One of the more interesting, but less talked about, position battles has been settled, with two relative newcomers to the football team emerging at defensive end.
On Tuesday, CMU’s depth chart for its game Saturday at UNLV named senior Jeremy Gainer and sophomore Louis Palmer starters at the end spots.
The official declaration comes two weeks after head coach Dan Enos declined to officially name starters at both spots prior to the season-opener at Michigan. Before the last two games, CMU has officially listed Gainer and redshirt sophomore Blake Serpa as possible starters at left end and seniors Kenny McClendon and Alex Smith at right end.
Gainer started at left end in both games while Palmer got the start at right end last week against New Hampshire.
“They were our starters last week and they’ve been playing the best so far,” Enos said this week of Gainer and Palmer.
Palmer, listed at 6-foot-2 and 265 pounds, saw significant playing time last season as a backup on the defensive line. He had 11 tackles in 10 games, including three tackles and a sack in a 50-35 loss at Toledo. To get himself in even better shape, Palmer said he lost 20 pounds in the offseason under the guidance of a nutrition diet and extra conditioning.
“We all work hard,” Palmer said. “That’s all it is and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
No stranger to Enos, Gainer transferred to CMU over the summer after a spring meeting with MSU coach Mark Dantonio. Gainer was buried on the depth chart with one year of eligibility remaining and wanted more of a chance to play. Enos had recruited him to MSU, knew of his capabilities and took him.
Since then, he’s worked his way to the top of the depth chart and helped provide competition for others.
“The biggest thing with the guys is that they’re all here trying to win a championship,” Gainer said last month during preseason camp. “I just wanted to make sure I could come in and make a presence on this team. The guys accepted me as soon as I walked in to the locker room.”
Even so, Enos says there’s room for improvement. Through two games, CMU ranks in the middle of the Mid-American Conference in sacks with five.
Sophomore Jabari Dean saw limited action last week due to injury but is expected to be healthy this week, allowing Enos the opportunity to get freshman Joe Ostman some reps and Serpa and Smith going.
“We’ve been getting a little pressure here and there, but we’ve got to get better,” Enos said.