Central Michigan football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Chippewas, best players and season prediction.
After dealing with cancer, dealing with close losses on the football field is nothing.
John Bonamego got the job he always wanted as the head coach of his alma mater, but just when it seemed like everything was coming together, he was hit with a cancer diagnosis discovered in his tonsils. He went through the treatment and came out just fine, and now comes the fun part.
He gets to focus only on football.
Last year’s CMU team was successful in so many ways, but it also could’ve been so much more.
Winning five of the last six games led to a bowl appearance, but as good as the 7-6 final record was, the Chippewas lost a close 28-23 fight with Toledo along with a two-point heartbreaker to Western Michigan. If those two went the other way, and considering they rolled by Northern Illinois, they would’ve been playing for the MAC title.
They gave a high-powered Oklahoma State team a battle, took Syracuse to overtime, played Michigan State much better than the 30-10 loss, and fought hard in a 21-14 loss to Minnesota in the Quick Lane Bowl. All were losses, but all were respectable. Now CMU doesn’t just want to get close; it might have the ability to pull off those tight battles.
The offensive line needs some work, and the ground game needs to be better, but QB Cooper Rush and the strong passing game should be terrific again. The defense that was among the strongest in the MAC returns loaded, and the special teamers are all returning.
So now it’s time for a redo. Bonamego gets to show what he can really do with his school and his job. He earned the chance to have some fun.
What You Need To Know About The Central Michigan Offense
The CMU attack had no running game to balance things out, but the passing game picked up the slack with an efficient attack that wasn’t explosive, but it did what it needed to do with the D taking care of the rest. QB Cooper Rush is back to lead the way, but he needs time behind a rebuilding line that replaces three starters including center Nick Beamish and LT Ramadan Ahmeti. Top targets Jesse Kroll and Ben McCord are done, but second-leading receiver Anthony Rice should be more of a star around several good young options. Now CMU needs a ground game with the returning veterans needing to come up with more than 3.1 yards per pop.
Biggest Key To The Central Michigan Offense
Can the Chippewas start to generate more on the ground? With now-Seattle Seahawk Thomas Rawls paving the way, CMU rolled for over 2,000 rushing yards two years ago with a decent attack, but not a great one. Last year, the Chips couldn’t run a lick after Devon Spalding got hurt – he’s back this year – with Martez Walker leading the way with 373 yards and two scores and the team coming up with 1,317 total yards. The pass protection was fine – there weren’t a ton of sacks to take away from the net total – but the running attack just didn’t work. The O will still work around the passing game, but it would nice to have more of a balance.
What You Need To Know About The Central Michigan Defense
The defense that finished 16th in the nation and allowed just 22 points per game returns with more than enough talent to keep it all going. The line loses a few parts, and star safety Kavon Frazier is done, but seven of the top eight tacklers return, eight starters are back to what should be a terrific group that was so strong against the run. More of a pass rush would be nice, but if the D can hold teams to 332 yards and 22 points per game again, it’ll take it.
Biggest Key To The Central Michigan Defense
Get to the quarterback. The line loses Louis Palmer from the interior and Blake Serpa from the end, but even without leading tackler Kavon Frazier from the secondary, the CMU defense has the parts and the depth to do something special. Now, considering the veterans are there to hold up if things break down, it’s time to start generating more of a pass rush. The D did all its good things last season even though it came up with a mere 14 sacks with five coming in the first three games and with four against Akron. The job of top-shelf pass rusher is open.
Central Michigan Will Be Far Better If …
Really, the running game has to start to work. CMU averaged just over two yards per pop over the first five games and averaged more than four yards a carry in just two games. Cooper Rush and the passing game can carry the offensive weight, but the ground attack failed to crack the 200-yard mark last year after doing it four times in 2014. Going back to 2008, CMU is 15-0 when running for over 200.
Best Central Michigan Offensive Player
QB Cooper Rush, Sr. – It was hard to get too much attention with Bowling Green’s Matt Johnson putting up a ton of massive numbers, but Rush did his part carrying an offense that didn’t have a running game to rely on. When he wasn’t on, the offense didn’t work, but this year he should threaten to throw for 4,000 yards – he threw for 3,848 last year – if he gets the time to operate behind a rebuilt line.
Best Central Michigan Defensive Player
S Tony Annese, Sr. – Kavon Frazier was the all-star leading tackler in the secondary making 108 tackles, but Annese did his job finishing 84 stops while doing a nice job against the run. Big, shifty, and with three years of experience, he should be the tone-setter Frazier was for the back seven.
Key Player To A Successful Season
OT Derek Edwards, Jr. – Versatile enough to play just about anywhere on the line, the 6-5, 300-pound veteran took over the right tackle job last year doing a nice job in pass protection. Can he blast away more for the ground game? More importantly, can he keep Cooper Rush upright? With three starters gone off the line, he needs to be the anchor.
The Central Michigan Season Will Be A Success If …
Central Michigan wins the MAC championship. It’s not going to be easy with the road games at NIU and Toledo to deal with, but the Chippewas were really, really close to getting to the title game last year and they have the defense and passing game to be better. There are holes, but this is a good, strong team that should at least shoot for a trip to Detroit.
Oct. 15 at Northern Illinois. If the Chippewas can beat Western Michigan and Ball State, the NIU game will be very, very big for the MAC West title. Beat the Huskies, and the Toledo game the week after might be for a shot at ending the West race. At worst, beating NIU might provide a buffer for the showdown against the Rockets.
2015 Central Michigan Fun Stats
– Third Quarter Scoring: Central Michigan 106 – Opponents 34
– Penalties: Central Michigan 81 for 703 yards – Opponents 68 for 596 yards
– Time of Possession: Central Michigan 32:57 – Opponents 27:03