2007 Central Michigan Preview - Defense
Central Michigan Chippewa Defense
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What you need to know:
Statistically, the defense struggled
throughout last year. Actually, it wasn't that bad as many of
the numbers came when the game was already decided. This year's
D doesn't have a Dan Bazuin up front, but it has Steven Friend
leading a group of good tackles, while there should be a good
rotation of ends. The linebacking corps gets better with Ike
Brown back from the knee injury that cost him almost all of last
year, while the secondary gets three starters back, along with
promising corner Chaz West. This won't be a rock of a defense,
but it'll be good enough to win another title with.
Steven Friend, 5
Interceptions: Josh Gordy, Calvin Hissong, 2
Star of the defense: Senior DT Steven Friend
Shut-down corner, veteran ends
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior DE
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Chaz West
Best pro prospect: Friend
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Friend, 2) LB Red
Keith, 3) LB Ike Brown
Strength of the defense: Tackles, linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
Projected Starters: Job one up front will be to replace
the star ends from last year, Dan Bazuin and Mike Ogle. While it'll take
a combination of players to keep the production going, there is a little
bit of experience returning with senior De'Onte Burnam on one
side. To slow to be a top linebacker and too small, at 5-11 and 245
pounds, to be an every down end, he found his niche as a reserve in the
rotation as a sophomore, but was out all of last year. He's active
enough to be a good pass rusher, but he'll need help as an every down
On the other side, at least early on, will be redshirt freshman Sean
Murnane, a 6-3, 237-pound quick defender with tremendous upside.
Like Burnam, he'll be a part of a rotation with the hot end getting most
of the work. After a great spring, he needs to continue to battle this
fall to hold off several good prospects.
While the ends are new, the tackles are back after doing a great job
against the run throughout last year. 294-pound senior Steven Friend
made a big leap in his production from 2005 to 2006, and then last
year became a fantastic all-around playmaker with 55 tackles, five
sacks, and ten tackles for loss. With good size and excellent quickness,
he'll be one of the MAC's best interior defenders.
Next to him will once again be 6-1, 256-pound junior Casey
Drocsha, who took over the starting role late in the year. While not
all that big, he's extremely active making 40 tackles, two sacks and 6.5
tackles for loss on the nose. While he has problems with the bigger,
more physical lines, he's tough.
Projected Top Reserves: In what'll be a constant
battle for time on the ends, sophomore Larry Knight and redshirt
freshman Anthony Quinn will play key roles. Knight had a nice
year as a reserve making 26 tackles and two sacks, but he has to figure
out how to use all his speed and skills to become more consistent. He
bulked up to 243 pounds and has the speed of a defensive back. Quinn is
a pure pass rusher with more size than Knight and Murnane at 252 pounds.
Also getting work will be 6-4, 259-pound sophomore Frank Zombo
after making 23 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Tough against the run, he'll
rotated with Burnam on one side.
Since Droscha is so small on the nose, it'll be up to a pair of juniors,
6-3, 270-pound Philip Telfer and 6-2, 300-pound Ronnie Ekdahl,
to come in and help stop the run. Ekdahl was the starter over the first
eight games before getting banged up and giving way to Droscha over the
final six. He has the size, and he made 16 tackles as an anchor, but he
has a hard time staying healthy and he isn't going to make many plays in
the backfield. Telfer made six tackles in a reserve role, but he's quick
enough to get to the quarterback from time to time.
Watch Out For ... an excellent rotation on the
ends. While Bazuin and Ogle were great, they weren't always consistent
last season. CMU doesn't have anyone who can turn it up a few notches
like Bazuin could, but it could get steadier all-around play considering
more will be in the mix.
Strength: Tackles. Friend is a great one to build around, and
there should be a nice rotation on the nose with Ekdahl not having to be
an every down defender and Telfer good enough to start if needed.
Weakness: Sure-thing pass rusher. For all the talent up front,
the line didn't generate as many sacks as it should've and was ninth in
the MAC in tackles for loss. Now that Bazuin and his ten sacks are gone,
everyone else will have to do more.
Outlook: This was a good line last year that
didn't quite produce as well as it should've. Expect the production to
still be there with the good tackles returning, but there could be a
problem generating the pressure last year's ends did unless Murnane,
Knight and Zombo shine right away. Burnam is the X factor. If he shows
that he deserve more attention, that'll open things up for everyone
Projected Starters: The linebacking corps was a relatively
unsung strength, and will be again thanks to the return of seniors
Red Keith and Ike Brown. Brown moved over from free safety to
the outside after his sophomore year and earned All-MAC honors, made 12
tackles in the first game and a half, and then suffered a knee injury
and was out for the season. Back and healthy, he'll get his starting job
back on the strongside as an undersized (5-11, 203 pounds) but quick
tackler. The 5-11, 242-pound Keith led the team in tackles with 127 to
go along with a sack and six tackles for loss. With 231 stops in two
seasons, he's the defensive leader everything funnels around.
The newcomer on the weakside will be 233-pound senior Victor Doman,
who'll replace second leading tackler, Doug Kress. Doman made 14 tackles
as a reserve, trying to get his feet wet after starting his career at
fullback. Toughness isn't an issue, but he doesn't have ideal quickness
for a weakside defender.
