three scores. Plitt received even more playing time last season, as he made eight overall appearances and three starts. The Ohio native tossed eight picks to six scores but accounted for 1,008 yards and completed 65 percent of his throws. The junior has a strong supporting cast at his disposal in his first full year as the team’s No. 1 quarterback.
8. Quinten Dormady, Central Michigan
Central Michigan is the third FBS stop in Dormady’s career. The Texas native played at Tennessee from 2015-17, which included 16 overall appearances and five starts during the 2017 season. Dormady ended his stop on Rocky Top with 925 passing yards and six touchdowns to six picks. He transferred to Houston prior to the 2018 campaign and received playing time in just two contests. Dormady had one more year of eligibility remaining and chose to leave Houston for a chance to start at Central Michigan. After averaging just 15 points a game last season, Dormady’s experience should help new coach Jim McElwain find a spark on offense this year.
7. Marcus Childers, Northern Illinois
This might seem low for Childers, but with a new coaching staff, along with the addition of California graduate transfer Ross Bowers, uncertainty surrounds the quarterback position in DeKalb. Childers started all 14 games for the Huskies in 2018 and accounted for 2,706 total yards and 21 overall scores. The Georgia native delivered a clutch performance in the MAC title game, tossing four scores and 300 yards in a win over Buffalo. However, Childers had only one other performance of more than 200 yards, averaged 5.5 yards an attempt and ranked 10th among qualified MAC passers in quarterback rating.
6. Mike Glass III, Eastern Michigan
Eastern Michigan is losing some key pieces off last year’s seven-win team, but coach Chris Creighton’s program should be in position to earn its third bowl trip in four seasons. Glass is poised to take over as the No. 1 quarterback after sharing time under center with Tyler Wiegers last fall. Glass transferred from the junior college ranks to Eastern Michigan prior to the 2017 season and took a redshirt that fall. Last season, Glass completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 1,024 yards and nine touchdowns to just one pick. Additionally, Glass ranked second on the team with 412 rushing yards and paced the offense with six touchdowns on the ground. With a full offseason to work as the starter, Glass appears primed for a breakout year.
5. Kato Nelson, Akron
New Akron coach Tom Arth had a successful collegiate career as a quarterback at John Carroll and spent some time in the NFL as a backup with the Colts. That experience and background should help Nelson take a step forward under the new staff. After taking over as the team’s starter at the end of 2017, Nelson made 11 starts in ’18, throwing for 2,329 yards and 15 touchdowns to eight picks. He also chipped in 303 yards and a score on the ground last fall. If Nelson takes the next step under the new staff, contending for All-MAC honors in 2019 is certainly within reach.
4. Woody Barrett, Kent State
Kent State’s offense showed marked improvement under first-year coach Sean Lewis in 2018. The Golden Flashes averaged 23.9 points a game, up from 12.8 in ’17. Another step forward is on tap for 2019. Barrett – a former Auburn quarterback – threw for 2,339 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first year on campus. He also finished third on the team with 503 rushing yards and tied for the lead with seven scores on the ground. With another offseason to work under Lewis, combined with one of the MAC’s top receiving corps, Barrett should push for all-conference honors in 2019.
3. Mitchell Guadagni, Toledo
Toledo exited spring practice with uncertainty at quarterback. Guadagni opened 2018 as the starter and threw for 1,053 yards and 13 scores over his first seven appearances. The Ohio native also recorded 428 yards and three scores on the ground, which included 100-yard games versus Nevada and Eastern Michigan. Guadagni was off to a solid start in his first year as the No. 1 quarterback, but he suffered a season-ending injury against Western Michigan and missed the final five games. Redshirt freshmen Cross Wilkinson and Carter Bradley and junior Eli Peters are the top competition for Guadagni. Assuming Guadagni is the starter, he should put up big numbers in Toledo's high-powered offense.
2. Jon Wassink, Western Michigan
Injuries have derailed back-to-back seasons for Wassink. In his first year as the starter in 2017, Wassink threw for 1,391 yards and 14 touchdowns to just four picks before suffering a collarbone injury against Eastern Michigan on Oct. 21. In 2018, Wassink played in nine games before an ankle injury ended his season. Prior to the injury, Wassink was on track for all-conference honors. He completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,994 yards and 16 touchdowns and added six scores on the ground. If Wassink can stay healthy, Western Michigan will have a chance to contend for the MAC West title. But even if he misses time, coach Tim Lester’s offense is in good hands with backup Kaleb Eleby.
1. Nathan Rourke, Ohio
No debate is needed to pick the MAC’s No. 1 quarterback in 2019. Rourke is the unquestioned No. 1 signal-caller going into fall practice, as the Canada native has amassed 76 total touchdowns over the last two years. After accounting for 3,115 total yards in 2017, Rourke was even better as a junior last fall. He started all 13 games for the Bobcats and finished with 3,294 total yards. Additionally, Rourke’s completion percentage jumped from 55.1 in ’17 to 59.9 last season. He also finished second in the MAC by connecting on six passes of 50 or more yards. With Rourke directing Ohio’s offense for one more year, coach Frank Solich’s team could be the preseason favorite to win the MAC in 2019.