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EDITORIAL: Small school, big ambition

Two talented quarterbacks, new offensive system has Chippewas in battle for the MAC title

Thursday night is always a good time in Mount Pleasant, but this week it's going to be special. Central Michigan football's season opener is Aug. 31 at home against Rhode Island. 

Head coach John Bonamego and his team are coming off a lackluster 6-7 season, but we believe there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this football season and program.

After taking over from where former coach Dan Enos (26-36) left off, Bonamego inherited a formidable group of players — none more so than quarterback Cooper Rush, who was officially named to the NFL's Dallas Cowboy’s roster Saturday by owner Jerry Jones. 

This year, ex-quarterback for the University of Michigan Shane Morris and redshirt freshman Tony Poljan are competing to replace Rush. 

Morris, who fought to get any playing time at Michigan, is showing Chippewa fans his adaptability while adjusting to the new spread offense, instilled by first-year offensive coordinator Chris Ostrowsky.

The massive 6-foot-7, 225-pound Poljan struggled in April's Maroon and Gold Spring Game, but also showcased an immense amount of potential. Bonamego freely admits CMU's football program is being designed to build around him. 

Watching them compete for that starting quarterback role is reason enough to be an engaged fan this year. But those aren't the only players to watch.  

Senior receivers Corey Willis with his impressive 72 receptions, 1,091 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, and Mark Chapman, with 44 catches, 592 yards and four touchdowns, will give whoever starts the needed experience and talent downfield. Sophomore Brandon Childress (23 receptions and 327 yards) is showing he will have a large part in the program's future. All three receivers will make sure the next quarterback is surrounded with playmakers.

The players are not the only thing you should be watching. The entire season is reason enough to keep you excited.

Our football schedule shows that CMU has grown into a school that Power Five conference schools are now eager to play. We play a Big 12 Conference team in Kansas and two Atlantic Coast Conference teams in Syracuse and Boston College this season. CMU takes on Michigan State in 2018, Wisconsin and Miami (Florida) in 2019, and Northwestern and Nebraska in 2020.

In the now infamous game against Oklahoma State last season, CMU competed and held its own against the nationally-ranked team. It was supposed to be an absolute blowout, but people saw we could play against a larger school all the way to the last second, the Chippewas' second miracle Hail Mary in three seasons.

You will want to be watching for the next major CMU upset, or Hail Mary.

The fact that CMU is constantly producing NFL caliber talent speaks volumes to our recruitment and the coaching staff as well. Look no further than wide receiver Antonio Brown. Playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brown led the NFL in receptions (129), and receiving yards (1,698) in 2014. Brown just had his fourth consecutive season with more than 1,000 yards receiving, and he was ranked fourth on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016. 

Running back Thomas Rawls took over for Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch on the Seattle Seahawks, where he earned the records for most single game rushing yards by a rookie running back (209), most rushing yards by an undrafted rookie in his first six games (711). In 2013, offensive tackle Eric Fisher was drafted first overall by the Kansas City Chiefs. Rush and safety Kavon Frazier have the potential to put two CMU alumni on the Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster. 

There have always been reasons to show up and cheer for our football team. Be there to watch our team. Be there for the next major upset. Be there to see the next Antonio Brown. 

Experience Game Day. We'll see you at Kelly/Shorts Stadium on Thursday.