Dan Enos was just being honest.
Last month, he didn’t have Cody Pettit penciled in to start on the offensive line. Pettit’s name came up at Mid-American Conference media day, but he was among the players Enos and his staff were hoping would just contribute.
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Through opportunity, inexperience on the right side of the line and just plain, old-fashioned hard work, Pettit has been named starter at right tackle for Central Michigan’s season opener Saturday at No. 17 Michigan.
“It was a case of ‘Who is it going to be?,’” Enos said earlier this month. “We wanted someone to step up and get it done. One of the guys we did (want) came in and didn’t do very well in his conditioning tests and got demoted because of that. Cody’s taken advantage of his opportunity.”
A journeyman who has played in three games over the last three seasons, Pettit came to CMU in 2009 as a defensive lineman. He redshirted his freshman season, sat again the next season and played just once in 2011, getting most of his reps in on the scout team.
“That was obviously my passion, the D-line,” Pettit said. “Coach came to me my redshirt sophomore year about switching positions. At the time, I thought maybe this wasn’t the right choice. As I went on through the years I realized that I love it.”
Since moving, Pettit hasn’t seen a significant boost in playing time – he only appeared in two games last season – but got to learn from NFL first-round draft pick Eric Fisher and Jake Olson, a preseason first-team All-MAC selection.
He’s also put on 35 pounds, up from the 270 he was while playing defensive line.
“I knew it was going to be between me and a couple other guys, and I just kind of went in with the mindset that it’s my senior year,” Pettit said. “If I don’t get this spot, it’s on me – not anybody else. (The coaches) have been doing this for a long time, they’re going to put the best five guys out there. They’re not going to play somebody based off who they like – it’s going to be the top five and that’s it.”
If senior Jake Olson can stay healthy, Enos says professional football could be in his future.
A true left tackle — NFL first-round draft pick Eric Fisher played left — Olson played two games at right tackle last season before suffering a season-ending injury against Michigan State.
This year, he anchors an offensive line that is stronger on the left side (Olson, Andy Phillips, center Nick Beamish) than right (inexperienced Pettit and sophomore Kevin Henry).
“They’re a little bit different,” Enos said, comparing Olson to Fisher. “As you look at them, they’re both very good. … Jake is very athletic and moves his feet well for a guy of his size. They both bend very well, and there are more similarities than differences between the two. They play the game with an edge, and Jake plays the game with an edge. He’s tough and gets after guys, tries to move them.”
Contact Aaron McMann: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AaronMcMann.
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