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BOWLING GREEN — There were plenty of familiar faces smiling back at the cameras as the Bowling Green State University football team held its media day Saturday at Doyt Perry Stadium.
After a day in which the team photo was taken and interviews were conducted with local media, the Falcons return to the practice field for split-squad practices today and Monday, preparing for the first of two scrimmages scheduled for next Sunday.
Here is a look at five questions BG must answer before opening its season at home against Tulsa on Thursday, Aug. 29.
Running back: The Falcons must deal with the loss of Anthon Samuel, who ran for 998 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, and John Pettigrew, who added 562 yards and six more scores.
Bowling Green definitely has options at the position, though. The returnees include Jamel Martin, who had 205 yards in seven games before suffering a knee injury; Andre Givens, who ran for 134 yards in six contests, and Jordan Hopgood, who added 74 yards in limited action. The Falcons switched Travis Greene to running back in spring, and this year’s incoming freshman class may provide options as well.
“We were very aggressive signing running backs,” BG coach Dave Clawson said. “Right now Jamel Martin looks healthy, and Jordan Hopgood looks healthy, and Andre Givens is back.
“Right now our numbers are good; we need guys to stay healthy and develop. If we do that, we’ll have a lot of depth and we’ll be very good at that position.”
Offensive tackles: The Falcons are missing the bookends from last year’s line as Jordon Roussos was lost to graduation while Fahn Cooper did not return to the program.
As with the running back position, Clawson said the Falcons don’t lack for options to fill the two spots.
“We have three guys competing for the two tackle positions: Christian Piazza, Jacob Bennett, and Logan Dietz,” Clawson said. “We moved Clay Rolf there.
“And there’s the possibility of taking a guard and moving him to tackle. Dominic Flewellyn is capable of playing the position.”
Defensive line: Only one player is missing, but that player is a big loss as MAC defensive player of the year Chris Jones took his 19 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks to the NFL.
It helps that the Falcons have a pair of fifth-year seniors leading the way at this position. Ted Ouellet earned All-Mid-American Conference third team honors last season, finishing with 35 tackles, including six for loss, while Jairus Campbell was playing well before a foot injury during the Toledo contest in Sept., 2012, ended his season prematurely.
Depth at linebacker: The Falcons lost Dwayne Woods, who collected 68 tackles in 12 games and was an All-MAC pick each of the past three seasons. Bowling Green returns two linebackers with experience in senior Paul Swan, who finished third on the team with 65 tackles last season, and junior D.J. Lynch, who was next on the list with 63 tackles.
The biggest question is who will fill their shoes if either Swan or Lynch go down. The possibilities include Coy Brown, who played in seven games as a true freshman and had four tackles, or Paul Senn, a junior-college transfer.
Another possibility includes moving Gabe Martin from rover back to linebacker. Look for the Falcons to try to avoid that, though, as Martin earned All-MAC honors last season while leading the team with 70 tackles, including 8.5 for loss, and making big plays all over the field at the rover position.
Quarterback: The Falcons have one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the MAC in senior Matt Schitz, a three-year starter. So what’s the question mark?
Simply put, Schitz needs to return to the form of his sophomore season, when he threw for 3,024 yards and 28 touchdowns in 12 contests. Last year he took a step backward, throwing for 2,585 yards and 14 TDs in one more game than he played the previous year.
Among those in the running for the starter’s role are redshirt sophomore Matt Johnson, who had 28 pass attempts spread over eight games, and redshirt freshman James Knapke.