BGSU players, from left, Tim McAuliffe, Scott Miller, and Ronnie Moore celebrate after Miller scored a touchdown in 2016. BLADE/ANDY MORRISON
BOWLING GREEN — Last season, Tim McAuliffe had a good season for the Bowling Green State University football team.
He earned All-Mid-American Conference third team honors by anchoring the Falcons’ offensive line, starting in all 12 games. And the native of Lemont, Ill., was named MAC offensive player of the week following the Kent State game after he and the rest of the line helped BG rush for 420 yards, with three different backs each rushing for at least 100 yards.
But Falcons coach Mike Jinks said the McAuliffe he has watched this fall bears little resemblance to the same player one year ago.
“Tim was not released for full contact until the week of the Ohio State game,” Jinks said. “He’s going to be mad at me for saying this, because he’s a tough guy, but I thought he guarded that shoulder a little bit for the bulk of the season.
“We got glimpse of the ‘real’ Tim McAuliffe this spring, getting to see that tenacity and the way he fires off the ball.
“But watching him this fall, you can see he has been phenomenal. You can see why everyone raves about him.”
Last season McAuliffe was bothered by a shoulder injury suffered late in 2015. It caused him to miss all of the spring drills in 2016, Jinks’ first spring as head coach, and the 6-foot-1, 287-pound senior can tell the difference this fall.
“Last year I was ‘on’ and ‘off’ for certain lifts and certain drills after coming back from surgery,” he said. “This past summer I was full health and full go.
“Through camp I didn’t feel the aches and the soreness I felt last year. I feel good.”
There were times, especially early last season, that McAuliffe said doubt would creep into his mind.
“Maybe the first couple of practices I wondered if I would be able to fully come back from injury,” he said. “I knew that if I couldn’t play football again, I would probably lose it.
“But after the first couple of hits, it came back to muscle memory.”
The Falcons’ most experienced offensive lineman, who has started 39 games in his career, said the biggest loss last season was the time he could have spent in the spring learning to block in a new offense.
“You look back at games, and occasionally I would say, ‘Why did I do that?’ or ‘Why didn’t I do this?’ ” McAuliffe said. “Some of that is unfamiliarity with an offense; you think you know, but there are tweaks to every offense.”
McAuliffe gave credit for the improvement this fall to having a year’s experience in the offense, including an injury-free spring, as well as working with BG strength coach Billy Yates to prepare for the coming season.
“Sometimes we did stuff that made me so tired this summer, I couldn’t even remember what we did,” McAuliffe said. “There was a lot of injury prevention stuff, a lot of unique stuff.”
With Bowling Green looking to have a more balanced offense with a continued emphasis on the running game, having a center who has been on the Rimington Award watch list for each of the past three seasons is a good foundation upon which to build.
“I look forward to having the ‘real’ Tim McAuliffe out there this year,” Jinks said.