DETROIT - Quarterbacks are used to being the center of attention.
At least a few quality quarterbacks, though, had to feel left out at the Mid-American Conference football preview at the Renaissance Center. Toledo's Bruce Gradkowski and Bowling Green's Omar Jacobs, considered to be among the nation's best, got the overwhelming majority of interest from the media.
One of the others present was Kent Smith, second-year starter at Central Michigan and a Start graduate. Last season Smith, 6-feet-5, 215 pounds, threw for 16 touchdowns and 2,284 yards and rushed for 10 scores. He ranked sixth in the MAC in total offense.
Smith, a former district off-
ensive player of the year, said he feels he'll match up to the pair this season.
"Without a doubt, I feel I'm equal to those guys," Smith said. "They might have more weapons to throw to, but I feel I'm not far behind, if at all. It does nothing but motivate me. It makes me want to work harder."
Central Michigan hosts UT on Oct. 29. The Chippewas might be without one of their best players in running back Jerry Seymour. Seymour, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, was suspended after he was charged with contempt of court in a case involving a death in a bar fight. Central Michigan is waiting for the outcome of a grand jury investigation before deciding if Seymour can rejoin the team.
SOLICH FEELS SUPPORT: One of the MAC's three new head coaches is Ohio University's Frank Solich, the former Nebraska coach who led the Cornhuskers to the 2001 national title game. Solich compiled a 58-19 record in six years as head coach at Nebraska, but was fired after a 9-3 season in 2003.
Solich spent last season visiting programs around the country. He sat in on activities with five major college programs and three NFL teams and said he has a fresh view of coaching. He said he took the job at Ohio because he was confident in the personnel from top to bottom.
"At this point in my career, I just want to be around people that I feel good about in the administration," Solich said. "I felt great about our president. We were talking about the position, and he came over to my hotel room four times in one day. That's more times that I've seen the president than in the rest of my years being involved in college coaching. It's obvious that the guy at the very top wants it to work at Ohio University. That's the kind of support you look for out there in coaching."
Although Athens, Ohio, is a different atmosphere from Nebraska and the Big 12 Conference, Solich said that doesn't mean he expects anything less from himself.
"I think you always put pressure on yourself as a coach," he said. "If you're not doing well, you'll receive outside pressure no matter where you're at."
The conference's other new coaches are Bill Cubit at Western Michigan and Shane Montgomery at Miami.
TOUGH ROAD AHEAD: Ball State finished last season with a disappointing 2-9 record, and this year won't begin too easily. For their non-conference schedule this year the Cardinals travel to Iowa, Auburn and Boston College.
Senior defensive end Blair Kramer, a St. John's graduate, was the Cardinals' player representative at media day. He said the team looks at the schedule as an opportunity to make a splash with an upset.
"It's exciting because we get to go to all these different places, play some big-game opponents, and a lot of players that are All-Americans," Kramer said.
EXTRA POINTS: ESPN networks will televise 34 MAC games, and you might be able to watch two more on your computer. ESPN360, an Internet-based network, is tentatively scheduled to show the Central Michigan-Penn State and Akron-Purdue games. ... Although Temple's MAC membership is not official until 2007, Owls coach Bobby Wallace and school officials attended the meetings. Temple is scheduled to join as a football-only program, but MAC commissioner Rick Chryst said the school's men's and women's basketball teams will play home-and-home series with each MAC school in the future.
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