Projected Top Reserves: If Brown's knee isn't
quite right, or if he needs to be worked in slowly, 6-2, 254-pound
junior Jonathan Lapsley is ready to fill in. Over 50 pounds
bigger than Brown, he's even more physical and proved he can be a tough
tackler with 51 stops. While not the athlete Brown is, he can move with
excellent range and a nose for getting to the ball.
Backing up Doman on the weakside is 6-0, 213-pound junior David
Lawrence, a smaller, quicker option who made 18 tackles and picked
off a pass as a reserve. His potential emergence as more of big play
defender could allow Doman to play more at the other two spots.
Watch Out For ... this to quietly be among the
most productive linebacking corps in the MAC. There aren't many flashy
players who'll put up eye-popping sack totals, but there are several
good, sound run stoppers who make plays.
Strength: Toughness. Brown is a huge hitter for his size, Keith
doesn't miss, and Doman and Lapsley can each hit. This is a physical
group that gets in on every play.
Weakness: Pizzazz. The pass rushing is generally done be the
line in the CMU defense, but it would be nice if the linebackers did a
bit more to disrupt the passing game. It would also be nice if more
plays were made when the ball is in the air.
Outlook: While not the team's greatest strength,
this is hardly a weakness. Brown's injury last year turned out to be a
positive for this year since it allowed him to redshirt and gave Lapsley
time to show he could be a productive player with an increased role.
This will be among the MAC's steadiest corps.
Projected Starters: Three starters return led by the
safeties, senior Curtis Cutts and sophomore Calvin Hissong.
Hissong was fifth on the team with 63 tackles with two interceptions and
eight interceptions starting all 14 games at free safety. The former
walk-on came to CMU as a tight end but was quickly moved to the
defensive side where he's used his 6-4, 196-pound size and tremendous
athleticism to grow into a good all-around safety.
Cutts made 61 tackles last season in 13 games at strong safety. At 6-0
and 214 pounds, he has just enough size to hold up against the run, and
the speed to play free safety if needed. With his experience, he needs
to start being more of a difference maker against the pass after picking
off just one pass in the last two years.
Also returning is sophomore corner Josh Gordy, who did a little
of everything with 55 tackles and two interceptions with five broken up
passes. He was a difference maker, highlighted by a 100-yard pick six in
the 24-21 win over Akron. With great speed and linebacker strength in a
5-11 and 190-pound frame, he's one of the defense's top players.
Sophomore Chaz West will be the new starter, taking over for
Pacino Horne, who led the team with four interceptions. West was a key
factor in the rotation as a true freshman making 24 tackles and breaking
up four passes, and now he'll get picked on with most teams wanting to
stay away from Gordy.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Eric Fraser
turned into a big part of the secondary, even getting a start
against Temple, making 34 tackles with an interception return for a
score against Bowling Green. A tough hitter, he'll rotate in with Cutts
at strong safety, but he could see time as a nickel back and at free
Behind Hissong at free safety is 6-1, 183-pound sophomore Kirkston
Edwards, who made 13 tackles as a true freshman and should get even
more time this year. While not a blazer, he has good enough range to
start to help out more against the pass.
Watch Out For ... more of the same after a
mediocre season. The secondary will be more experienced, and better, but
the pass rush won't be the same as last year; there won't be as much
Strength: Safety experience. Cutts and Hissong were decent, but
now they should do even more with a year of starting experience under
their belt. They'll do more to help out the corners as opposed to mainly
being a part of the run defense.
Weakness: Sure-thing, shut-down corners. West has the potential
to be one, but Gordy is too much like a safety playing corner. With
Horne gone, one of them has to become the type of defender who can erase
the opposing team's number one.
Outlook: The CMU secondary wasn't always great,
but it was good when it had to be, giving up most of its yards in
garbage time when the outcome had already been decided. After getting
torched over the first half of the season, things got better. Now, last
year's slight problem should potentially become a strength with better
play from the safeties, and decent corners to keep most average passing
teams from bombing away.
Projected Starters: With a big leg on kickoffs and
excellent range, it'll be up to 6-3, 215-pound sophomore Brett
Hartmann to take over the placekicking duties from Rick Albreski,
who hit 12 of 20 field goals last year, but struggled with his
consistency. Hartmann is a bomber who might struggle at times, but he'll
crank out a few from 45 and beyond.
The punting game was excellent last year with senior Tony Mikulec
averaging 42 yards a kick putting 20 inside the 20 and forcing ten fair
catches. To nitpick, he put seven in the end zone for touchbacks, but
with a booming leg and, generally, nice touch, he's a weapon.
Watch Out For ... Hartmann to be as least as good
as Albreski. It wasn't like Albreski was bad, but he missed way too many
makeable kicks. Hartmann might miss the occasional 38-yarder, but he'll
hit the 48-yarder.
Strength: Mikulec. There are other excellent punters in the MAC,
but Mikulec will be in the hunt for first-team all-star honors. He's
always been great at putting it inside the 20, but last year he cranked
up his average.
Weakness: The return game. CMU was awful, averaging 5.33 yards
per punt return and 18.79 yards on kickoff returns. Marcel Archer will
take over most of the kick return work from Eric Fraser, who was decent,
while Jemmy Jasmin takes over the punt return duties from Damein Linson.
Outlook: The kicking game will turn out to be
fine, once Hartmann settles into the job. The concern this spring was
with a struggling coverage team that seemed to regress from last year,
while the return game needs an overall boost.