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February 10, 2011

MAC spring primer: Coaching changes

MORE PREVIEWS: C-USA | MWC | Sun Belt | WAC | Independents

Welcome to the MAC, land of the new coach.

Five new coaches will hit the practice field for the first time with their new teams during spring drills: Steve Addazio at Temple, Dave Doeren at Northern Illinois, Darrell Hazell at Kent State, Pete Lembo at Ball State and Don Treadwell at Miami.

Addazio, Doeren and Treadwell are taking over teams that each won at least eight games, and Miami and NIU are coming off bowl wins. That trio's "mission" is to keep a good thing going.

Hazell and Lembo, on the other hand, are taking over teams that have struggled the past few seasons.

The happiest coach just might be Toledo's Tim Beckman, whose team looks as if it will be the preseason league favorite. Still, the Rockets have some work to do, most notably deciding on a starting quarterback.

Here's a look at the start and end dates for spring drills, as well as a quick look at what each team hopes to accomplish.

AKRON
Practice begins: March 23
Spring game: April 16
The buzz: The Zips must improve a moribund offense that ranked 119th out of 120 FBS schools (268.5 ypg). The passing attack was especially horrid (155.1 ypg and 5.3 yards per attempt). That was a big reason Akron went 1-11 in coach Rob Ianello's debut season. Rebuilding the line is the most important spring undertaking on defense.
BALL STATE
Practice begins: March 29
Spring game: April 23
The buzz: The Cardinals are starting over after Stan Parrish was fired with a 6-18 record in two seasons. The school hired Pete Lembo from Elon. He will spend the spring introducing his schemes and getting to know his personnel after going 35-22 at Elon in five years. Before that, Lembo was coach at Lehigh, going 44-14 in five seasons. On the field, Ball State needs to replace its best offensive lineman and its best defensive lineman, and it needs to determine a pecking order at tailback.
BOWLING GREEN
Practice begins: March 18
Spring game: April 15
The buzz: Falcons coaches will focus on the offensive line, which was a revolving door because of injuries in 2010. At least the MAC's top pass catcher, Kamar Jorden, is back. BG needs to improve on defense after ranking 12th in the MAC (432.0 ypg), and it all begins up front for a unit that time and again was run over en route to allowing 207.4 rushing yards per game.
BUFFALO
Practice begins: March 23
Spring game: April 16
The buzz: The Bulls will focus on revamping the offensive line and developing a quarterback. Coaches must amp up an offense that finished last in the nation in scoring (14.1 ppg). The Bulls ranked 111th out of 120 schools in total offense and 102nd in rushing, with only three rushing TDs. Coach Jeff Quinn fired coordinator Greg Forest and receivers coach Juan Taylor. Rebuilding the secondary will take top priority on defense.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN
Practice begins: March 15
Spring game: April 16
The buzz: The Chippewas will be looking for replacements up the middle on defense with the losses of two-time All-MAC first-team LBs Nick Bellore and Matt Berning, as well as three-time All-MAC third-team T Sean Murnane. Offensively, the Chips lost their two best linemen, and coaches will be looking to build depth at wide receiver.
EASTERN MICHGAN
Practice begins: March 8
Spring game: April 10
The buzz: The staff must improve a rancid defense that ranked 113th in the nation overall (454.1 ypg) and 118th in scoring (43.9 ppg). Only one school (East Carolina) gave up more touchdowns than EMU's 71. More grisly details: The Eagles permitted a national-high 6.1 yards per rush en route to yielding 230.6 yards per game rushing. Offensively, the Eagles will have a rebuilt line, a new starting tailback and a new tight end.
KENT STATE
Practice begins: March 29
Spring game: April 16
The buzz: Doug Martin resigned after going 28-53 in seven seasons; he was the longest-tenured MAC coach. So, the Golden Flashes are starting fresh as the program looks for its first bowl since 1972. It will be a getting-to-know-you-spring with new boss Darrell Hazell, who had been receivers coach at Ohio State and is installing new schemes across the board. Defense led the way for Kent State last season, but the new staff has some work to do at linebacker and in the secondary.
MIAMI
Practice begins: March 22
Spring game: April 15
The buzz: The players will begin to adjust to new coach Don Treadwell, who was offensive coordinator at Michigan State. The top priority is finding a running back to replace Thomas Merriweather. Zac Dysert and Austin Boucher will battle at quarterback. Defensively, the biggest issue is replacing two starters in the secondary.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS
Practice begins: March 22
Spring game: April 23
The buzz: With Jerry Kill off to be coach at Minnesota, the Huskies will spend the spring getting familiar with new coach Dave Doeren and his staff. Doeren arrives from Wisconsin, where he was defensive coordinator. He will have plenty of talent to work with for a program that went 23-16 with three bowls in three seasons under Kill. But RB Chad Spann, the MAC's top rusher, must be replaced. NIU also needs to rebuild in the secondary and along the defensive line.
OHIO
Practice begins: March 28
Spring game: April 16
The buzz: All eyes will be on the quarterback spot with the departure of Boo Jackson, who left campus with many school passing marks. Phil Bates is back after seeing action in a dual-threat capacity. Also in the mix are Tyler Tettleton, Kyle Snyder and Derek Roback. It's also important that Ohio try to figure out if it has a true feature back on the roster. The defense is going to undergo a makeover, as all four starting defensive linemen are gone, as are three key players in the secondary.
TEMPLE
Practice begins: March 23
Spring game: April 16
The buzz: Al Golden left to become coach at Miami, and new coach Steve Addazio had been offensive coordinator at Florida. One of his tasks will be to amp up an offense that lacked punch under Golden. Temple lost its two best starting offensive linemen, and has to rebuild the middle of its defense. Both starting defensive tackles are gone, as are the starting middle linebacker and the starting free safety.
TOLEDO
Practice begins: March 17
Spring game: April 15
The buzz: There isn't too much to work on, as this looks like the Rockets' best team since Bruce Gradkowski's senior season in 2005. Another receiver needs to step up and a replacement is needed for LB Archie Donald. And keep an eye on the quarterback battle. It's probably Terrance Owen's job, but Austin Dantin beat him out last summer and may be able to do it again.
WESTERN MICHIGAN
Practice begins: March 17
Spring game: April 16
The buzz: The Broncos need to sort out the offensive line and figure out how to use their collection of strong running backs. A replacement for WR Jordan White also is needed. The defense needs to shore up a young secondary.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.



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