Early Signing Day MAC Wrap Up

Early Signing Day has come and gone.  On December 19 a whole lot of fax machines fired up and players sent their letters of intent to the schools they committed to.  For MAC schools, if they are going to a bowl game, that means bowl prep is happening right around the bowl game.  If there wasn’t a bowl game, the staff could be out finishing the class all the way to the dead period that started the day before signing day.

So who closed the early class well?  MAC recruiting info can be hard to find.  Sure, there are plenty of sites that can tell you the players and their grades, but is the class good for that MAC school?  Is it good for any MAC school?  Lets answer that.

I arranged each team’s class into a chart that separated the players by position, then made a sheet that listed the top five players at each position.  I wanted to see each classes number of players at each position and see where the quality players were located.

Conference Round Up

The MAC as a whole did not contend with the top of the G5 on early signing day.  The American and C-USA have teams with good classes throughout.  The Sun Belt and Mountain West each have teams higher than the top of the MAC but falls off the table quickly according to the 247 Sports composite rankings.

There’s no clear reason as to why that is but I suspect that could be that the caliber of coaches is at best unproven right now.  In 2015 the MAC had PJ Fleck, Matt Campbell, and Dino Babers all coaching and recruiting against each other.  Those three are hard to replace and some of other programs are trying to trend in the right way, but MAC football seems to be in the middle of a transition.

Offense

The top offensive recruits are in the graphic below. The highest rated offensive recruit in the MAC, and the top recruit overall is Malik Brooks for Buffalo.  It’s important to note he has not signed at this point.  Wide receiver position has a deep class for the MAC schools.  The quarterback class is a little thin but I almost expect that.  The skill positions are dominated by MAC West teams and the linemen are a little mixed.  Linemen seem to be the hardest to both recruit and evaluate.  The bulk of the MAC went after big guys that need to fill out and are probably not game ready as a freshman.

Defense

The top five at each position defensively are below.  The scout ratings are lower on the defensive side in general, but I couldn’t tell you if that’s a larger trend or a MAC trend.  Denzel Daxon for Ohio is the highest rated defensive player in the MAC.  His offers are impressive, choosing Ohio over Florida, Georgia, Miami, Nebraska, Tennessee and a few others.  Defensive tackle and inside linebacker were pretty thin positions overall for the MAC.  The top corner back is a Kent State commit who has not signed yet, and two JUCO players made the top 5 chart.

 

Akron Zips

Top Players
  1. Christopher Hill – CB, 0.8265 Grade
  2. Keyon Martin – CB, 0.7697
  3. Tyler Connolly – OT, 0.7697
  4. Jarred Uran – OLB, 0.7591
  5. N/A
Total Signees – 0
Decommits
  1. Chris McDonald – CB, 0.8299  Signed with Toledo
  2. Quan Easterling – ATH, 0.8256  Signed with Wisconsin
  3. Maxx Wynn – ILB, 0.8098  Signed with Miami (OH)
  4. Jalen Bell – DT, 0.8003

The Zips are in trouble.  Tom Arth is recently hired and it seems like Terry Bowden wasn’t able to get much established prior to early signing day.  At the time of writing, the Zips have 4 hard commits and no players signed.  If anyone did sign, the program did nothing to celebrate the players committing to Akron.  Who knows, maybe Arth can close before the final signing day and salvage a decent class but he has work to do.

 

Ball State Cardinals

Top Players
  1. Rahmon Hart – WR, 0.8385 Grade
  2. Jalen McGaughy – WR, 0.8366
  3. Nic Jones – CB, 0.8315
  4. Tavion Woodard – DE, 0.8299
  5. Solvaughn Moreland – DT, 0.8114
Total Signees – 17
Decommits
  1. Will Gipson – ATH, 0.8467  Signed with Pitt

Ball State stayed in the backyard and signed 10 of their 17 from Indiana.  Head Coach Mike Neu might be in trouble losing the starting quarterback and running back to transfers, but they are the only MAC school with multiple quarterback commitments.  The has 7 total lineman, 3 wide receivers and only one linebacker.  The top of this class isn’t the best on paper but players with far lower grades have made huge impacts in MAC play.  The class includes the #2 corner back, #3 and #4 defensive tackle, #3 defensive end, and the #5 tight end compared to all MAC early commits.

