A Look at the Bowling Green Falcons

Bowling Green will come to Gainesville Saturday feeling like they are a team on the rise. From 2-10 in 2010, the Falcons improved three games in 2011 with a 5-7 record. They come in with a veteran quarterback, a sophomore running back that is a post season award candidate, a pretty experienced offensive line, and a defense that returns 10 starters. They should be an improved team in 2012.

A Mixed bag in the Passing Game

The most important person on this Bowling Green squad is junior quarterback Matt Schilz. The hard throwing Shilz returns in 2012 after throwing for 3024 yards, 28 touchdowns to go along with 13 interceptions. A heady player, he is going to have to be at the top of his game throwing the ball as the Falcons return no starters at the receiver position and only about 300 total receiving yards among all wide receivers on the squad.

That means freshmen Ryan Burbrink (5-8, 181) and Chris Gallon (6-4, 221) along with junior Shaun Joplin (6-2, 197) are going to all be facing their first real experience as a full time player when they step on Florida field. Gallon and Joplin have size, but so does the Florida secondary these days. Joplin has 292 of the just over 300 yards receiving that returns for the entire wide receiver corps.

Two guys Schilz will be able to rely on are tight ends Alex Bayer (6-4, 254) a junior, and sophomore Kendall Montgomery (6-5, 258). Bayer has been named to the Preseason John Mackey Award Watch List given annually to the most outstanding collegiate tight end. Bayer started all 12 games in 2011, finishing the year with 20 catches for 242 yards and two touchdowns.

Strong Running Attack

As important as Schilz is to the team, the best player on offense may be sophomore running back Anthon Samuel (5-11, 188). Samuel was named to the Doak Walker Candidate List, annually given to the nation's top running back. Samuel finished 2011 as the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year after starting only five games and recording 844 rushing yards and five touchdowns in nine games. His rushing total was the most-ever by a Falcon freshman and was third in the nation among first-year tailbacks. Sophomore Jamel Martin (5-10, 191) is the biggest back on campus and finished with 280 yards in his freshman campaign.

Tyler Beck (62-259) is a steady fullback in the blocking game and was not asked to run with the ball but did have 8 catches for 97 yards in 2011.

Helping the running game and pass protection is a pretty veteran offensive line. The group returns 71 starts among them and is led by senior center Chip Robinson (6-5, 33) who may be the biggest center I have ever seen listed and junior left guard Domini Flewellen (6-3, 293) and senior right tackle Jordon Roussos (6-4, 303) with 61 starts between them. The Falcons will start a freshman at left tackle in Fahn Cooper (6-4, 300) who will have his hands full with an experienced Gator defensive front.

Bottom Line on Offense

As productive as Schilz was at quarterback and Samuel was at running back, the Falcon offense was only good for 63rd in the country with a schedule easier than most every opponent Florida will face this season. The 26.5 points was good enough for 64th in the nation. They will try to lean on a running game that finished 94th nationally against that schedule and a passing game that finished 33rd, but is missing all three starting receivers from a year ago. They have got to be much improved to do much against Florida's stout defense.

Defense Tough on Passing Game

The Falcon defense returns some form of 10 starters. It is a group that gave up a lot in the ground game, but was stingy through the air in 2011.

Jones and Woods Lead the Front Seven

Senior defensive tackle Chris Jones (6-1, 293) has led the Falcons in sacks in each of the past two seasons, finishing 2010 with 6.0 and added 8.5 (led MAC) in 2011. Combined with his one sack in 2009, Jones has 15.5 career sacks, ranking fifth in BGSU history. He will play alongside junior nose tackle Jairus Campbell (6-5, 310) a giant on the inside who finished with 20 tackles a year ago. Heat will be provided on the outside at defensive end by sophomore Charlie Walker (6-2, 238) who finished a year ago with 27 tackles and four tackles for loss.

The starters at linebacker are senior Dwayne Woods (5-11, 225) in the middle with junior Paul Swan (6-0, 230) and sophomore Gabe Martin (6-1, 224) on the outside. Woods finished last year leading the team in tackles with 111 and was named to the Rotary Lombardi Watch List given to the nation's best linebacker or lineman and joins the aforementioned Jones on the line. In 2010 Woods had 130 tackles on the season. Swan is no slouch and finished a year ago with 63 tackles good for fifth among returning defenders on the Falcon squad.

Secondary Led by a STUD Named Booboo

Bowling Green has a safety position they called the STUD. He certainly on the All-Name team this year but Booboo Gates (5-11, 213) and he is one of the better players on the squad. Booboo is a preseason award candidate for the Paul Hornung Award which goes to college football's most versatile player. In 2011, in his first year as a starter, Gates finished the season second on the team with 73 tackles from his rover position. He added a team-high two interceptions, added two tackles for loss, one sack, three pass breakups and a forced fumble. He is now the starter at STUD.

Joining Gates at safety is sophomore Ryland Ward (5-10, 198) who will man the WHIP position. Ward returns as the third best tackler on the team with 69 tackles a year ago.

Junior Cameron Truss (5-10, 182) is the leading cornerback on the team he has 111 career tackles, with 15 pass break ups and three interceptions in hios previous two years. The other side is a contest between sophomores DeVon McCoy (5-10, 178) and Darrell Hunter (5-8, 177) both players started seven games a year ago and are pretty even with 34 and 32 tackles respectively.

Bottom Line on Defense

While the defensive backfield seems to be the strength of the defense, they also make way too many tackles meaning teams are getting down field on the defense too often and most of that was done in the running game where the Falcons finished 104th in the nation giving up 203.4 yards rushing per game. This should play right into the hands of Florida wants to do on offense, which is run the ball in smash mouth fashion. They finished in the top 40 in pass defense but teams were able to run so much they didn't need to pass.

Overall they aren't small, but they certainly aren't SEC size throughout their defense and Florida should be able to push them around a little bit. It will be interesting to see how Florida attacks through the air with two young quarterbacks given the lack of rush defense the Falcons have shown.

The Kicking Game Has Promise

The reason Booboo Gates is a Hornung Award candidate is because of his defensive prowess and his ability as a kick returner. He earned second-team All-MAC honors as a kick returner in 2011, finishing the year with 38 returns for 981 yards and a touchdown. His yardage total was the highest single season in BGSU history. He is a weapon from that point on the field.

Punter Brian Schmiedebusch (6-3, 225) is on the preseason watch list for the 2012 Ray Guy Award, which honors the nation's top collegiate punter. to that list. Schmiedebusch had one of the best punting performances in Mid-American Conference history in 2011 after averaging 45.3 yards per punt, eighth best in conference history and second best in BGSU history. He earned First-Team All- MAC honors and was named a Ray Guy semi-finalist midway through the 2011 season. The junior finished 2011 with 19 punts over 50 yards, including punts of 81, 76 and 73 yards. He also downed 18 kicks inside the opponent's 20-yardline.

Senior Stephen Stein (5-11, 187) went 8-11 a season ago with a long of 39 yards and is the only returning field goal kicker with statistics. However, Stein is in competition for the starting spot with freshman Tyler Tate (5-11, 175) and the starter has not been announced yet.

Bottom Line on Special teams

The kicking and return game seem to be strong points for the Falcons. Again they don't play SEC opponents every week, but they seem to have a bit of skill in the kicking game.

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