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2013 Central Michigan Preview – Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 27, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Central Michigan Chippewa Offense


Central Michigan Chippewas

Preview 2013 - Offense

- 2013 Central Michigan Preview | 2013 Central Michigan Offense
- 2013 Central Michigan Defense | 2013 Central Michigan Depth Chart


What You Need To Know: It’s not like the Chippewa offense dominated, but it was excellent in several areas. Can the O be better without a 3,158-yard passer (Ryan Radcliff), a 74-catch No. 1 target (Cody Wilson) and the top overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft (OT Eric Fisher)? Maybe. Zurlon Tipton is a terrific running back to revolve the offense around, and despite the loss of Fisher, the line should be solid with good tackle Jake Olson coming back from injury. The receiving corps will stretch the field helped by deep threat Titus Davis, and eventually, the quarterback situation will be settled with a few tall, big, athletic options to play around with.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Cody Kater
2-4, 12 yds, 0 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Zurlon Tipton
252 carries, 1,531 yds, 19 TD
Receiving: Titus Davis
24 catches, 287 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Zurlon Tipton
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior QB Cody Kater
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OT/OG Ramadan Ahmeti
Best pro prospect: Junior WR Titus Davis
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Tipton, 2) Davis, 3) OT Jake Olson
Strength of the offense: Pass Protection, Deep Receivers
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback Experience, Consistency

Quarterbacks

It’s going to be a fight for the starting quarterback job, trying to replace the 3,158 yards from Ryan Radcliff, but junior Cody Kater appears to have a slight edge after getting in a little experience last season. The 6-3, 220-pound former JUCO transfer from Grand Rapids Community College has time logged into the system. A big bomber with good rushing skills, he can make things happen with his arm as well as his legs. He only completed 2-of-4 passes for 12 yards in his limited time, but he has the tools to be the main man.

Also with time in the system, but not on the field, is 6-3, 227-pound sophomore Alex Niznak, who has great size and the best running skills of all the quarterbacks. While he hasn’t quite been consistent enough in practices, he looks the part and could add something different because of his speed. Redshirt freshman Cooper Rush is also in the equation with 6-3, 216-pound size and natural starting quarterback skills. All that’s missing is playing time – he has the best all-around game of any of the options.

Watch Out For … Darrien Boone. While it might be a long, long wait before he can push his way into the equation, the 6-2, 190-pound recruit is mature beyond his years and could be a sneaky factor. Extremely smart and with track speed, he has an interesting skill set that could make him fantastic after a little developing.
Strength: Options. The Chippewas have several excellent prospects ready to show what they can do. Kater, Niznak and Rush are big, athletic quarterbacks who fit exactly what the coaching staff wants.
Weakness: Experience. It took a little while for Ryan Radcliff to get it, and then he threw for 3,158 yards with 23 touchdowns and nine picks. It’s going to take a little while before all the new options figure out exactly what they’re doing.
Outlook: It might take a little bit to find the right starter to emerge from the pack, but it’s a good problem to have with tall, quick prospects who can all play. There might be a learning curve, and the starter will never feel comfortable with other good options ready to show what they can do, but the offense should turn out to be fine if the mistakes are kept to a minimum.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Running Backs

The Chippewas got a huge year out of senior Zurlon Tipton, a 6-1, 219-pound thumper who ran for 1,492 yards and 19 scores, averaging 5.9 yards per carry, and finished third on the team with 24 grabs for 287 yards and a score. A workhorse, he carried it 37 times in the win over Akron for 243 yards and three scores as part of a run of seven straight 100-yard games to close out the year. After getting hurt two years ago, he was a scoring machine with four touchdowns against UMass and three in the opener against SE Missouri State; he’s all but unstoppable around the goal line with tremendous leg drive and the ability to keep moving forward. One of the most productive runners in Michigan high school history with 5,115 yards and 76 touchdowns, he was also a physical defender with 301 career tackles and 16 sacks.

6-1, 218-pound junior Anthony Garland is another big back who can do a little bit of everything like Tipton, finishing with 189 yards and a score while catching three passes for 15 yards. He did most of his work in the opener against SE Missouri State with 109 yards and a score, and he didn’t get any work late, but he has the talent and upside to get even more. Sophomore Saylor Lavalii has been strong as a kick returner and got in some work as a backup runner, finishing second on the team with 263 yards and two scores. The 5-9, 213-pounder is extremely quick and good whenever he got the ball in his hands, he adds a bit more flash than Tipton.

Senior Tyler Lombardo is back at fullback once he’s healthy again. He suffered a knee injury in the bowl win over WKU, but when the 6-1, 248-pounder is right he’s a thumper for the ground game and an occasional receiver with seven catches for 64 yards. If he’s not ready to roll by the time the season stars, 6-2, 246-pound senior Anthony Fenton will be just fine. A spot starter who saw time in every game, he didn’t get any carries but he caught three passes for 12 yards. More than anything else, he’s a good blocker.