 

Bowling Green Falcons

Top Players
  1. Brock Horne – ILB, 0.8366 Grade
  2. Davin Wilson – CB, 0.8299
  3. Jordan Anderson – S, 0.8204
  4. Tyrone Broden – WR, 0.8204
  5. Joey Carroll – TE, 0.7998
Total Signees – 17
Decommits
  1. Michael Love – RB, 0.8104  Signed with NIU
  2. Josh Moore – WR, .7844  Signed at Central Oklahoma (D2)
  3. Logan Holgorsen – QB, 0.8106 Committed to Houston

New Head Coach Scot Loeffler filled the class up pretty well after being hired to turn around the Bowling Green program.  The only thin spot might be linebacker with only one athlete but it is their highest rated recruit.  Defensive back seemed to be a priority with five total commitments.  Many of the players that signed on signing day didn’t have player pages on 247 Sports, but the top of the class doesn’t raise any eyebrows in a good way or a bad way.  They seem like normal MAC talent.  The top three players in this class are the #2 inside linebacker, #4 corner back, and the #4 safety relative the other MAC schools.

Buffalo Bulls

Top Players
  1. Malik Brooks – WR, 0.8800
  2. Rich Miller – ILB, 0.8343
  3. Kyler Laing – OLB, 0.8265
  4. Caleb Tate – OLB, 0.8265
  5. Caelan Shepard – OG, 0.7998
Total Signees – 14
Decommits
  1. N/A

Buffalo did a good job getting a balanced class and having an incoming player everywhere except quarterback.  With Tyree Jackson going to the NFL, that might seem like it’s suddenly more important than it was a month ago.  The top rated MAC recruit also belongs to the Bulls in Malik Brooks.  He has not signed and I don’t know how much I trust the rating.  Only 247 Sports has graded him.  His tape looks really good, but his competition doesn’t look great.  He’s got the size at 6’3″ and 180lbs so we’ll just have to see how he is at the FBS level.

After Brooks and the three linebackers, the class really falls off.  The top five are the only 3 star players in the class.  It makes sense that a former division 3 coach might be used to developing the players and more willing to take the chance on a diamond in the rough, but some of the competition is adding instant depth or starters.  The class does feature the #1 wide receiver, the #1 inside linebacker, and the outside linebackers are tied for the #5 spot.

Central Michigan Chippewas

Top Players
  1. Lew Nichols – RB, 0.8579 Grade
  2. Cameron Vaughn – OT, 0.8442
  3. Kyorn McKinnie-Harper – ATH, 0.8276
  4. Ormondell Dingle – S, 0.8227
  5. Danny Motowski – OG, 0.8204
Total Signees – 16
Decommits
  1. Dequan Finn – QB, 0.8491  Signed with Toledo
  2. Maverick Hansen – DT, 0.8382  Signed with MSU

Jim McElwain did a really good job salvaging his first class at Central Michigan.  It’s not all roses though.  Losing quarterback Dequan Finn to Toledo, who just happens to be the top rated quarterback in the MAC to this point.  That happens when coaching changes are made.  The Chippewas were able to get the #1 runningback, #1 athlete, #2 offensive tackle, #3 offensive gaurd, #3 safety, and the #5 quarterback.  Getting a good quarterback can help lessen the blow of Finn, but it should be pointed out how the ratings can vary pretty wildly.  Tony Poljan was a 2016 quarterback recruit for CMU and was rated a 3 star, 0.8553 grade.  This year he did lead them in passing but only played as a quarterback in seven games and was a tight end in the other five.

