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2007 Central Michigan Preview - Defense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 18, 2007


Preview 2007 Central Michigan Chippewa Defense

Central Michigan Chippewas

Preview 2007 - Defense


- 2007 Central Michigan Preview | 2007 CMU Offense Preview 
-
2007 CMU Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Central Michigan Preview 

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.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Red Keith, 127
Sacks: Steven Friend, 5
Interceptions: Josh Gordy, Calvin Hissong, 2

Star of the defense: Senior DT Steven Friend
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior DE De'Onte Burnam
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:
Shut-down corner, veteran ends

Defensive Line

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 end.

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 else.
Rating: 6


Linebackers


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.
Rating: 6.5


Defensive Backs


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 safety.

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 help.
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.
Rating: 6

Special Teams

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.
Rating:
5.5

  

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2007 Central Michigan - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 18, 2007
2007 Central Michigan Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 18, 2007
2007 Central Michigan Preview
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