by P. Carl Giordano, Managing Editor

Dave Clawson is building something at Bowling Green. In his first three seasons, the Falcons are just 14-23, but that figures to change starting this fall. Clawson has been working on developing depth, managing his scholarships and boosting his players grades as well as football ability. The weeding process continued during the offseason, as four players left the team and two others were dismissed (one for violation of team rules and another for a robbery arrest). BG boasts 17 returning starters and has recently attracted some of the best recruits and transfers since the Urban Meyer era ended. Clawson is promoting competition at many positions to avoid any possible complacency among his returnees. It’s been 20 years since their last conference championship, but this might be the season the Falcons return to the top spot in the MAC.

The offense starts with QB Matt Schilz (right), who threw for 3,024 yards with 28 TDs last year. If he can cut down on his 13 interceptions and boost his completion percentage a bit, the Falcon attack will fly with the best in the conference. BG lost a pair of excellent wideouts to graduation, but Schilz is very confident in this season’s crew. Clawson and Schilz both think 6-2 jr. Shaun Joplin is ready to move into the “big dog” role in the 3 wide offense. Joplin caught 21 passes last season, averaging 14 ypc. Michigan transfer Je’Ron Stokes redshirted last season after catching 27 balls for the Wolverines in his freshman and sophomore seasons. He’ll join soph speed receiver Heath Jackson as the leading candidates to replace Kamar Jorden & Eugene Cooper (combined 145 catches, 1,977 yds. and 21 scores). Junior TE Alex Bayer started all 21 games last season and made 20 receptions. It looks as if the receivers will be up to the task.

The running game ranked just 91st in the nation a year ago, but have to figure a significant bump in production from that area. Sophs Anthon Samuel & Jamel Martin and jr. Jordan Hopgood combined for 1337 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. The offensive line returns three solid starters, two specially-groomed redshirt freshman and adds a pair of highly-ranked jucos up front. The Falcons should cut down on the sacks and bump up the ypc from last season’s disappointing 3.7 mark.

How much the defense improves will determine whether or not Bowling Green is included in the MAC championship conversation. In short, this side of the ball has been a major problem since Clawson took over, yielding 28, 34 & 29 ppg in his tenure. The building blocks are available for d.c. Mike Elko to work with, as ten starters including the top eight tacklers are back. The Falcs return a pair of senior first-team all-MAC players in DT Chris Jones (8½ sacks) and MLB Dwayne Woods (left), a tackling machine who’s made 245 stops the last two seasons. The defense needs to stop the run better, as last season’s yield of 203 ypg (4.9 ypc) was a major problem. The DL was a bit nicked up the last two years, forcing players to gain experience and get some starts under their belts. As a result, the Falcons are much deeper on the defensive line, a major bonus.

The secondary figures to be a major strength, led by “BooBoo” Gates, who ranked 2nd on the team with 73 stops and made the all-MAC team as a kick returner. Soph safety Ryland Ward appears ready to garner all-conference attention after recording 69 stops as a redshirt frosh last season. Fellow S Aaron Foster also had 69 tackles last season.

The special teams are a definite plus for Bowling Green, as they have the league’s best punter returning in jr. Brian Schmiedebusch, a reliable PK in sr. Stephen Stein (8-11 after taking over in 2nd half of the season), plus a pair of scholarship placekickers who will try and push Stein to make some longer kicks (39 was his longest in ‘11). Gates is a threat returning kickoffs and the kick coverage is above average.

Summary: Clawson has BG ready to turn the corner this season, although the season starts with a monster of a schedule in the first four weeks, which includes trips to Florida, Virginia Tech and archrival Toledo. However, a win against the Rockets will put them in the thick of the race in the MAC West. If the breaks are even this season (the Falcons ranked 116th in turnover margin last year), Clawson should at least take Bowling Green to another bowl.


Return To Home Page