Eastern Michigan Eagles

Top Players
  1. Darius Boone – RB, 0.8204 Grade
  2. Jimi McAdams – OG, 0.8168
  3. DeAnthony Ball – WR, 0.8064
  4. William Racely – OG, 0.8054
  5. Mark Lee – CB, 0.8053
Total Signees – 18
Decommits
  1. Devin Nicholson – OLB, .8417  Signed with Missouri

Coach Chris Creighton leaned into the JUCO players more than any other MAC school this year.  Five of the eighteen signers came from JUCO programs. That’s not necessarily a good or bad thing but it could lead to situations where junior college players are needed to fill small classes later down the road.  The class in total has good positional coverage, and the top end is fine for a MAC school.  It seems that player development will always be more important at Eastern Michigan because it’s hard to recruit to Ypsilanti.  The top two players ranked as the #5 running back, and the #4 offensive guard.

Kent State Golden Flashes

Top Players
  1. Mario Nunez – CB, 0.8399 Grade
  2. Prince Okituama – DE, 0.8299
  3. Sekou Diaby – DE, 0.8200  (JUCO)
  4. Mike Nicholas – OG, 0.8154
  5. Colin Schlee – QB, 0.8104
Total Signees – 15
Decommits
  1. Trey Trawick – S, 0.8299
  2. Dante Justice – S, 0.8198
  3. Devon Fox – WR, 0.8104  Signed with Temple
  4. Kenneth Walker – RB, 0.8048  Signed with Wake Forest
  5. Bryson Whitehead – CB, 0.7998  Signed with Charlotte
  6. EJ Horton – WR, 0.7998

A decent class for Sean Lewis and the Golden Flashes in his first full class.  It’s a good class for Kent State, having to rebuild the roster, and should help to meet the expectations at Kent State.  There are no linebackers in this class, which seems to be a theme in MAC classes.  There wasn’t any effort to stay in the MAC footprint though.  Three athletes came from Ohio and that’s the most of any state.  Other players came from California, Georgia, Missouri, and Maryland.  Mario Nunez is the top corner back in the MAC, but has yet to sign.  Both of the safeties in the class tied for the #5 spot, and the #2 and the #5 defensive ends have signed with Kent State.

Miami Red Hawks

Top Players
  1. Brett Gabbert – QB, 0.8477 Grade
  2. Austin Robinson – WR, 0.8376
  3. Julius Wood – S, 0.8366
  4. Nick Manson – WR, 0.8338
  5. Deland McCullough II – ATH, 0.8272
Total Signees – 29
Decommits
  1. Alante Brown – WR, 0.8600  Signed with Michigan State
  2. Spencer Holstege – OT, 0.8323  Signed with Purdue
  3. Devin Blakely – CB, 0.8014
  4. Kyle Bryanh – DE, 0.7892
  5. Jonquavous Brown – RB, 0.7798

Blaine Gabbert’s brother Brett signed with Chuck Martin and the Miami Redhawks.  Miami has also finished their recruiting at the early deadline with 29 signees, which probably means there are some grey shirts or preferred walk ons in there.  There are a ton of players, so there are no gaps in any of the positions.  This class doesn’t have the top end that some of the others do, however this is a solid group of players.  A lot of players appear in the top, so here it goes: #2 offensive guard, #2 and #4 athlete, #2 and #5 safety, #3 and #4 inside linebackers, #4 tight end, #4 defensive end, #5 offensive tackle.

Northern Illinois Huskies

Top Players
  1. Fabian McCray – WR, 0.8571 Grade
  2. Justin Clark – S, 0.8416
  3. Romel Goston – CB, 0.8265
  4. Leif Engstrand – OT, 0.8204
  5. Mariano Valenti – QB, 0.8186
Total Signees – 16
Decommits
  1. Daraun McKinney – ATH, 0.8577  Signed with Iowa
  2. Jalen McGaughy – WR, 0.8366  Signed with Ball State

Rod Carey just took off and left this class in the wake, but the next coach gets a solid roster and a good set of recruits. Justin Clark is the highest rated defensive back going to a MAC school at this point.  The Huskies are the only team to get more than one player from Wisconsin.  There were two decommitments that happened right around signing day and would’ve been the top recruit and fourth best in the class if they both signed.  Northern Illinois kept to their home state and got 9 of 16 from Illinois.  The class has the #1 safety, #3 wide receiver, #4 quarterback, #5 athlete, and the #5 cornerback.

