Experience is one advantage the Central Michigan football team has heading into the 2011 season opener against South Carolina State.
The depth chart released Sunday lists upperclassmen as starters at 19 of the 22 offensive and defensive positions.
The exceptions are three sophomores: linebacker Shamari Benton, free safety Avery Cunningham and fullback Tyler Lombardo.
“You want your third, fourth and fifth year guys playing as much as they can,” said head coach Dan Enos. “We’re looking to get to that point because guys learn from their experience when they have played.”
Senior nose guard John Williams pointed out the importance of having experienced players out on the field.
“One thing that’s always been the same since I came here is it’s good to have older guys on the defensive side, that way you can taper the young guys and help them out,” he said. “Even when I came as a freshman, we had a bunch of older guys helping me tremendously.”
Of the 52 players on the depth chart, 27 of them are freshmen or sophomores, and 17 have never played in a collegiate game.
On top of having new guys stepping up on the field, three new coaches joined Enos’ staff this offseason.
Quarterbacks coach Morris Watts, wide receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield and defensive line coach Vinson Reynolds will all be making their CMU debuts on Thursday.
It’s common for freshmen to redshirt their first season on a collegiate sports team to fully grasp the transition, but occasionally a player skips that step.
This season, six true freshmen made the depth chart for CMU.
“We’re very confident and we wouldn’t put them out there if we weren’t,” Enos said. “We have a very talented freshman class and there are other guys who very easily could have stepped up. We try to redshirt as many as we can, but some of them will end up playing.”
Defensively, Cody Lopez and Ryan Petro each earned backup spots at linebacker.
“I work with Petro personally, and he’s making strides,” said senior linebacker Armond Staten. “Like any other freshman, he came in and made mistakes, but he’s getting better and better.”
Freshmen Jarret Chapman and Dennis Nalor each earned backup safety spots.
“(Chapman and Nalor) are very physical and will come up and hit guys,” said junior safety Jahleel Addae. “Also, they both can cover, and have showed a lot of talent. Those guys are going to do a great amount of good this year.”
Offensively, freshmen Titus Davis and Jason Wilson may see playing time at wide receiver.
“We’ll see a couple of those guys (Thursday), Titus Davis and Jason Wilson for sure,” Enos said.