Can Dan Enos get the Chips back into the title picture in the MAC?
By: Braden Gall | 6/3/11, 1:00 AM EDT
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#101 Central Michigan
MAC West PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Dan Enos, 3-9 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Mike Cummings | DEF. COORDINATOR: Joe Tumpkin
If second-year coach Dan Enos has his druthers, Central Michigan’s offense won’t look much like the spread attack we saw during his first season or over the previous half-decade. Enos plans to use a more two-back and multiple–tight end sets now that he has more of his own personnel in the program and a better understanding of the talent he inherited.
The offense, however, still begins with junior quarterback Ryan Radcliff, who played his best three games at the end of last season. It wasn’t so much that he passed for 300 or more yards in each of those games; it’s that he threw five touchdowns and only two interceptions during that span.
Radcliff’s top target returns in junior wideout Cody Wilson, who surprised even his coaches with an 83-catch, 1,137-yard season as a sophomore. Behind Wilson, the Chippewas appear less dangerous. But senior tight end David Blackburn does return after catching 22 passes for 285 yards in 2010.
Sophomore Zurlon Tipton and senior Paris Cotton are slated to be CMU’s 1-2 punch in the backfield this season. Tipton took over as the Chippewas’ featured back at the end of last season and scored four TDs in the final two games. His 6'1", 215-pound frame offers a more punishing style than Cotton, who was replaced as the starter late in the season because of his tendency to fumble.
The questions up front remain. Decimated by injuries, CMU started eight different offensive linemen last season. Enos plans to find the best five linemen by the Sept. 1 opener, regardless of their natural positions. Junior tackle Jake Olson appears to be among them.
The end of the previous era of CMU football is perhaps signaled by the departures of linebackers Nick Bellore and Matt Berning, who combined for nearly 800 tackles and won two MAC championship rings each. Yet, the Chippewas have some talent at the linebacker position, beginning with senior Armond Staten, whom Enos called his team’s “most consistent linebacker” in 2010.
The Chippewas have more depth and experience along the D-line than anywhere else on the roster. Senior defensive end Kashawn Fraser, junior end Joe Kinville and senior tackle John Williams started a combined 32 games last season, though the group combined for a modest 6.5 sacks. Fraser, however, was suspended indefinitely at the end of spring drills
Junior safety Jahleel Addae might be CMU’s best defensive player. However, there are no other full-time starters returning around him.
The kicking game was a disaster early last season until the coaches settled on David Harman as the placekicker. Harman finished 9-of-12 on field goal attempts. The Chips aren’t as settled on who will kick off or punt, one reason they signed junior college transfer Curtis Huge, who can do both.
Central Michigan’s grasp on the Mid-American Conference figured to end sometime. Three championships in four years — which CMU won from 2006-09 — hadn’t happened in a league defined recently by its parity and coaching instability since Marshall’s run in the late 1990s and, before that, Miami in the mid-’70s.
Enos’ first season as head coach never really had a fair shake at making it four titles in five years. Enos is hoping the frustration that came with having 19 players make their first collegiate starts pays off this fall. An early season road test at rival Western Michigan, Sept. 17, will be telling.