Dan Enos knew he had some holes to fill when he was hired as CMU’s football coach Jan. 11.
Three record-setting cogs of the team’s offense — quarterback Dan LeFevour and wide receivers Bryan Anderson and Antonio Brown — departed for the NFL and graduation.
Now, he will be without another offensive weapon.
Bryan Schroeder, the team’s leading rusher at the running back position, met with Enos this week and decided to leave the program.
“He’s taken a leave of absence, if you will,” Enos said. “Bryan came and met with me. We didn’t want him to, but he just felt like it was in the best interest of where he is at in his life right now. We’ve kept the door open so if he wants to earn his way back on, we’d be more than willing to let him do that.
“But, at the same token, we want guys who want to be here, too.”
Schroeder, who would be a junior next season, rushed for 559 yards and five touchdowns on 100 attempts despite missing three games because of injury. His rushing total ranked second on the team behind LeFevour’s 713 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also caught 34 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns.
According to multiple reports, Schroeder will not play football for another school as the number of injuries has he has suffered in his two seasons and family issues have hindered his passion for the game.
“College football is a hard game, and your heart has to be 100 percent into it if you want to do it,” said linebacker Nick Bellore, who will be a senior next season. “Obviously, he had some stuff he had to take care of and that’s fine. I wish him the best and he’ll always be a friend and a teammate. We just have to move on and it’s the next man in.”
Schroeder, a 5-foot-9, 216-pound native of Corydon, Ind., missed time last season because of ankle and rib injuries, but came back to record two 100-yard games — 105 yards against Toledo on Nov. 11 and 128 and two touchdowns against Northern Illinois on Nov. 28. He also tallied 72 yards in the Mid-American Conference title game on Dec. 4 and 73 on Jan. 6 in the GMAC Bowl.
Schroeder also was held out of the team’s first five games of the 2008 season because of a knee injury.
“A door closes somewhere, there’s going to be a door open somewhere else, and someone else is going to step up,” Enos said. “I’ve worked with the running backs the past few days and I’ve been really impressed with how they’ve worked and their athletic ability.”
Schroeder’s departure gives several running backs the opportunity to impress Enos.
Carl Volny, who will be a senior, will battle with junior Paris Cotton and sophomore Tim Phillips, who was moved from running back near the end of last season. Phillips has said he wants to return to the position, and Enos said he is open to positional maneuvering.
“Right now, we’re in the process of evaluating them,” Enos said. “But we’re going to get guys on the field where we need them.”
Enos said he looks to recruit bigger backs because of their versatility and value in goal-line situations, but also said he was impressed by the 5-foot-9 Cotton’s mix of agility and power in the team’s three workouts thus far.
He also added that Javon Ringer, a 5-foot-9 All-American running back whom he coached at Michigan State, did not need size.
“(Cotton)’s not very big but, if a guy’s strong and explosive and he breaks tackles, you don’t have to be a real big guy to do that,” Enos said. “We’re going to recruit the best players we can, but I do think it’s good to have a mixture of guys.”
Enos said the only other player to leave the program thus far was sophomore punter Jake Linklater.
Bellore said despite the duo’s departures, he has not seen the kind of changes that occurred when former coach Butch Jones was hired.
“We haven’t had that so far and I don’t anticipate that,” Bellore said. “I think everyone’s on board and coming together for the common goal of winning another championship.”