Preview 2017: Central Michigan Chippewas
Previewing and looking ahead at the Central Michigan Chippewas season – and what you need to know.
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What You Need To Know About The Central Michigan Offense
The Chippewas had a terrific talent at quarterback last year in Cooper Rush, and they let him bomb away. The offense was heavy on the passing attack that finished 26th in the nation, but now he’s gone.
Fortunately, CMU has a few nice options with Michigan transfer Shane Morris coming in to challenge veteran backup Tommy Lazzaro, who hasn’t seen much time, but knows the attack.
Helping ease the new guy in is a fantastic receiving corps with the top four targets from last season back, led by a fantastic all-star in Corey Willis.
But the offense doesn’t have to rely solely on the passing attack with a strong veteran runner in Devon Spalding working behind a veteran line with all five starters returning. Now CMU has to …
Biggest Key To The Central Michigan Offense
Generate more of a running game to help out the new starting quarterback. Scoring in the red zone every time possible would be a plus – the field goal kicking has to be sharper – but using Spalding to balance out the attack is a must.
Last season, CMU came up with 200 rushing yards just once against FBS teams and cranked out a mere 100 yards five times after blasting Presbyterian for 255 yards in the opener.
The line is in place, Spalding is great, and there will be a commitment to the ground attack at times. Expect CMU to hit the 2,000-yard rushing mark after struggling the last two seasons.
What You Need To Know About The Central Michigan Defense
It wasn’t all that bad – allowing fewer than 400 yards and 30 points per game – and now it should be even better.
Seven starters return, with the best parts in a secondary that got hit hard way too often. Tony Annese is done at one safety spot, but the corner tandem of Josh Cox and Amari Coleman should be among the best in the MAC.
LB Malik Fountain is a tackling machine in the middle of a good-looking linebacking corps, while top pass rusher Joe Ostman is back at one end. The tackles will be a concern early on, and size across the front four will be a problem, but overall, there are great parts with six of the top eight tacklers returning.
Biggest Key To The Central Michigan Defense
The secondary needs a solid season, and there’s no excuse for it not to. It might be the biggest strength of the defense with a great corner tandem and talented veterans to fill in around them.
Last year, CMU gave up 33 touchdown passes and came up with 13 interceptions, with just three over the final six games. The pass D got worse as the season went on, getting bombed on late, With Syracuse up in Week 3, look out.
Central Michigan Will Be Far Better If …
The turnovers stop. CMU has a good, experienced team back, but it can’t be done in again by giveaways. The Chippewa offense gave away the ball 24 times with a tough 16 interceptions from then-QB Cooper Rush. In the six wins, CMU was +5 in turnover margin. In the seven losses? -11. Overall, the team was -6 last year, compared to +2 in 2015.
Best Central Michigan Offensive Player
WR Corey Willis, Sr. – While he’s slender and won’t beat anyone up for the ball, he’s one of the quickest receivers in the MAC with special athleticism. The 5-10, 175-pounder had a nice 2015 with 37 catches for 564 yards and five scores, and then last season he blew up with a team-high 71 grabs for 1,087 yards and nine scores, averaging over 15 yards per catch. Very, very steady, he was a rock for around six catches per game, with five 100-yard performances. However, he only came up with one score over the final six games.
2. RB Devon Spalding, Sr.
3. QB Shane Morris, Sr.
4. TE Tyler Conklin, Sr.
5. QB Tommy Lazzaro, Jr.
Best Central Michigan Defensive Player
LB Malik Fountain, Jr. – One of the defensive mainstays over the last two seasons, he followed up a strong 67-tackle season with a team-leading 92 stops with ten tackles for loss. The 6-2, 230-pound man in the middle is a smart, veteran leader with terrific range. He’s not much of a pass rusher, but that’s not necessarily his job. As long as he’s holding up against the run, he’s doing what he’s supposed to.
2. DE Joe Ostman, Sr.
3. CB Amari Coleman, Sr.
4. CB Josh Cox, Sr.
5. S Otis Kearney, Jr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Shane Morris, Sr. – Or Tommy Lazzaro. Cooper Rush did it all for the CMU passing game, throwing for 3,540 yards and 23 touchdowns, but he gave up 16 interceptions.
Enter Morris, the 6-3, 250-pound one-time Michigan super-recruit who’s now getting his shot as a key graduate transfer. It’s not a given he’ll take the gig with the 6-3, 225-pound Lazzaro having patiently waited his turn, but at least there are options. With a strong rest of the offense, the winner should put up big numbers.
The Central Michigan Season Will Be A Success If …
It gets to eight wins. The Chippewas should be good, but winning the West might be too tough, with a rough slate with seven road games in a ten game stretch. But after five straight years of hovering around the six-to-seven win mark, it would be nice to take a little bit of a step forward.
Key Game To The Central Michigan Season
Oct. 14 vs. Toledo – What kind of a MAC season is this going to be for Central Michigan? With so many road games in a tough stretch – playing six in eight dates – Toledo is a home oasis in between two road games before and two after.
Beat the Rockets, and hopes for the MAC West are alive and kicking. Lose, and forget it, with Ball State and Western Michigan up next, and with Northern Illinois still to deal with.
2016 Central Michigan Fun Stats
– CMU 1st Quarter Scoring: 40 – CMU 2nd Quarter Scoring: 114
– Field Goals: Opponents 13-of-17 – CMU 8-of-17
– Time of Possession: CMU 33:29 – Opponents 28:49