Central Michigan spring football: Who will replace 2018 staples Sean Bunting, Xavier Crawford?
This is the eighth of a series of nine Central Michigan position group previews entering spring football practice, which begins March 19. Today's edition focuses on the defensive backs. For more, check back with Central Michigan Life over the next week.
Quarterbacks – March 4
Running backs – March 4
Wide receivers – March 5
Tight ends – March 5
Offensive line – March 6
Defensive line – March 6
Linebackers – March 7
Defensive backs – March 7
Special teams – March 8
If you were trying to bring up positives from the Central Michigan football team's 1-11 season in 2018, you'd probably start with the defensive backs.
CMU had the second-ranked defense against the pass in the Mid-American Conference last year, holding opponents to 150.7 yards per game and a 56.9 completion percentage.
When it came to who was responsible for most of the Chippewas pass defense dominance, it started with Xavier Crawford and Sean Bunting, both juniors.
Crawford, a transfer from Oregon State, ranked No. 1 overall in the MAC with 13 passes defended. He also added 24 tackles and an interception. Bunting ranked eighth on the team with 37 tackles with two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
However, new head coach Jim McElwain will be without both cornerbacks.
Crawford and Bunting elected to enter the 2019 NFL Draft and skip their senior season in Mount Pleasant. Needless to say, neither will be easy to replace but here's what the Chippewas defensive backfield could look like this fall.
Watch out for Devonni Reed
Redshirt sophomore Devonni Reed broke onto the scene in a noticeable way for the Chippewas last season, but not in a rather unique way for his safety position.
In the season opener against Kentucky, former lineman Nathan Brisson-Fast forced a fumble that Reed scooped up and returned for a 20-yard score. That play alone may have helped him earn more playing time and he proved himself an every game asset to the CMU defense.
The 6-foot, 188-pound Reed was second on CMU with 97 tackles in the 2018 campaign, 62 of them he earned on his own.
Reed will be one of the more experienced players to return for the Chippewas in the secondary and will be more than likely used as a tool to make plays as a rusher and in pass defense due to his tackling ability.
Who else brings back in-game experience?
One of the top people expected to fill the void is senior Da'Quaun Jamison.
Like Reed, Jamison did most of his damage with tackles to help CMU defensively. Jamison grayshirted in 2014, redshirted in 2015, didn't see game action in 2016 and played his first game as a Chippewa in 2017. Last season, Jamison broke out for a standout season with 41 tackles, which was sixth on the team.
After that, expect to see a lot more out of redshirt sophomore Alonzo McCoy.
The Detroit native made a career-high 14 tackles in 2018 in seven games of action. 12 of those tackles he made on his own in space. In his third season with the football program, the 5-foot-11, 194-pound defensive back should see more playing time with a chance to make major strides.
Next on the list is redshirt sophomore Brandon Brown, who made a pair of starts and participated in all 12 contests a season ago.
The Canada Prep Football Academy graduate made 12 tackles. Brown also played football at Bennett High School in Buffalo, New York, where he made 20 catches as a wide receiver. With small signs of growth a season ago, expect to see Brown on the field for CMU this fall.
Two other players who could see time in the defensive back rotation are junior Gage Kreski and redshirt sophomore Darius Bracy.
Bracy also saw game action for the Chippewas in 2018. In 11 games, the 5-foot-10, 182-pound cornerback made just one tackle in limited minutes.
Kreski played in 10 games a season ago and recorded 14 total tackles (nine solos.) The 6-foot-1, 204-pound defensive back made a jump from playing just four games in 2017.
The Chippewas boast four true freshmen in the defensive backfield — Kyron McKinnie-Harper, Ormondell Dingle, Trey Jones and Kamal Hadden.
Coming from Cass Tech High School, McKinnie-Harper has a lot of promise and could see playing time as soon as 2019. Rated as a three-star athlete by the 247Sports Composite, McKinnie-Harper was ranked No. 43 in Michigan at his position. He tallied six interceptions as a senior to go along with 28 pass breakups and 32 tackles.
Just behind him at No. 47 in Michigan at defensive back and also from Cass Tech is Dingle. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound safety is a three-star recruit who had 49 tackles for his career and three interceptions with one going to the house for a score. Dingle also played some wide receiver, making 13 catches and recording three touchdowns.
Jones hails from Wetumpka, Alabama where he attended Wetumpka High School. The safety is a two-star recruit who ranked No. 126 in Alabama. He helped his school to the state title game in 2017.
Another Michigan native added to the Chippewas 2019 roster at defensive back is Hadden from Ypsilanti. The two-star prospect ranks No. 63 in his class at the position. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound cornerback was a three-year varsity starter at River Rouge High School.