Sixteen years after torching Chippewas, Charlie Frye works to build 'personnel driven' attack as offensive coordinator

Central Michigan offensive coordinator Charlie Frye talks with the media in a conference room at the Indoor Athletic Complex on April 5.

It was November 8, 2003.

Charlie Frye was playing quarterback.

Ahead 33-28 with 2:39 remaining in the fourth quarter, Akron had a fourth-and-one at the Central Michigan 14-yard line.

While the Chippewas packed the box, Frye trusted his offensive line. The front group busted through CMU's defensive line, allowing Frye to lunge through the air for the first down on a quarterback sneak.

"Our offensive line just blew them off the ball and I leaned forward and got it," Frye said after the game.

Akron, due to Frye's play, earned a fresh set of downs while the Chippewas were without a timeout. Three plays later, Akron running back Bobby Hendry danced into the end zone for a 40-28 victory at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

Frye was 27-of-34 for 416 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't throw an interception, all while tacking on 44 rushing yards. Frye was nearly perfect to slaughter the Chippewas and set a total yards record at Kelly/Shorts.

"He never ceases to amaze me," said former Akron coach Lee Owens. "I don't know if there is a better quarterback in the nation."

Former CMU coach Mike DeBord was also shocked at Frye's ability as a quarterback, comparing him to Ben Roethlisberger, who ended up being drafted No. 11 overall in the 2004 NFL Draft.

"He's near the top of the list of quarterbacks in this league and he proved it today – he's proved it all season," DeBord said.

Since that "cold day" in Mount Pleasant, as Frye remembers it, a total of 5,627 days have passed. 

A lot has changed.

Frye, after breaking 54 football records at Akron and throwing for 11,049 yards, was selected in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He spent time with the Browns (2005-07), Seattle Seahawks (2007-08) and Oakland Raiders (2009) before injuries and surgeries ended his career earlier than expected.

He became a coach, starting at the high school level from 2012-15. Then, he was hired by now CMU coach Jim McElwain as the Director of Player Development at Florida (2015-17). McElwain departed from the Gators, thus sending Frye to Ashland University as the wide receivers coach.

Coming full circle, Frye is back in Mount Pleasant – Not as a player but as the offensive coordinator for CMU under McElwain. The pair are gearing up for the 2019 season with anticipation of delivering a prolific offense.

"I believe in coach Mac," Frye said. "The coach he is, the person he is, you want to go out and do well for him."

McElwain, who has yet to speak to the media since he was introduced on Dec. 3, gave Frye much praise during the CMU Sideliners Coaches Show on Feb. 22. McElwain said the plan for the upcoming campaign is "touchdowns and no interceptions."

"He comes with great knowledge and background of the position and will be a great coach," McElwain said. "I brought him with me to Florida as a life skills coach and he did a phenomenal job bringing energy to that."

After the first three weeks of spring practice, Frye said CMU will obtain a personnel-driven offense. Being personnel driven means getting the ball to the best players and using their strengths to formulate the offense rather than isolating it to only a handful of athletes. There probably won't be much of a solidified depth chart or a set-in-stone scheme.

"We've got some really good running backs," Frye said. "We've got some guys that have big-time playmaking abilities outside. I think our quarterbacks are doing a good job commanding and leading their units. Trying to keep the defense off-balance, mixing in run and pass, we are going to do what our team does best."

Frye got his first NFL start against the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 13 of the 2005 season, and he ignited the offense with 226 yards and two touchdowns – both to rookie Braylon Edwards. He set a Browns rookie single-game record with a 136.7 passer rating.

The Chippewas have a number of options at quarterback in seniors Quinten Dormady and Tommy Lazzaro, junior David Moore, redshirt freshman George Pearson and true freshman Daniel Richardson.

Since Frye was a quarterback in college and the NFL, he has been able to teach his signal callers through experience.

"I've taken things along my journey from different coaches. I give the kids the things through my experience," Frye said. "Those things, hopefully, they help them out. Knowing I've been through it, I'm just giving things from experience."

The characteristics Frye looks for in evaluating a quarterback come in three areas – leadership, decision making on and off the field and accuracy. One element of accuracy, Frye said, is putting the ball in an area where Chippewas receivers can run after the catch.

In Frye's opinion, making the jump from a wide receivers coach at Division II Ashland to taking on the offensive coordinator role at Division I CMU is like transitioning from college to the pros.

Working for McElwain in Mount Pleasant, Frye finally has the chance to prove himself as not only a football coach but a leader of an entire offense.

"You're leading a group of guys that are looking at you in the huddle and believing in what you can do," Frye said.

"This is my chance to prove I can do it."