The quarterback situation — what else, right? — was front and center Tuesday during Central Michigan’s media day, and it appears like it’s moving at a faster pace than anticipated.
After saying last month that he’d like to have a starter named by the Monday before CMU’s season opener, coach Dan Enos said Tuesday he would like to have a starter named “by early next week.” That, presumably, gives junior Cody Kater, sophomore Alex Niznak and redshirt freshman Cooper Rush four practices and another scrimmage to prove to the coaching staff that they are ‘the guy’ this season.
And it appears like we have a frontrunner, although Enos won’t officially say it.
“If you had to say who the best one was during the scrimmage on Sunday, I’d have to say it was Cody (Kater),” Enos said. “His last three practices, in particular, have been very good. All of them have, but Cody in particular has been very good.”
While the athletics department did not release stats from Sunday’s intrasquad scrimmage, unofficially marking the halfway point of preseason camp, Kater and Niznak both led the offense on drives to the red zone. Kater finished with a 2-yard touchdown pass to senior fullback Adam Fenton, while Niznak threw an interception at the 1-yard line that was returned for a touchdown by junior defensive back Jarret Chapman.
“I had some pretty good practices before the scrimmage, just trying to make every right read and not stressing out about it too much,” Kater said. “In a new system, you want to do everything right. You want to get the confidence right … with your line, the receivers — you want to get them the ball. It’s just continuing to move the ball down the field, that’s what it’s all about.”
Niznak, redshirted his freshman season and was third-string last year, threw a second interception that was returned 45 yards for a touchdown. His arm strength was a concern last season, but Enos said Niznak has improved his arm strength and sped up his throwing motion, even since the spring.
“I approach every day like I’m the guy,” Niznak said. “That’s the way I think you have to do it. Ultimately, when Coach Enos turns to me and says I’m in, whether that’s Week 1 or whatever, I need to have faith and I need to be that guy. I wake up every day like I’m the guy, because that’s the only guy I can be.”
Rush, the 6-foot-3, 216-pound redshirt freshman who led the scout team last season, has been called the best pure passer of the three. He played the entire spring game in April, even leading the Maroon team to a win, and has not been ruled out either.
“We’re still in a battle here, but I think it’s been very good,” Enos said. “All three guys have benefited from the competition, meaning all three have raised their level from the spring, I think with a sense of urgency of spring ball ending and going through the summer, you can tell they’ve all prepared very, very well.”
Should Kater get the nod against Michigan, and by no means is it settled, it would be the first Division 1 start of his career.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior from Montague committed to CMU in 2009 before transferring to Cincinnati to play for Butch Jones, who left the Chippewas that season. He later transferred to Grand Rapids Community College, leading the team to an 11-0 record while throwing for more than 2,200 yards and 19 touchdowns, and rushing for another 10 touchdowns, in 10 games.
News & notes
- Injuries: Sophomore defensive tackle Jabari Dean “hasn’t been doing much” after a hip injury but is expected to be available for the season opener. … Coming off back surgery, sophomore defensive lineman Ben Randle was held out of one practice due to precautionary reasons. … Redshirt freshman linebacker Joe Bacci (shoulder) has been out. … Junior defensive end Matt Russo (multiple concussions) has left the program.
- New Hampshire, CMU’s opponent for its home opener on Sept. 7, is ranked No. 10 in the preseason Football Championship Subdivision Top 25 poll, released on Tuesday.
- Kickoff for CMU’s Oct. 5 game at Miami has been set for 1 p.m.
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