Watch Out For … Derrick Nash, a 5-10, 195-pound freshman from Saginaw with track speed and good all-around skills as a runner, receiver and returner. He might not provide any power, but he’s great at cranking out yards in chunks.
Strength: Size. Tipton and Garland are big, tough backs who can move a bit, while Lavalii is a compact runner who can pop, too.
Weakness: Consistency. Tipton might have been phenomenal, and the running game rocked late, but the stats mostly came against the weak and the sad with the three games of over 200 yards coming against SE Missouri State, Akron and UMass. When the schedule was nasty over the first half of the season, the running game didn’t work.
Outlook: With Tipton back as one of the MAC’s best backs, and with good veterans waiting in the wings to do more, the ground attack should ease in the new starting quarterback and should be a major positive.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Receivers

The receiving corps has to replace Cody Wilson and his 74 catches, but it’s still a loaded group returning led by junior Titus Davis, a 6-2, 190-pound deep threat who only caught 43 passes, but he made them count averaging 20 yards per grab with eight scores highlighted by a 92-yard scoring play against Northern Illinois. He wasn’t steady and he got hurt late, but when he was on, he was unstoppable with ten catches for 208 yards and a score against Western Michigan and with two touchdowns against Iowa. He has next-level upside with one more big season.

Courtney Williams is back at tying for third on the team with 24 catches for 260 yards and two scores. The 6-1, 212-pound junior is big, strong and reliable, catching everything that comes his way. He’ll get a starting spot again, while 6-0, 182-pound sophomore Andrew Flory should shine as a No. 3 target. Emerging, he turned into a dangerous deep threat last season averaging 20 yards per pop making 17 grabs for 340 yards and four scores with nine catches for 118 yards and two scores against Eastern Michigan and finishing up with three grabs for 105 yards and two touchdowns in the bowl win over WKU. Also ready to emerge as a top playmaker is sophomore Jesse Kroll, a 6-3, 214-pound option with next-level speed. He has all the tools and the upside to become a terror in single coverage after catching two passes for 23 yards; he’s a matchup nightmare.

It’ll take a combination to rise up at tight end starting with 6-4, 243-pound sophomore Ben McCord, a good receiver who caught nine passes for 81 yards and a score in a limited role. Just scratching the surface, he still has room to add at least ten more pounds of good weight, but his game is about speed with the ability to hit on the deep play. He’ll combine with 6-3, 242-pound senior Connor Odykirk, a tough veteran who can catch a little bit with six grabs for 36 yards and two scores, but can do far more. Like a large wide receiver, he’ll be a matchup problem in single coverage.

Watch Out For … Mark Chapman, the best of a good lot of new receivers. A quarterback in high school, he’s a dangerous runner with 6-0, 180-pound size and tremendous quickness and smarts. He should be a good route runner right out of the box, and once the light goes on he’ll be a playmaker.
Strength: Deep plays. With Davis and Flory each averaging 20 yards per catch, and with more speed and athleticism at the other spots including at tight end, there should be plenty of big plays.
Weakness: Cody Wilson. There’s a ton of talent and speed returning, but where’s the go-to guy? Wilson only scored three times and averaged 11.4 yards per catch, but he caught 74 passes – 31 more than Davis, the No. 2 man.
Outlook: The passing game should continue to shine with a deep receiving corps helping out the new quarterback. There’s a nice blend of talents with size, speed and experience to do what the coaching staff wants through the air. This should be a plus as the season goes on.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Offensive Line

The pass protection was fantastic last season helped by the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, left tackle Eric Fisher. Trying to do the impossible and replace the now-Kansas City Chief is 6-7, 300-pound sophomore Ramadan Ahmeti, a guard prospect with the size and length to be very good, very fast. A good recruit who made his name in high school on the defensive side, he’s still learning on the fly, but the upside is terrific. Also battling for the job is 6-8, 305-pound senior Jake Olson, a promising right tackle who started the first two games of last season before getting hurt. If he’s 100%, the job is his with all the tools and the talent to be another all-star. He’s not Fisher, but he’s a good one.

With Olson likely to move over, 6-4, 306-pound junior Kevin Henry is a spot starter who can work at right tackle or move over to guard if needed. Experienced, he’s sound, tough and talented with a good combination of strength and athleticism. His move one spot over, it’ll be a fight for the right guard spot led by 6-3, 300-pound senior Cody Petit an athletic veteran who isn’t massive, but can move. He’ll have to hold off 6-3, 279-pound redshirt freshman Connor Collins, an undersized blocker with tremendous athleticism.

Anchoring the line is veteran Andy Beamish, a 6-3, 305-pound sophomore who stepped in right away and started every game showing great leadership right away. As expected for a freshman, there were plenty of ups and downs, but his consistency should be better now that he knows what he’s doing. Next to him at left guard is 6-3, 306-pound junior Andy Phillips, one of the team’s nastiest run blockers and the one the team is going to work behind for the hard yards. While he’s not a big blaster, he’s technically sound and has the right mentality for a run blocker.

Watch Out For … the new guards. Shakir Carr and Derek Edwards have to get bigger, but they’re phenomenal gets for the program. The 6-4, 280-pound Carr is a mauler who can beat his man up. While he could end up at right tackle, his upside is as a guard. The 6-5, 275-pound Edwards is a versatile option who can play almost anywhere up front, but with another 25 pounds of good weight he could be a terrific left guard.
Strength: Pass protection. Having Fisher helped, but the rest of the line did its part allowing just 15 sacks on the season. The coaching staff has made pass protection a major priority, and it shows.
Weakness: Eric Fisher. Getting back Jake Olson is a big plus, and Ahmeti is promising, but you don’t get better by losing the No. 1 overall pick. CMU doesn’t always crank out top NFL blockers, but it’s starting to get a great reputation.
Outlook: The line will be fine without Fisher. The interior should be terrific once the right guard situation is settled, and the tackles will be a plus as long as Olson is 100%.
Unit Rating: 5.5

- 2013 Central Michigan Preview | 2013 Central Michigan Offense
- 2013 Central Michigan Defense | 2013 Central Michigan Depth Chart