Preview 2008 -
2008 CFN Central
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2008 CMU Offense
2008 CMU Defense |
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2007 CFN Central
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2006 CFN Central
What you need to know:
The defense was abysmal against any
offense with a pulse finishing 118th in the nation against the
pass, last in the MAC in total D, and 111th in the country in
scoring defense. The secondary should be better with eight good
players returning to form a nice rotation led by corner Josh
Gordy. The coaching staff will play around with the overall
combination all season long to find the right fit for the other
three spots. Nick Bellore is a strong presence in the middle of
the linebacking corps and Mike Petrucci is a high-riser on the
weakside, but this is a very, very light overall group that'll
have problems holding up against the stronger running teams. The
biggest issue is the defensive line that didn't get much of a
pass rush when end Frank Zombo wasn't on, and now has to replace
all the size. The projected four tackles in the rotation average
around 250 pounds. The word you're looking for is uh-oh.
Tackles: Nick Bellore,
Frank Zombo, 7.5
Interceptions: Josh Gordy, 4
Star of the defense: Sophomore LB Nick Bellore
Size in the defensive front seven, production in the
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore DT
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman LB Mike
Best pro prospect: Junior CB Josh Gordy
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bellore 2) Gordy, 3) DE
Strength of the defense: Secondary experience, Bellore &
Weakness of the defense:
Projected Starters: The defensive front did a miserable
job of generating pressure. That wasn't junior Frank Zombo's
fault after leading the teams with 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss
to go along with 62 tackles. At 6-4 and 259 pounds, he grew into the
role after a decent first year as a reserve. He's a good run stopper
with the speed to chase down ball carriers, but his job is to hit the
Senior Antrione Archer started his career as a speedy 210-pound
linebacker prospect and never fully grew into a job. A reserve
throughout last year, he only made one tackle and now will be asked to
beef up the pass rush in place of Larry Knight on the outside. The 6-3,
232-pounder has athleticism and will have Zombo taking attention away on
the other side, but now he has to produce.
Losing All-MAC tackle Steven Friend will hurt, but that means senior
Casey Droscha has to play an even bigger role on the nose the team's
veteran run stopper. While he's only 6-1 and 258 pounds, he's extremely
active making 92 tackles over the last two seasons with two sacks and 11
tackles for loss last season. He'll get shoved around by the bigger,
stronger interior linemen, but he'll make his share of plays.
Taking over for Friend will be
6-2, 237-pound sophomore Sean Murnane, a woefully
undersized tackle who made 14 stops as a reserve. He plays
tough, but if he's not getting into the backfield and not a
disruptive force, he's not much use on the inside. Even so, he
has tremendous upside somewhere on the line and could end up
starting at his more natural end position.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 243-pound junior
Larry Knight has a world of upside and should eventually
take over the starting end spot on the other side of Frank Zombo,
but he has to get over a knee injury and he has to be more
consistent. He has defensive back speed and decent size, but he
hasn't been able to blow up as expected. Even so, he was good
last season making 41 tackles with five sacks and 7.5 tackles
Because of the lack of size on the inside there will be a
consistent rotation to try to keep everyone fresh. That means
end-sized players like 250-pound sophomore Tredale Kennedy
and 245-pound redshirt freshman Josh Allison have to
play big roles early on. Kennedy has to potential to be
fantastic with good quickness and playmaking skills, but he'll
get beaten up if he has to be a regular in place of the even
smaller Murnane. Allison has the potential to be a top interior
pass rusher. A good closer once he gets into the backfield,
he'll be moved around where needed.
6-4, 218-pound junior Sam Williams has been a decent
reserve on the end making 19 tackles and two sacks in a limited
role. At first he was a linebacker, then he was a tight end, and
now he needs to play a bigger role as a pass rushing specialist
in the rotation along with Antrione Archer.
Watch Out For ... the interior to get into the
backfield on a regular basis. The tackles aren't big, but
they're extremely quick and should make plenty of plays behind
the line. At least that's the hope.
Strength: Zombo. It took a little while, but he turned
into the team's top all-around defensive end with the quickness
and speed to get to the quarterback and the toughness to hold up
against the run. He gives CMU one good reserve to build around.