Ohio Bobcats

Top Players
  1. Denzel Daxon – DT, 0.8709 Grade
  2. Tyler Foster – TE, 0.8688
  3. Christophe Atkinson – OG, 0.8399
  4. Cannon Blauser – OLB, 0.8329
  5. Thomas Aronokhale – OG, 0.8305
Total Signees – 19
Decommits
  1. N/A

The Ohio Bobcat 2019 class is awesome.  They were the only team to go out of the country to get anyone.  They didn’t get just anyone either.  Ohio signed their starting quarterback’s brother Kurtis Rourke.  The coaching staff did a great job getting at least an above average player at just about every position.  The bulk of the players came from Ohio with a couple coming from Florida.  The number one defensive player recruited to this point is defensive tackle Denzel Daxon.  At 6’1″ and 315lbs he’s one of the few linemen ready to play day one.  The class has the #1 tight end, offensive guard, and defensive tackle, the #2 offensive guard, and outside linebacker, #4 offensive tackle, and the #5 defensive tackle.

Toledo Rockets

Top Players
  1. Justin Stephens – TE, 0.8668 Grade
  2. Dequan Finn – QB, 0.8491
  3. Chris’Seon Stringer – WR, 0.8455
  4. Michael Bergen – OT, 0.8410
  5. Joe Smith – OLB, 0.8409
Total Signees – 16
Decommits
  1. Michael Kern – QB, 0.8386  Signed with Wake Forest
  2. Quinyon Mitchell – CB, 0.8305
  3. Joey Carroll – TE, 0.7998 Signed with Bowling Green

Toledo has recruited another awesome class in 2018-19 lead by tight end Justin Stephens.  The 6’7″ pass catcher turned down offers from LSU, Kentucky, Michigan State, and Iowa to play football at Toledo.  Dequan Finn is the top quarterback to head to a MAC school, and he was committed to Central Michigan before they fired their coach.  Five players came from Ohio and Florida to make the majority of the class.

The Florida recruiting plan for a MAC school is a risky thing.  There is no doubt that there is talent there but it is a lot of effort to try to recruit kids that have no interest in leaving the south.  Bottom line is, if a team is going to recruit Florida, it has to be productive.  Toledo was definitely productive at it should pay off for them.  This class includes the #1 quarterback, defensive end, and outside linebacker, #2 running back, tight end, defensive tackle, #3 offensive tackle, corner back, and athlete, and the #4 wide receiver of the incoming players.  Damn!

Western Michigan Broncos

Top Players
  1. Cameron Coleman – WR, 0.8784 Grade
  2. Joacheim Price – OT, 0.8527
  3. Damari Roberson – WR, 0.8397
  4. Marshawn Foster – WR, 0.8329
  5. Caleb Dalton – OLB, 0.8309
Total Signees – 20
Decommits
  1. Jacob Wahlberg – ILB, 0.8539
  2. Payton Thorne – QB, 0.8511  Signed with Michigan State
  3. Devin Baldwin – DE, 0.8463  Signed with Rutgers
  4. Stephan Bracey – WR, 0.8315  Signed with Wisconsin
  5. CJ Cutcliff – CB, 0.7898
  6. Roland Williams – CB, 0.7800

Last but not least, the Broncos signed a class that was #1 in the MAC per the 247 Sports composite, until very recently.  Some key decommitments hurt them down the stretch, but the 2019 class is still full of players who will not struggle to see the field in the MAC.  The class is lead by wide receiver Cameron Coleman who was a four star until a little after he committed to Western Michigan.  Tim Lester and the staff stacked some positions like running back and wide receiver but were only able to sign one defensive lineman.  The class for the Broncos includes the #1 offensive tackle, #2 and #5 wide receiver, #3 quarterback, #3 and #4 running back, #3 and #4 outside linebacker, and the #5 inside linebacker.

 

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