Different directions: Previewing the upcoming football season for CMU, EMU and WMU
There’s less than two weeks away from the kickoff of the 2010 college football season across the country.
While most of the state (and country) will be focused on Ann Arbor and how Rich Rodriguez does in his third year at Michigan, the three Mid-American Conference schools are all at different stages.
Central Michigan will break in a brand new coaching staff with the addition of former Michigan State running backs coach Dan Enos. To make things more difficult for Enos, the Chippewas are without star quarterback Dan LeFevour and wide receiver Bryan Anderson, both of whom graduated, and Antonio Brown, who chose to forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.
Western Michigan is also without its star quarterback as Tim Hiller, now with the Indianapolis Colts, graduated after last season.
Meanwhile, in Ypsilanti, second-year head coach Ron English still looks for his first win after Eastern Michigan finished a disastrous 0-12 last season, the only Football Bowl Subdivision team to go winless.
CMU is coming off its best season at the Division I level ever last season, following a perfect Mid-Anerican Conference record and No. 23 AP ranking after its 44-41 overtime win against Troy in the GMAC Bowl.
But first-year head coach Dan Enos has a lot on his plate with inexperienced skill players on offense, especially at quarterback. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Radcliff played mop up time in 2009 while junior Derek Rifenbury has only taken a few snaps in one game during his college career.
The offensive line returns four starters, including second-team All-MAC center Colin Miller, and will prove to be a strong suit for Radcliff, who is more of a pocket passer than Dan LeFevour.
“To have guys like Jake Olson and Jeff Maddux back, who missed the entire spring practice due to injuries, those guys have been tremendous,” said CMU head coach Dan Enos.
The defensive side of the ball should be solid, despite youth and inexperience at the defensive end positions.
All-MAC selections Nick Bellore and Matt Berning lead a talented linebacker unit, while Vince Agnew, Bobby Seay and Jahleel Addae bring speed and size to a much-improved secondary.
After finishing with the worst record in the Football Bowl Subdivision, head coach Ron English is determined not to repeat that in 2010.
That is why English was busy in the offseason hiring a new defensive coordinator, defensive line coach and offensive position coaches, looking for improvement and stability in all facets of the program.
EMU also saw 39 players leave the program after last season, only 14 of which due to graduation.
“I think our players look a lot different than last year, even in January,” English said in July at MAC Media Day in Detroit. “We have to continue to teach the things that we know to help guys be successful and to be consistent in our approach.”
With quarterback Andy Schmitt gone due to graduation, sophomore Alex Gillett and redshirt freshman Devontae Payne are competing for the starting quarterback position.
Gillett, a three-sport star at Clyde High School in Green Springs, Ohio, saw some time last season after Schmitt when down with an injury, starting the final three games of the season.
But many are high on Payne and English neglected to name a leader for the quarterback position heading into preseason camp.
Running back Dwayne Priest returns for his senior season after rushing for 654 yards last season. Expect Priest to get more carries and accumulate more yards this season as English continues to implement a more pro-style offense.
EMU returns 18 juniors or seniors on defense, including seven of its top eight defensive linemen. Senior free safety Latarrius Thomas will be able to play after transferring from Louisville last season.
“What you hope is that you have enough guys that care about the program,” English said. “When Mike DeBord was there (at CMU), it took him a while to build. If we would have stayed one more year, he would’ve reaped the benefits."
Western Michigan comes off a disappointing 2009 during which it finished third in the MAC West Division.
WMU head coach Bill Cubit hired former Hofstra head coach Dave Cohen as the new defensive coordinator along with former Hofstra defensive coordinator Rich Nagy to coach the safeties. In addition, Lou Esposita was brought in from Saint Joseph’s College (Ind.) to head the defensive line.
“Getting onto the season, it is different,” Cubit said during the team’s Aug. 13 media day. “There’s a different feel out there because of the defensive set of coaches.”
Redshirt freshman Alex Carder beat redshirt freshman Tyler VanTubbergen and fifth-year senior Drew Burdi out for the starting quarterback job heading into WMU’s Sept. 4 season opener at MSU. The Broncos’ receivers are an experienced bunch lead by junior quarterback-turned-wide receiver Robert Arnheim, who led the team with 701 yards receiving last season.
Junior running back Aaron Winchester is tabbed to have a big year running the ball in Kalamazoo. Small in stature, he’s listed at 5-foot-6, 181 pounds, Winchester rushed for only 165 yards last season, but returns as the No. 1 back with one of the best offensive lines in the conference.
“I love the kid and the way he works,” Cubit said. “He’s been a little bit of a silent leader out there with his work habits.”
Michigan MAC Trophy Winner: With the CMU-WMU game being played in Mount Pleasant this year and EMU still without much depth in talent, I’m going with Central Michigan to repeat.