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2005 MAC Football Pigskin Preview
Central Michigan Chippewas
At times last season Kent Smith looked pretty good. He had over 400 total yards against Toledo in their heartbreaking 27-22 road loss. Smith finished the season with nearly 2,300 yards passing with 16 TDs and just 8 INTs. At 6-5 215, he has size, speed and athleticism to make plays. He should pass for nearly 3,000 yards this season. Brian Brunner is a physical player at 6-2 230, provides good depth but limited experience. Central signed three QBs for the incoming class. Sean Price is the headliner as he passed for over 8,200 yards in high school and 93 career TDs. Coach Brian Kelly has some good QB prospects to develop this area and is a team strength, even with so much youth entering the season.
The running game may have taken a hit as all-conference candidate Jerry Seymour has been suspended for lying to a grand jury during the off season. Seymour rushed for 1,300 yards last season and the mighty-might (5-5, 190) was primed for a big season. His status is unknown for this season at the time this article has gone to print. Spencer Lewis has more size and power at 5-10 220-pounds. He saw limited action season. Three incoming freshmen will be asked to contribute right away for CMU. Anthony Boykins averaged over 8-yards per carry and has 4.3/40 speed, but stands just 5-8 180. Cliff Gilliam also has reported 4.3/40 speed and has excelled in track as well as football. Illinois native Ontario Sneed is the lone incoming back with much size at 6-foot 202.
The Chippewas have one of the most underrated receiving in the league. Justin Harper became one of Smith’s top targets last season averaging nearly 14-yards per reception and scoring 5 TDs. Damien Linson may lack ideal WR size (5-11, 175) but he can fly scoring 7 TDs last year and averaging 16-yards per grab. Obed Cetoute is still trying to reach his full potential, but at 6-4 210-pounds with 4.3/40 speed, he certainly has the physical tools to be a prime-time player. Jemmy Jasmin and Justin Gardner provide tood depth. Overall, this WR unit is quite solid. At TE, Central graduated both Tory Humphrey and David Kurzen. Dave Condeni, Troy Peyerk, Frank Zombo and Jacob Brown will battle for the vacant position this fall.
For nearly twenty years, from the late 1970s through the late 1990s, Central Michigan had one of the best and biggest offensive lines in the MAC. During their heyday from 1978-1994, the 'Chips utilized their O-line to power past opponents and dominate time of possession. This year’s CMU line is not quite in the mold of those former units. In fact, this years starting five entering the fall average 6-4 288 per man. CMU also graduated two very talented linemen in Eric Ghiaciuc & Adam Kieft. Both are now on NFL rosters. The ‘Chips will be looking at Drew Mormino and Jeff Jenerou to lead this years group. Eric Tunney, a former DT, moves into the center spot. OT Joe Staley is a former TE prospect. The coaching staff is very high on Andrew Hartline, a redshirt freshman who is penciled in at RT. There is limited depth or experience within the backups of Mike Decker, Adam Benke, Andrew Cribbs & Eric Karbowski.
Dan Bazuin is becoming one of the top DE prospects in the MAC. The 6-3 260-pound junior recorded 50 tackles, 3 QB sacks and 8 tackles for loss last season. With continued development, he will be on a lot of NFL radar screens next season. De’Onte Burman, a former ILB, is the other DE and is good against the run. At DT, Tony Thompson has size (6-1, 295) and experience while Steven Friend, a former OL prospect, is quickly becoming a dominating player in the defensive trenches. CMU gave up 170-yards per game on the ground last season, including a whopping 25 rushing TDs. That should change for the better this year. There is some decent depth with Anrione Archer, Chris Boss, Temirez Williams, Ronnie Ekdahl and Evan Brownie.
This is a unit of concern for the coaching staff entering the fall campaign. The 'Chips graduated James King, one of college footballs all-time leading kick blockers, along with Anthony Tyus and Jon Nelson. Those three produced 193 total tackles in 2004. Thomas Keith and Jason Smith provide experience while Isaac Brown moves over from SS to OLB to replace King. Jonathan Lapsley, Leython Williams and Doug Kress are initially slated as backups. Overall this will be a very young group with limited experience and size entering into the season.
Central was very young at DB last season and it showed as the Chippewas gave up an average of 261-yards per game through the air last season, including 21 TDs. As a defensive unit, Central only produced 5 INTs last season. Ronnie Jackson is small at 5-9 170-pounds but has terrific speed mans one corner spot. The other CB is Raeshon Ball, who is also small at 5-8 175. Marlin Maxwell is one of the smallest SS prospects you will find in IA football at 5-8 180. Curtis Cutts adds some much needed size at 6-foot 210. Jesse Dailey, Pacino Horne & Vincent Hicks add depth. Expect two true freshmen to contribute right away. Aaron Carr from Grand Prairie (TX) is a prize recruit for Coach Brian Kelly, chose CMU over offers from Moutain West, WAC and Big 12 schools. Expect him in the two-deep lineup right away, along with Antraz Burton, a 5-11 185-pound speedster from Flint (MI). Overall, Central welcomes six new DB scholarship prospects at into the program this fall.
PK Mike Gruzwalski was erratic last season going 6-13 in FGs and 23-27 in extra points. He needs to increase his accuracy and distance to become an upper level kicker in the league. Rick Albreski, an incoming freshman, will contend this fall. Anthony Mikulec returns as the punter, averaged under 38-yards per boot in 2004. CMU’s net punting average was just 31-yards per attempt. Damien Linson did a splendid job as a punt returner while CMU ranked in the middle of the MAC in punt returns.
Central is making progress under Coach Kelly and their schedule is relatively easy compared to most of the league this season. The problem for CMU is that their running game is an unknown commodity this fall and their defense is still suspect. Add to that, they host Toledo & NIU, two of the MAC’s best programs, meaning that conference games against teams of equal talent will be played on the road this fall. Central is one or two years away from being a contender in the west division. This season’s goals will be to take another step forward in re-claiming their once proud tradition and getting back to the top of the standings. A winning season is a definite possibility for this season’s squad, but more likely, another losing season is in store for the CMU faithful before the fruits of Kelly’s labors take effect next season.
Mark it down!
Central Michigan will upset Indiana in the season opener. The game is on a Friday night and a huge crowd should be on hand to root on the Chippewas as they host a Big Ten team for the very first time. Former Miami head coach Terry Hoeppner has a major rebuilding job to do with the Hoosiers and catching them in their first game with the new coaching staff and offensive philosophy is the best thing that could happen for CMU in this three-game series.
vs. Indiana (Fri.) - WIN
@ Miami - LOSS
@ Penn State - LOSS
vs. Eastern Michigan - WIN
@ Akron - LOSS
@ Army - WIN
vs. Ohio - WIN
vs. Toledo - LOSS
vs. Northern Illinois - LOSS
@ Western Michigan - LOSS
@ Ball State - LOSS
4-7 Overall, 2-6 MAC