Jim McElwain excited for players, ready for 2020 season
On Sept. 28, Central Michigan football coach Jim McElwain spoke to reporters for the first time in seven months. He wore a maroon quarter-zip and a smile as he entered the frame of the Webex call.
He had a lot to talk about.
There's been plenty of turnover within Central Michigan's program since the last time McElwain spoke with the media. Several players, including starting tight end Tony Poljan, transferred out of the program and another starter, Kyron McKinnie-Harper, is no longer enrolled in the university.
In addition to that, McElwain had to deal with the cancellation and subsequent reinstatement of the 2020 MAC football season.
Here are some takeaways from McElwain's first media availability of the season:
Praising the MAC
McElwain wasted no time sharing his thoughts on the MAC's process of reinstatement of the season. He praised commissioner Jon Steinbrecher and the medical professionals working toward creating a safe, playable environment for the student-athletes.
Among his biggest praises was the fact that the MAC allowed the players to participate in discussions. Student-athletes from every school met with Steinbrecher and medical professionals to discuss what it would take to play a season.
"I thought (it) really was good as a conference including the players in those discussions," McElwain said. "They really felt, they really had a chance to find out all the reasons and how we’re doing it. My hat’s off to the Mid-American Conference and how they went about it and this decision to play this schedule."
The MAC announced its decision to return on Sept. 25. The game schedule should be announced later this week.
David Moore's year-long suspension is due to expire on Oct. 7. According to the terms of the suspension, Moore would be eligible for the season. However, there is still some uncertainty surrounding the position.
Regardless of Moore's standing, he will have competition from Sam Houston State graduate transfer Ty Brock and redshirt freshman Daniel Richardson for the starting spot.
"We won’t know anything there until after the first week of October I believe," McElwain said. "I don’t have the exact date but that’s when some of the questions from the NCAA are gonna be."
Should Moore win the starting job, it's expected that Brock and Richardson will compete for the backup job. Brock has the edge in terms of experience, having played in 21 games. McElwain and company like Richardson's upside.
Preparing in case of emergency
With contact tracing becoming a large part of the coronavirus conversation, McElwain has sought to diversify his players' skills. He sets aside specific parts of practice to allow players to practice on both sides of the ball. For example, defensive backs spend time training as wide receivers, and vice versa.
Additionally, McElwain referenced that the team could be trying out a wildcat package. Junior receiver Kalil Pimpleton seems like a prime candidate to fill that role given his experience at the position in high school. Pimpleton totaled 1,183 all-purpose yards last season.
Four members of the Chippewa roster have elected to opt-out of the shortened season, McElwain said. Defensive linemen Jacques Bristol and Deron Irving-Bey along with safety Trey Jones and running back Josh Crawford have all elected to opt-out.
"Everything we have done is try to inform the players and let them make the best decisions as far as their health," McElwain said. "And more than that, their feelings as far as how things go."
Bristol played in all 14 games last year and made 23 tackles. Each of the other three has yet to play in a game with the Chippewas.
Just nine true freshmen on roster
Just nine members of Central Michigan's 2020 recruiting class will be on roster this season. Of the nine, seven are on scholarship. The other members of the class will join the program in January and participate in spring practice according to coach Jim McElwain. Among those enrolling are RB Jordon Ingram, WR Nahree Biggins and OL Keegan Smith.
"They're going to be able to get a full spring and summer, which will put them ahead academically," McElwain said. "And on the back end, gaining another year as far as the eligibility piece, I think that's fantastic."
Four of the team's top-five recruits in the 2020 class are among those staying home. Defensive back Daedae Hill, the team's second-highest rated recruit according to 247Sports, is the lone recruit coming to Mount Pleasant. The other freshmen on roster are: DB Donte Kent WRs Alec Ward and Zahir Swann LB Jayden Cray OL Ronald Novosedliak RB John Shelton IV K Marshall Meeder DL Cade Cote (enrolled at CMU in January)
Players taking part in social conversation
With several different social conversations taking place, McElwain and his staff helped every member of the Chippewa roster register to vote. He emphasized the importance of allowing his players to share their voices.
"There's a lot of great lessons we've learned and should have learned a long time ago," McElwain said. "Your voice can be heard through voting and doing something. It doesn't sound like a lot, but I think it was an important lesson for all of us."