Northern Illinois senior Chad Spann was the only MAC running back to reach the 1,000-yard plateau, but that's not the only reason he is the Rivals.com MAC player of the year.
Spann has rushed for 1,293 yards and a nation's-leading 20 TDs; his performance is a major reason NIU won the MAC West title and advanced to the league title game. His best performance of the season was a 223-yard, two-TD masterpiece in a victory over Minnesota. That was one of six 100-yard games for Spann, who also had six games with multiple touchdowns for the Huskies (10-3), who are headed to the Humanitarian Bowl to play Nevada (11-1).
Our coach of the year is Miami's Michael Haywood, who has overseen one of the greatest one-season turnarounds in NCAA history. The RedHawks won just once last season, Haywood's first as coach, and they were expected to languish near the bottom of the MAC East again this season. Instead, they were the surprise division winner, then shocked NIU in the MAC title game.
Miami (9-4) meets Middle Tennessee in the GoDaddy.com Bowl, and if the RedHawks win, they will tie the NCAA's biggest one-season turnaround (Hawaii won nine games in 1999 after going winless in '98).
Kent State defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix is our defensive player of the year and our freshman of the year. Nix led the league with 10 sacks and with 20 tackles for loss, and was a major reason the Golden Flashes finished fifth in the nation in rush defense. Nix also had 43 total tackles, eight quarterback hurries, four forced fumbles, two blocked kicks and two pass breakups. Not bad for a 6-foot, 255-pounder.
Kent State defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis is our MAC coordinator of the year. Kent State is fifth nationally in rush defense, 13th in total defense, 19th in pass efficiency defense, second in tackles for loss and 11th in sacks. Kent State had four games with at least five sacks and five games with at least 10 tackles for loss. Alas, that solid defense wasn't enough to give Kent State a winning record, and coach Doug Martin stepped down at the end of the season.