Central Michigan: Chips' Best Season Yet?
The Central Michigan Chippewas may have gone 6-6 last season with no bowl invite, but the potential for greatness in 2014 is apparent.
The offense is solid. Wide receiver Titus Davis was fourth overall in MAC receptions and second overall in MAC receiving yards with 1,109 yards and eight touchdowns. Saylor Lavallii stepped in during running back Zurlon Tipton's ankle injury. Starting in eight games, Lavallii gained 807 yards and scored five touchdowns. When Tipton did come back to start the last three games of the season, the Chippewas won huge games, beating rival Western Michigan, shutting out UMass and crushing Eastern Michigan, 42-10.
There are two options for Coach Dan Enos at the quarterback spot. After Cody Kater broke his clavicle, Alex Niznak finished the game and struggled right away. Enos chose redshirt freshman Cooper Rush to take his place and Rush completed 56.7 percent of his passes for 2,349 yards. Although Rush had 15 touchdowns, he also totalled 15 interceptions.'
With Niznak transferring to Southeast Missouri State, Enos has a choice between Rush and Kater. In last month’s spring game, Kater was 16-of-24 for 257 yards while Rush was 23-of-33 for 232 yards. As of now, no decisions have been made, but Kater is determined to win back his starting position.
“It’s still up for grabs. It’s not given to either one of us," Kater said after the spring game. "Coop’ has a little advantage because he started all those games, but two guys have got to be ready. It’s anybody’s job and we have to keep working and stay ready.”
The most impressive defenders are returning. Justin Cherocci led the MAC in tackles with a total of 121. Seasoned players like defensive end Louis Palmerwith (38 tackles for loss) and CBs Jason Wilson and Brandon Greer (a combined five interceptions and 10 pass breakups) add to the unit's strength. The team lost three major starters on defense in defensive lineman Jeremy Gainer, linkebacker Shamari Benton and defensive back Avery Cunningham.
The 2013 defense struggled with internal battles, but became a working, thriving unit by the end of the season. With the veterans leading the pack this season, Central Michigan's success in last season's final three games should continue.
The younger talent is mostly made up of three-star recruits bound to make a showing as well. Even with Tipton leaving the Chippewas, the fresh talent is more definite than any year since quarterback Dan LeFevour left in 2012.
Despite adjustments, the 2013 Chips still managed to win half of their games. This year, most other MAC teams will be struggling with larger senior departures.
Underdog status has become an asset for CMU, and 2014 potentially is Enos’ greatest team since his entry in 2010.