Football underclassmen forced to step up due to injuries
Underclassmen are getting plenty of playing time for the struggling Central Michigan football team.
Most of it is due to injury.
Starting linebackers Sharmari Benton (injury), Armond Staten (illness) were unavailable against Michigan State.
On the defensive line John Williams (knee) and Kashawn Fraser’s injuries gave way to freshmen.
These injuries forced true freshmen or second-year players on the field against Michigan State.
“We’re young,” CMU head coach Dan Enos said. “At one point, our defense had seven freshmen on the field at the same time.”
Despite inexperience, the underclassmen were effective. They had seven of the top ten tacklers during the Michigan State game.
Freshman defensive players accounted for the only points for CMU all afternoon.
Redshirt freshman Kevin King blitzed in and blocked a punt that freshman linebacker Cody Lopez pounced on to set up the Chippewas only score.
“Playing three or four true freshmen on offense, plus tight ends and a redshirt freshman,” Enos said. “It’s usually not going to work out of you.”
The underclassmen effectiveness wasn’t just on special teams.
With the injury to sophomore running back Zurlon Tipton. Enos looked to a freshman to pick up the slack.
Running back Anthony Garland, who Enos planned on redshirting, took his first collegiate snaps at Spartan Stadium.
“Anthony got seven carries but only gained nine yards,” Enos said. “I think he did run hard and he picked up his feet a couple times running through there. He’s got to play more, he’ll play more next week. We wanted to get his feet wet.”
The underclassmen better grow up fast with Northern Illinois coming to CMU.
“They have a senior, junior laden team,” Enos said. “A lot of guys are back from their 10-win season last year.”
The upperclassmen apparently like what they’ve seen from the youngsters.
“Young guys stepped up big today,” said CMU junior safety Jahleel Addae after the MSU game. “(Defensive backs) Dennis Nalor, Jarrett Chapman and linebackers Cody Lopez, Ryan Petro, they came in and did a good job for the defense. They’re only going to get better playing as well as they did today.”
Sophomore defensive back Avery Cunningham led CMU with 10 tackles against the Spartans.
“Dennis Nalor is very physical,” Enos said. “Avery Cunningham is probably our best defensive back, him and Jahleel. I was very enthused and impressed with how those guys played.”