Weakness: Size. It's hard to get away with starting 250-pound
tackles on a regular basis. Anyone who's strength is pounding
the ball between the tackles should be able to run all day long.
Outlook: The line isn't going to be a strength.
It's a scrappy bunch with decent-sized ends and painfully
smallish tackles, and to be effective, everyone has to use their
speed and quickness to get into the backfield on a more regular
basis. Considering CMU was 11th in the MAC in sacks and tenth in
tackles for loss, this is a key area for improvement. Anyone who
wants to run on this group should be able to, but it might take
a few quarters of pounding before the big results come.
Projected Starters: The linebacking corps needs to replace
a whopping 254 tackles of production from Red Keith and Ike
Brown on the outside. Fortunately, one starter returns, and he's
a good one. 6-1, 234-pound sophomore Nick Bellore turned
into one of the nice surprises of last season starting every
game in the middle and finishing third on the team with 102
tackles with a sack and seven tackles for loss. He has good
size, excellent range, and can drop into pass coverage as easily
as he can get into the backfield.
Starting on the weakside in place of Keith is redshirt freshman
Mike Petrucci, a safety-sized 6-2, 208-pound hitter who
was all over the place in spring ball and showed he might be
able to fill the huge shoes and 148 tackles of lost production.
He's a speedster who should grow into a star over the next four
Taking over for Brown on the strongside will be junior Tim
Brazell, a slight 6-0, 185-pounderer who made 19 tackles as
a reserve. A fantastic special teamer, he has tremendous speed
and just enough strength to handle himself against the run.
He'll need to be part of a rotation to hold up for a full
season, but he's plenty tough.
Projected Top Reserves: Making the move from
safety to linebacker is Calvin Hissong, a talented safety
who made 63 tackles two years ago and 37 last season before
injuring his shoulder. While he's a rangy 6-4, 196-pounder who
doesn't look anything like a linebacker, he's a good-hitting
veteran who can step in at either of the outside spots.
6-1, 235-pound sophomore Matt Berning provides some
needed size, but he's a middle linebacker and that spots filled
by Petrucci. Berning had a nice freshman season making 31
tackles as a key reserve in every game. A foreign exchange
student from Germany, he picked the sport up playing for the
Dusseldorf Panthers, and he played for the German National team
last year. He's a tough hitter who can be used on the outside as
a pass rusher.
6-2, 202-pound Barron Miles was a great-looking prospect
a few years ago before injuring his knee and missing the entire
2006 season. He came back to serve as a reserve making 13
tackles in a limited role, and now he'll back up Petrucci on the
Backing up Brazell on the weakside is 6-0, 213-pound senior David
Lawrence, a small, quick option who made eight tackles in a
disappointing season. He has the big-play potential to see
plenty of action, but he had a hard time getting on the field
with Red Keith coming up with a huge season.
Watch Out For ... Petrucci to emerge as a
major playmaker. It'll take a while to replace what Red Keith
provided, but he'll be a threat to hit the 100-tackle mark.
Strength: Quickness. Brazzel and Petrucci might not be big,
but they can move. There might be a few mistakes here and there,
but the overall athleticism should make up for the inexperience
Weakness: Size. Bellore is a good-sized veteran in the
middle, but the outside prospects are really, really small.
Considering the D line is full of linebacker-sized players, the
linebackers will have plenty of work coming their way.
Outlook: Even with the big losses of Red Keith and
Ike Brown, the situation isn't all that bad. The CMU linebackers
always produce, and while it'll be a problem for the smallish
group to hold up against the bigger running teams, there's
enough athleticism to make big plays all over the field.
Consistency might be a problem early on and a good rotation has
to be developed from day one to keep everyone fresh.
Projected Starters: Injuries were an issue for the
nation's second-worst pass defense, but it allowed several
players to see starting time. The best of the bunch is junior
corner Josh Gordy, a steady all-around defender who made
56 tackles and picked off a team-leading four passes, with three
coming against Army, despite missing four games. He has decent
size at 5-11 and 190 pounds and has a great combination of size
and strength. Now he has to stay healthy to give the secondary
someone to work around.
