College Football Preview: The 2014 Central Michigan Chippewas
The Central Michigan Chippewas look for a quick start to 2014.
2014 College Football Preview
The Central Michigan Chippewas look to avoid another slow start and become a factor in the MAC.
Overview: Central Michigan has had a habit of starting slow and finishing strong the past few seasons but not strong enough in 2013 and they were left out in the cold when the Bowl invitations were sent out. With virtually the entire team back fom last year (18) the Chippewas have the experience to make the conference powers a bit nervous. If the skill positions show improvement especially at quarterback, CMU should be able to score and help out an experienced defense.
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Offense: CMU opened 2013 with injuries to RB Zurlon Tipton and QB Cody Kater in a one sided loss to Michigan. That opened the the door for freshman signal caller Cooper Rush who threw for over 2,300 yards with 15 scores and 15 INT's on under 57%. Not great but he had zero running game to help him and gained valuable experience. Kater is back as well so this will be a good competition for the starting job. Tipton is gone but leading rusher Saylor Lavallii (182-807) returns and he'll likely team with Maurice Shoemaker-Gilmore to give the backfield a little explosiveness. Titus Davis is back as the top option in the passing game (61-1109) with five of the top six receivers returning overall. All MAC LG Andy Phillips leads a group with 90 career starts but need to improve greatly for a team that didn't protect their QB or open holes in the running game.
Defense: The defensive line returns seven of their top eight performers and have decent size to boot. This unit was still pushed around on the ground although this group wasn't bad on passing downs. The linebacking crew were asked to do plenty of heavy lifting and responded well with Justin Cherocci and Shamari Benton combining for 164 tackles but Benton has departed leaving Cherrocci as the lone contributor of consequence unless a few others step up. The secondary loses S Avery Cunningham and 64 tackles but gets back everyone else so if experience counts for anything this unit is loaded.
Special Teams: Quite a void in this department with P Richie Hogan and his strong leg gone but PK Ron Coluzzi was 12-17 on FG. Titus Davis is the main man in the punt return game with a 6.6 yard average bringing back 18 punts while Courtney Williams will bring back kicks.
Outlook: I know Dan Enos was given a contract extention and injuries hurt the team from day one in 2013 but there is no reason Central Michigan should suffer through yet another slow start. If the defensive line tightens up against the run and their counterparts on the O-Line open holes for the rushing attack then things should be better. Another slow start and a hot finish however and we could be looking at a CMU squad pressing to reach .500 again. A decent start and the Chippewas go Bowling but we'll have to wait and see...