CFN Preview 2013 - Central Michigan Chippewas
Central Michigan RB Zurlon Tipton
Central Michigan RB Zurlon Tipton
Posted Jun 27, 2013 2013 Preview - Central Michigan Chippewas

Central Michigan Chippewas

Preview 2013 

- 2013 Central Michigan Preview | 2013 Central Michigan Offense
- 2013 Central Michigan Defense | 2013 Central Michigan Depth Chart
- Central Michigan Previews 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
- Suggestions or something we missed? Let us know
- Follow us ... @ColFootballNews 

By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Dan Enos
4th year: 13-24
Returning Lettermen: 51
Off. 26, Def. 22, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best CMU Players
1. RB Zurlon Tipton, Sr.
2. WR Titus Davis, Jr.
3. OT Jake Olson, Sr.
4. LB Shamari Benton, Sr.
5. S Avery Cunningham, Sr.
6. LB Justin Cherocci, Jr.
7. C Nick Beamish, Soph.
8. OG Andy Phillips, Jr.
9. DT Leterrius Walton, Jr.
10. DT Jabari Dean, Soph.
2013 Schedule
8/31 at Michigan
9/7 New Hampshire
9/14 at UNLV
9/21 Toledo
9/28 at NC State
10/5 at Miami Univ.
10/12 at Ohio
10/19 Northern Illinois
11/6 at Ball State
11/16 at Western Michigan
11/23 UMass
11/29 Eastern Michigan
What are we supposed to believe, the first two months or the last four games?

After two straight 3-9 seasons in what could only be politely described as rebuilding campaigns, it looked like head coach Dan Enos would at a different address after an ugly 2-5 start. Then things turned around, and now the program looks far different.

But was it all a mirage?

The Chippewas couldn't even shut down SE Missouri State to start the season, and despite the upset win over Iowa, nothing else worked getting blasted 41-7 by Michigan State, allowing 55 points in a blowout loss to Northern Illinois, 50 points in a loss to Toledo, and 31 to Navy and 51 to Ball State before catching a breather against a miserable Akron team. Losing to the Spartans, Huskies, Rockets, Midshipmen and Cardinals was one thing – all five of those teams went to bowl games – but starting out November with a loss to Western Michigan was particularly galling.

Fortunately, the schedule eased up in a big, BIG was, facing Eastern Michigan, Miami and UMass teams that went nowhere. However, after those 3-9 campaigns, getting to six wins – even if all the wins were over the weak and the sad – was a positive. Yeah, Western Kentucky didn't have head coach Willie Taggart anymore, but winning the Little Caesars Bowl put a little bit of a positive spin to close things out.

Now it's time to beat someone with a pulse.

For Enos and CMU, just showing the fight to pull up out of the nosedive and finish with four straight wins was a good thing, but the defense was still a problem – really, 31 points to Eastern Michigan? – and the offense didn't always turn yards into points. Even so, it was a positive step and a possible confidence builder.

The 2013 team has to find a replacement for quarterback Ryan Radcliff, top receiver Titus Davis and No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher, but the ground game should be great with Zurlon Tipton leading the way. The receiving corps is full of speedsters and playmakers, and the line should be solid despite the loss of Mr. Fisher.

The defense has to generate more of a pass rush. It was awful throughout last season, but the linebackers are solid and the secondary has experience. If the line can start holding its own and get into the backfield a bit more, CMU might be more than just fortunate when it plays bad teams, it might be strong when it plays the good ones.

2012 turned out to be good – you are what your record is. 2013 needs to be better.

What to watch for on offense: And the starting quarterback will be … ? The receiving corps will be good, the running game great and the line solid. There's just one missing piece. Ryan Radcliff had the misfortune of being the one to follow Dan LeFevour, but he cranked out a solid career throwing for 9,922 yards and 65 scores. However, he threw too many picks (44) and he didn't necessarily take his game to another level, declining in yards in each of his three starting seasons. Even so, three-year starters who threw for over 3,000 yards a year are usually missed. Cody Kater has the experience – but not much – while sophomore Alex Niznak and redshirt freshman Cooper Rush are big, mobile options.

What to watch for on defense: What's the alignment going to be? Here's the problem. Defensive coordinator Joe Tumpkin wants to run some form of a 4-2-5, but the strength of the defense is at linebacker and there isn't enough of a sure-thing pass rush from the line to count on the ends. It'll be easy to go with a 4-3 and hope for the outside linebackers to get behind the line, and anyone working around Justin Cherocci and Shamari Benton should shine, but something has to be done about a secondary that gave up too many yards when the pass rush wasn't working. There will be tinkering because ...

The team will be far better if … it can generate any semblance of a push into the backfield. The Chippewas finished 100th in the nation in sacks and second-to-last in tackles for loss, and the rest of the defense suffered because of it. The secondary had too many problems coming up with consistent big plays and the linebackers didn't necessarily help the cause. Blake Serpa and Kenny McClendon have to rise up on the ends or else the pressure will be on Leterrius Walton and Jabari Dean to generate pressure from the interior. No matter how it happens, the D has to be disruptive.

The schedule: The Chippewas will have a hard time capitalizing on a strong end to last season with a road game at Michigan to kick things off and dates at UNLV and NC State making it a rough September. Five of the first seven and seven of the first ten games are away from Mount Pleasant, and while getting ten days off to prepare for Western Michigan will be needed, it might not matter. Closing out against UMass and Eastern Michigan at home should help end things on a high note, but they'll come after a rough overall road.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Zurlon Tipton. One of the MAC's biggest surprises, the 6-1, 219-pounder showed a few flashes early in his career, but he couldn't stay healthy and he didn't exactly get a slew of big chances. Everything changed last year as the big, versatile back turned into a workhorse and a key part of the turnaround, cranking out seven straight 100-yard games to finish up the season with a tremendous 1,497 yards and 19 scores. He can catch, too, serving as a nice safety valve.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Shamari Benton. Fellow linebacker Justin Cherocci led the team in tackles and was good when everything was coming his way, but Benton is the better all-around playmaker and a stronger tackler in the open field. The 6-0, 223-pound outside defender might do more inside if the D goes to a 4-2-5 scheme, and he should be able to handle himself. He's not a big pass rusher, but he doesn't miss a stop.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore DE Blake Serpa and senior DE Kenny McClendon. Caesar Rodriguez led the team with a paltry four sacks with two of them coming against UMass. That was about it for the fun for a defense that cranked out a whopping 18 sacks. Serpa and McClendon are like linebackers working up front, and they have to use their burst and quickness to start hitting quarterbacks.

The season will be a success if … the Chippewas get back to a bowl game. CMU isn't as strong as Northern Illinois or Toledo in the West, and Ball State, Ohio and Western Michigan will be tough MAC road games, but like last year there are enough winnable games to get a 13th game. CMU fans might want MAC championships again, but realistic dreams of that might be a year away. Another seven-win season would show stability under Enos.

Key game: Sept. 21 vs. Toledo. It's not just the MAC opener, and it's not just the MAC West opener, it's the home game the Chippewas can't afford to lose if they want to make any sort of noise in the conference chase. The Rockets rolled on the way to a 50-35 victory last season, and they rocked CMU 44-17 in 2011 and 42-31 in 2010. These games are always shootouts, and CMU, who won five straight in the series from 2005 to 2009, has to be on the right side again.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Penalties: Opponents 84 for 732 yards – Central Michigan 55 for 487 yards
- Punt Return Average: Opponents 12.4 yards – Central Michigan 2.6 yards
- 4th Down Conversions: Opponents 17-of-28 (61%) – Central Michigan 4-of-13 (31%)

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