There is no doubt the Central Michigan football had its problems on defense last season.
The mess that was the defense revealed itself to everyone in its first game in 2012, when it spotted lowly Southeast Missouri 24 points in the first half.
All those woes began on the defensive line.
CMU was ranked 100th in sacks and 119th in tackles for loss in the FBS last year. Luckily for them, there are players who can step in and make a difference this season.
The first is a transfer who could not have come at better time and must have elicited pure jubilation from head coach Dan Enos when he got a call from Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio asking if he wanted a defensive end.
The player is senior Jeremy Gainer, who just arrived from MSU and will be able to play immediately.
“He’s very good. He’s explosive. He’s strong. He’s got long arms,” Enos said. “Early in camp, he was playing a little slow, I think, because he didn’t know what to do. But as camp picked up, he’s been very good.”
The senior does not possess otherworldly statistics, with his best year coming in 2011, when he tallied 11 tackles and two forced fumbles.
However, things might open up this year when he is going against the offensive linemen of the Mid-American Conference.
As a bonus, it does not seem he will be a detriment to team chemistry during his one-year stay, even though he is battling for a starting spot with players who have logged more hours at CMU.
Alex Smith, a possible player on the side opposite of Gainer, had good things to say about the two-time academic all-Big Ten selection.
“He’s been great,” Smith said. “Really nice kid. He brings a really good rush off the edge. He’s got really good moves. He’s fast. He’s smart, too.”
Smith, a senior, could be another player to step up, slotted at defensive end for the second-straight year after playing linebacker at the start of his career.
He was granted an extra year of eligibility, or new life, after being told in March the 2012 season would be a redshirt year, despite playing in four games.
“For five months, I had no clue if I was playing or not, so it was tough,” he said. “I was doing all the therapy and stuff, not really knowing if I was playing.”
Defensive lineman Jabari Dean, the 2012 CMU defensive Rookie of the Year, is another player to watch.
The sophomore, who had the most starts among the freshman class last season, tallied 28 tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and a sack.
“He’s an explosive kid,” Smith said. “He’s strong, and has the biggest arms on the team. He’s really smart, too. He just plays hard each down.”
There will be an extra effort needed from every defensive lineman if it looks to transform into a formidable unit.