Bye-week grades for the Central Michigan football team: Offense, special teams
With a bye week – two weeks, really – Central Michigan football beat writer Aaron McMann evaluates and dishes out grades for the team. This week, he'll focus on the offense and special teams. Next week, he'll take a look at the defense and coaching.
It's been a wild ride for Cooper Rush through eight games, going from big man on campus one week to single-handedly throwing a game away two weeks later. He has struggled at times with reading receivers and routes, but there's something to say about his arm strength and pinpoint accuracy. He may not be there yet in terms of development or confidence, but he's handled the situation better than a third-string should have. Maybe head coach Dan Enos was right when he discussed parity at quarterback before the season. That, or Rush was better than Enos wanted to give him credit for.
Hit and miss has been the way best way to describe this group. Much like quarterback, the unit took a hit in the season opener when senior Zurlon Tipton went down to injury, leaving the spot open for the taking. Sophomore Saylor Lavallii appeared to step up, and has shown glimpses of explosive plays and impressive games, but they haven't been able to put together a consistent effort. Since getting more reps, redshirt freshman Maurice Shoemaker-Gilmore has provided added competition and an early look at CMU's back of the future. Having Tipton would make this group so much more effective.
The effectiveness of the quarterback and running backs depend directly on the offensive line, and much like both, they've been average at best this year. Part of that can be contributed to a sophomore at center and redshirt freshman at right guard, and it doesn't help matters when senior left guard Jake Olson goes down to injury again. The unit appears to be meshing, evident by the Lavallii's back-to-back career highs in rushing against Miami and Ohio, but we should have a better idea of how it's doing after the Nov. 6 game at Ball State.
Aside from Titus Davis, this group has been a bit of a disappointment so far. Courtney Williams has trouble holding on to the ball and we haven't really seen that break out season we thought we would from sophomore Andrew Flory, who shined in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl amidst Davis' absence. It's funny, though, that this group seems to step up when Davis is out, with the upset win over Ohio as proof. Williams, Flory freshman Anthony Rice and tight ends Ben McCord and Connor Odykirk all came up big. That just goes to show you how much this team relies on Davis for his speed and playmaking abilities.
Things looked good early, with redshirt freshman kicker Ron Coluzzi making his first five field-goal attempts, including three in the season opener at Michigan and a game-winning 27-yard kick against New Hampshire. But he is 3-for-7 in the last four games, missing twice in the win over Ohio. The Chippewas, meanwhile, rank in the bottom half of the MAC in punting and return average. Aside from an occasional return from Titus Davis, CMU hasn't been able to turn kick returns into much of a field advantage.
Contact Aaron McMann: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AaronMcMann.