Central Michigan Chippewas
The departure of do everything quarterback Dan LeFevour was undoubtedly the biggest loss Central Michigan had to work through in 2010 and judging by the results it didn’t go as planned. Another issue was head coach Butch Jones left for Cincinnati meaning that first year head man Dan Enos inherited a program minus one of the most productive players in the country while getting accustomed to the players on the roster and vice versa. The offense seemed to be faring better as the season matured but the Chippewas posted their first losing season since 2005 and the fan base expects to see some progress to a return to elite status in the MAC.
Even though the offense showed signs of improvement as last season came to a close, this unit could have been much better minus their 32 turnovers and injuries. Ryan Radcliff (3,358 Yards-61%) had big shoes to fill behind center and showed he could throw the ball but his 17 interceptions was a killer. Yes he threw for 17 scores but tended to force the ball at times and mistakes piled up. Central Michigan was primarily a passing team a year ago and will be once again but expect the running game to get enough chances to shine behind Paris Cotton (142-651) who led the Chips a year ago but didn’t see the ball consistently. Cotton also caught 25 passes but CMU also needs another body to share the load and step in if Cotton gets dinged up and that job will fall to Zurlon Tipton who ran for 203 yards and is more of a power guy. With three of their top pass catchers missing in 2010, Cody Wilson (83-1,137) stepped in to the number one role. Jerry Harris was third on the team with 30 grabs and will be expected to do even more while Cedric Fraser and tight end David Blackburn (22-285) round out the top options. The offensive line gave up 33 sacks a year ago and weren’t very effective carving out room in the running game but injuries hit this unit hard. With a full compliment of players back there is experience that should translate in to better numbers overall.
The defense didn’t generate enough turnovers with just three interceptions by the secondary being a number that stands out. The defensive front didn’t generate a consistent pass rush and made few tackles for loss mainly because this isn’t a very big or powerful group. This unit is quick and should be more of a prescience in the backfield and needs to be with some productive players in the line backing crew lost to graduation. Matt Berning and Nick Bellore take a 192 tackles with them and if the line struggles again this will be a problem. Mike Petrucci is a guy to watch in the middle while Armon Staten was fourth on the team with 78 stops in nine games. Alex Smith was a starter a year ago until getting hurt after only three games. The Central Michigan allowed 206 yards per game for third in the MAC which was impressive considering this was a completely new unit in 2010. The player to watch is safety Jahleel Addae who finished as the Chippewas #4 tackler. High school track star Lorenzo White will man one corner spot while Avery Cunningham is penciled in at the other safety spot after recording 51 stops last season.
Walk on David Harmon was a pleasant surprise hitting 9 of 12 of his field goals put doesn’t have a big leg with 40 yards being about his comfort zone. JUCO transfer Curtis Huge looks to boost the punting game that netted just under 33 yards. Cody Wilson is back to handle punt returns and either Zurlon Tipton or Jahleel Addae will return kicks but the return game as a whole did not stand out.
The offense will be better if Radcliff can stand in the pocket without fear of being hammered every time which should also lead to less turnovers. The defense should be fine if the linebackers are productive and assist in the pass rush. Enos has talent and potential going for him in 2011 but Central Michigan will be hard pressed to unseat a team like Toledo right now but the Chippewas could be the team nobody wants to play in the MAC West.