What to watch on offense
A longtime disciple of Mark Dantonio, Dan Enos has made his bones on the offensive side of the football. Enos served as Dantonio’s QB coach at both Cincinnati and Michigan State in addition to holding several offensive coordinator roles prior to joining Dantonio. Enos prefers a varied offensive attack but his roots are deeply planted in the pro-style offense. As the offense of a year ago showed however, Enos is perfectly willing to use multiple WR sets and throw the ball at a high clip.
Ryan Radcliff leaves Mt. Pleasant after compiling a statistical career only surpassed by Dan LeFevour. In his wake were left a number of contenders for the starting QB position have battled it out throughout both spring and fall camps. Cincinnati transfer Kody Kater was the odds on favorite to win the job despite the presence of the speedy Alex Niznak. Kater was named the starter just prior to game week and his experience and arm strength make him a potential breakout player for the Chips this season. Kater will be aided greatly by the return of 2nd team All-MAC WR Titus Davis who accounted for over 800yds and 8 TDs a year ago. They also return the speed Courtney Williams who will be relied upon to the stretch the defense across from Davis.
The Chips owe much of the success of last season to RB Zurlon Tipton who produced a monster season on the ground. Despite rushing for over 1,500yds a year ago, Tipton surprisingly did not earn 1st team All-MAC honors, a feat he will likely contend for greatly this season. While he isn’t the fastest back in the country, Tipton is an extremely tough runner that is difficult to bring down with just one tackler. The Chips also return super sophomore Saylor Lavallii who average 4.6ypc a year ago as a true freshman.
Central Michigan had produced exactly one first round draft choice prior to last year and the emergence of OT Eric Fisher who went on to become the #1 overall pick in the draft. Lost in the love fest with Fisher is the fact that prior to last season, it was Jake Olson who received much of the praise from observers at the LT position. An early season injury forced Olson out of the lineup a year ago but he returns to lead a unit that while low on starts, has a good amount of overall experience. The Chips are expected to start just one underclassmen on the offensive line.
Best Offensive Player
Zurlon Tipton- Tipton is coming off of the one of the best rushing seasons ever in Chippewa history after rushing for over 1,500yds and scoring 19 TDs on the ground. A load 6’1 220lbs, Tipton has a knack for breaking tackles and extending runs deep into the second level.
Head Coach– Dan Enos- 4th Year
Off Coor– Mike Cummings-3rd Year
Def Coor– Joe Tumpkins- 4th Year
QB Ryan Radcliff
WR Cody Wilson
OT Eric Fisher
DE Joe Kinville
DE Caesar Rodriguez
RB Zurlon Tipton
WR Titus Davis
WR Andrew Flory
OT Jake Olson
DT Jabari Dean
LB Justin Cherrocci
LB Shamari Benton
CB Jarret Chapman
What to watch on defense
DC Joe Tumpkin earned his first D1 coordinator position at Central Michigan after serving as the LB coach at Pitt and SMU. A 4-3 traditionalist, defenses under Tumpkins have earned the reputation for superior LB play and opportunistic play in the secondary. Tumpkins defense don’t hide what they’re about and there aren’t a lot of tricks and gadgets though the Chips have traditionally had a lot of versatility thanks to having a weakside LB that often doubles as a safety.
The Chips return 7 starters from a year ago though they did lose their two primary pass rushers from a year ago in Caesar Rodriguez and Joe Kinville. DE Alex Smith is expected to step in as the primary rush end this season. A senior, Smith started 3 games a year ago and played in all 14. Unlike most MAC schools, Central boasts an impressive interior defensive line from a size standpoint. DT Jabari Dean and Leterrius Walton check in at 288lbs and 300lbs respectively. Both players are primarily charged with occupying opposing offensive linemen and freeing up the LBs to make plays.
Central returns their entire 2 deep at the LB position and the unit is by far the strength of the defense. The tandem of Shamari Benton and Justin Cherocci combined to make 258 stops a year ago with both players logging more than a hundred tackles a piece. At 220lbs Benton is the rangier of the LBers though he can be expected to scrape and plug holes with the best of them. Cherocci is a pure run stopper and the captain of the defense.
The Chips lose both a starting CB and safety off of last year’s team but do return a significant amount of experience in the secondary. FS Avery Cunningham finished 4th on the team in tackles a year ago and added 4 TFLs to go along with 2 sacks. Jarret Chapman started as a true sophomore a year ago and is expected to be the #1 CB this season. Both starting CBs for the Chips stand at 6’0 or taller and have great size and range.
Justin Cherocci – Could easily be a tie between Cherroci and his running mate Benton. Cherroci mans the middle of the defense though and plays a more important role within the defense. Cherroci is a tackling machine, racking up 132 tackles a year ago.
Michigan Rush Def vs. Central Michigan Rush Off
Thanks to outstanding play at the tackle position, the Central rushing attack paved the way for an outstanding year. The Chips get back the injured Jake Olson and return a 1,500yd rusher at RB
Greg Mattison prides himself on stopping the run first and foremost. That task will fall primarily on the backs of Quinton Washington and Jibreel Black at the DT position along with Desmond Morgan at LB. The Wolverines have superior speed and athleticism outside so the deciding factor will likely be who plays best between the tackles
Advantage – Central Michigan
Michigan Pass Def vs. Central Michigan Off
The Chips will break in a new starter August 31st and while Kater has quite a bit of experience within the system, nothing can replace game reps. The good news for Central is the fact that there is talent at the skill positions to help lighten the load.
The Wolverines get the added boost of returning CB Blake Countess to a secondary that struggled for much of last season at staying with receivers. Michigan has also placed a major emphasis on rushing the passer which should aid the pass defense as well
Michigan Rush Off vs. Central Michigan Def
Michigan will unveil and its new and hopefully improved power rushing attack against Central Michigan. A healthy Fitzgerald Toussaint along with a host of other backs will run behind revamped offensive line that lacks experience on the interior but returns two of the best OTs in the conference.
Advantage – Michigan
Michigan Pass Off vs. Central Michigan Def
Devin Gardner begins his first full season as the starting QB after spending time bouncing around at WR. Spring and fall camp reports lead many to believe that Devin is poised for a breakout year. Talent at the skill positions manned by players such as Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess will be hard for Central to match.
The Chips do have the luxury of players with size and range in the secondary. If prior seasons are any indication, Central can be expected to challenge the Michigan receivers at the line and force the Wolverines to win over the top.
Advantage – Michigan