Spring camp hasn’t been this crowded in a long time.
Over 80 players have suited up for CMU during spring practice which is giving the coaches opportunities to assess the depth chart and giving the players more competition during drills.
The influx of players is due to so many guys being redshirted last season. Sixteen players were redshirted last season and those players are now seeing their first action this spring.
Head Coach Dan Enos said spring practice has been good and that the extra guys in camp allows for better functionality during practice.
“We’ve had great effort, great enthusiasm and very physical,” Enos said. “We’ve put a lot of guys in a lot of different situations and they’re working extremely hard. To have the numbers what that does it helps everybody because in springs past we’ve been down. Right now we’re able to function. We have two deep plus at every position so we can practice and everyone can get all the looks they need.”
Many players are returning this season for CMU but with every new season comes new opportunities for some younger guys to step in and fill needed roles.
Enos said he is still looking to fill some spots in spring but in particular on the defensive side of the ball where they lost two starters.
“There is competition everywhere but in particular Shamari Benton left, he was a top five tackler in the MAC and then Avery Cunningham, one of our safety spots is also gone,” Enos said. “He was a great leader and a very productive player. I think those are two positions in particular that we’re keeping a close eye on defensively.”
One of the most important things about spring ball is teaching the younger players how to practice in terms of tempo and intensity.
Enos said coming into spring camp the most important thing is to create an intense atmosphere so everyone knows that practice is done only one way.
“The first thing we want to do is create a level of intensity and a passion and a workman like attitude so that our guys come to work every day and understand that in practice we only do it one way,” Enos said. “They learn how to practice the right way. The next thing is the techniques and fundamentals at each position are crucial. These are times that you hone those because there is no game you have to get ready for. We have certain drills and we create chaos on purpose. We put guys in chaotic positions and try to make it as game like as possible and then see how our guys function and allow ourselves to teach and learn off them.”
Last season the quarterback battle really took center stage with four guys competing for one starting spot. This season there are two in particular that will be competing for the starting job in the fall, senior Cody Kater and sophomore Cooper Rush.
Kater earned the starting job last season over others including Rush but broke his collarbone in the first game of the season against Michigan. Rush would start the final 10 games of the season earning CMU Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Enos said the relationship between these two is great and that they are always pushing each other to be better through competition.
“They’re great people, they work hard and they have a great relationship,” Enos said. “Cody is pushing Cooper and Cooper is pushing Cody. I can’t say enough good things about Cody Kater. He has come out here every day and he works to get better. He is very competitive, he’s tough and he’s doing a great job. Both those guys are functioning at a very high level.”
Rush said you’re always competing with others while trying to better yourself each day in practice.
“You always have to compete with yourself and other players,” Rush said. “You have to win every battle at every position. You have to just go out there and compete and do your best.”
Senior wide receiver Titus Davis said depth is important and with so many players in camp this spring it brings out the competitive nature in everyone.
“The important thing right now is depth, especially during spring ball,” Davis said. “You want to have people to put in. Helping the younger guys learn the playbook is crucial around this time. As leaders and seniors we want to do that as much as we can. It starts here in practice in gaining that competitive edge that we’re going to take into the fall. Right now I think being really competitive with each other, starting in my group with the wide outs is important. We’re competing right now and since I’ve been here this is the most competitive we’ve been. We’re just trying to keep that up.”
Offensively there a lot of familiar faces back but also a lot of guys that were redshirted last season giving the team flexible options at each position allowing for greater competition.
Enos said although there are many starters back on offense many new guys are also in the mix now and seeing their first action after being redshirted last season.
“We’ve got all five guys back on the offensive line. We’ve got our tight ends back. Running backs Saylor Lavallii and Maury Shoemaker are back. All of the wide outs are back so really these guys already have good chemistry. What we’re doing there is we have six freshman offensive lineman that are growing into they’re spots. We have two tight ends that were redshirted, we have three wide receivers that we redshirted and we have the young backs in Derrick Nash and Gary Jones that got to get going. We have a lot of guys returning but we also have a lot of new guys that we redshirted that are just starting to get their first action.”
Spring is a great chance for each player to work on the specifics of their position. Enos said it’s been good at times and also bad but hopefully come fall the level of performance will be much higher.
“It’s been the good, the bad and the ugly so far,” Enos said. “This will be a great learning experience for them through spring. When springs over they’ll have a chance to go back and digest what happened and come back in the fall functioning at a higher level than they are right now.”
Rush said that will so many players in camp it gives the team more game like experiences.
“We’ve got a lot of guys so we get to scrimmage a lot and put the ball down and play so that’s always valuable game like experience,” Rush said.