B/R's Mid-American All-Conference Team of the 21st Century

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2021

B/R's Mid-American All-Conference Team of the 21st Century

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    Corey Davis
    Corey DavisDavid Richard/Associated Press

    Over the last 20 years, the Mid-American Conference has bolstered its reputation. Though it's a Group of Five league, it's known nationally for MACtiongames on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

    And that midweek exposure has put many of the MAC's top players in a spotlight.

    In an effort to reward both excellence and longevity, we only considered players with two-plus seasons for this All-21st Century Team. Anyone who played their last season in 2000 was not included.

    While the conference has leaned on 12 core members, four more programs spent time in the MAC. Players from Marshall in 2000-04, Central Florida in 2002-04, Temple in 2007-11 and Massachusetts in 2012-16 were also eligible.

    The choices are in bold.

    B/R's All-21st Century Series

Quarterback

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Ben Roethlisberger put together the most prolific pro career, and Byron Leftwich had an excellent college career. But there wasn't a more successful MAC quarterback than Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour.

    As a four-year starter, he guided the Chippewas to three MAC titles and earned All-MAC recognition each year. He landed first-team honors in 2006, 2007 and 2009winning the league's Offensive Player of the Year award in 2007 and 2009.

    LeFevour racked up 12,905 yards and 102 touchdowns to just 36 interceptions. He scampered for 2,948 yards and 47 scores, too.

    Nobody in the MAC is within 3,000 yards of LeFevour's career total (15,853), which is fourth in college football history.

Running Backs

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    Garrett Wolfe
    Garrett WolfeAssociated Press

    Garrett Wolfe is the MAC's gold standard of production.

    He leads all post-2000 runners with 5,164 yards and amassed that incredible total in three first-team All-MAC seasons. Northern Illinois' Wolfe topped 1,500 rushing yards and scored at least 16 touchdowns each year, winning the MAC Offensive Player of the Year award in 2006.

    In the mid-2010s, Toledo's Kareem Hunt secured All-MAC recognition in three seasons. He twice led the MAC in rushing, finishing with 4,945 yards and 44 touchdowns in his career.

    Players who narrowly missed include NIU's Michael Turner, Western Michigan's Jarvion Franklin and Buffalo's Jaret Patterson.

Wide Receivers and Tight End

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    Darius Watts
    Darius WattsBOB BIRD/Associated Press

    At wide receiver, Western Michigan's Corey Davis was an undisputed inclusion. He posted three straight 1,400-yard seasons after a 900-yard freshman campaign, earned All-MAC honors in all four seasons and won the MAC Offensive Player of the Year award in 2016.

    After him, however, there is room for debate.

    Central Michigan's Titus DavisCorey's older brotherhad a steady four-year career, and future NFL star Antonio Brown basically had three straight 1,000-yard seasons in Mount Pleasant. WMU's Jordan White was the leader in peak production.

    But the final two choices were Marshall's Darius Watts and WMU's Greg Jennings. Watts was three-time first-team All-MAC and put up 4,031 yards and 47 touchdowns, and Jennings ranks third in MAC history with 39 receiving scores.

    Ball State tight end Darius Hill completed the group with position-best totals of 2,473 yards and 31 touchdowns.

Offensive Line

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    Eric Fisher
    Eric FisherCarlos Osorio/Associated Press

    From 2004-07, every All-MAC selection list included Bowling Green center Kory Lichtensteiger. He landed second-team status in 2004 and 2005 and first-team honors as a junior and senior.

    The same is true for Toledo left tackle Nick Kaczur from 2001-04. After a second-team accolade as a freshman, he secured a first-team spot in each of his last three seasons.

    With a nod to Toledo's John Grecoa three-time first-team All-MAC left tackleCMU's Eric Fisher took the second spot. The No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Fisher earned All-American recognition in 2012 and All-MAC honors twice.

    Marshall guard Steve Sciullo was a first-team All-MAC player in 2001 and 2002, and Miami guard Brandon Brooks grabbed All-MAC recognition from 2009-11.

Defensive Line

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    Chris Jones
    Chris JonesAlex Brandon/Associated Press

    The bookends of this defensive line had absurd numbers.

    Jason Babin collected 75 tackles for loss with 38 sacks during his time at Western Michigan from 2000-03. He twice was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year, which Sutton Smith also achieved for Northern Illinois. Smith registered 58 tackles for loss (30 sacks) and forced seven fumbles (he also made six recoveries) in 2017 and 2018.

    Kent State tackle Roosevelt Nix became the fifth player in league history to earn first-team All-MAC honors in four seasons. He won the MAC Defensive Player of the Year award in 2010the first freshman to accomplish that feat.

    At the same time, Chris Jones starred at Bowling Green. The tackle secured first-team All-MAC recognition twice and was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2012.

Linebackers

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    Khalil Mack
    Khalil MackMike Groll/Associated Press

    Before he became the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2016, Khalil Mack terrorized backfields for Buffalo. The three-time first-team All-MAC linebacker and 2013 MAC Defensive Player of the Year generated 74.5 tackles for loss with 28.5 sacks and 16 forced fumbles from 2010-13.

    Mack shared first-team recognition with Akron's Jatavis Brown in 2013, and Brown repeated the honor in 2014 and 2015. He capped his Zips career as the MAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2015.

    Western Michigan's Ameer Ismail won MAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 and received a pair of first-team All-MAC selections. And at CMU from 2015-18, four-year starter Malik Fountain picked up two first-team and one second-team honors.

Secondary

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    Barry Church
    Barry ChurchCHARLIE NEIBERGALL/Associated Press

    The mid-2010s showcased the conference's best cornerbacks of the 21st century.

    Northern Illinois' Shawun Lurry led the Football Bowl Subdivision with nine interceptions in 2015. He earned All-MAC honors three times, including a first-team spot in 2015 and 2017.

    Darius Phillips is one of only nine players since 1976 to return five interceptions for touchdowns. The Western Michigan star also matched Lurry's two first-team and one second-team All-MAC honors at cornerback.

    The safeties—Toledo's Barry Church and Buffalo's Davonte Shannonearned first-team All-MAC honors in four seasons. Ball State's Justin Beriault deserves a mention but missed the cut because he played linebacker for two years.

Specialists

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The state of Ohio nearly swept the specialist spots.

    Toledo kicker Jeremiah Detmer buried 84.4 percent of his field-goal attempts over a four-year career. The three-time All-MAC specialist landed the league's Special Teams Player of the Year honor in 2013.

    Bowling Green's Joseph Davidson paced the MAC in yards per punt each season from 2015-17. His career average of 45.2 yards is 17th in college football since 2000.

    From 2003-06, Miami standout receiver Ryne Robinson doubled as a nightmarish punt returner. He took back seven punts for touchdowns, which is tied for the third-most ever.

    The outlier is Western Michigan kick returner Darius Phillips. He was the MAC Special Teams Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017, leaving Kalamazoo with five touchdowns and a top-five mark nationally of 3,193 career yards. He earned All-MAC as a specialist in all four seasons, along with his three as a corner.

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