On the other side will be junior Tommy Mama, a spot
starter over the second half of last season when Gordy was hurt.
He made 35 tackles and an interception, but he didn't do nearly
enough in shootouts. Even so, he has the promise and potential
to be a good one with a little more work, and his emergence has
allowed the coaching staff to play around with the lineup going
into the season.
Junior Chaz West finished fourth on the team with 90
tackles to go along with three interceptions and four broken up
passes from his corner spot, and now he'll move to strong safety
where he can use his hitting ability where he's supposed to.
He's not a huge safety at 5-11 and 181 pounds, but he doesn't
miss a tackle and should do even more against the run.
Sophomore Bobby Seay didn't make a start last season but
came up with 18 tackles as a reserve. With Calvin Hissong moving
to linebacker, Seay, a big-time prospect who could've gone to
some much bigger programs, should become one of the team's
breakout stars. The 5-11, 185-pounder can move and should be all
over the field.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-0, 203-pound sophomore
E.J. McLaughlin is a rising star at strong safety. While
Chaz West might be hard to push out of a starting spot, it's
still a 50/50 shot on who'll get the job come fall. He made 42
tackles and an interception as a key reserve at both safety jobs
getting a start over the final four games at free safety.
6-0, 202-pound junior Eric Fraser
turned into a big part of the secondary over the last two years as a
spot starter and finishing fifth on the team with 80 tackles
with an interception and five broken up passes. A tough hitter, he'll rotate in with
Seay at free safety and will see time at both safety spots.
There's going to be a battle for the second corner spot on the
other side of Josh Gordy early on this fall with junior
Kirkston Edwards just a hair behind Tommy Mama on the depth
chart. At 6-1 and 183 pounds, Edwards is the bigger of the two
options and will see plenty of time after making 43 tackles and
a tackle for loss. While not a blazer, he has decent range.
Sophomore Vince Agnew is also in the hunt for the second
corner job after a great spring. While he made nine tackles as a
special teamer and a reserve, he's still missing the experience
of Mama. In time he'll be a bigger factor; he's been too good to
keep off the field for long.
Watch Out For ... an ongoing battle for the
starting jobs. Gordy will start at one corner job. That's
it as far as any certainty in the lineup.
Strength: Options. There's a ton of experience returning
providing plenty of chances for the coaching staff to come up
with the best possible combination.
Weakness: Production. The secondary didn't do anything to slow
anyone down. Can anyone actually play? Can the experience
translate into production? The Chippewas gave up 300 yards or
more seven times and allowed 34 touchdown passes.
Outlook: The CMU secondary hasn't stopped anyone
cold in years, but with eight decent veterans and plenty of
starting experience coming back. Gordy has All-MAC
potential, but someone has to emerge on the other side and make
teams pay for staying away from the star. There should be a
steady rotation at safety with McLaughlin and Fraser every bit
as good as the projected starters, Seay and
converted corner West.
Projected Starters: Junior Andrew Aguila had
problems with his consistency, but he nailed 60 PATs and nine of 14
field goals. He has a big enough leg to get a few shots from 50 yards,
but he needs to be better on his midrange attempts.
The punting game struggled a bit, but Tony Mikulec put 18 kicks inside
the 20. Brett Hartmann redshirted last season and has the inside
track at taking over. He has a huge leg and can be used on kickoffs and
long field goals. While he might struggle a bit with his placement
compared to Mikulec, but he should air it out from time to time.
Antonio Brown had a nice year returning punts, but he only got 13
chances averaging 10.9 yards per try. He's an elite kickoff returner
averaging 26.2 yards per try with a 90-yard touchdown against Northern
Watch Out For ... Hartmann. He was supposed to be
a major factor last season as a placekicker, but he ended up
redshirting. He has the leg to be more of a bomber than Mikulec was
and he should be able to bomb away on long field goals if needed.
Strength: Brown as a kickoff returner. He got plenty of
chances thanks to the porous defense, and he made the most of them.
Weakness: Punt coverage. Mikulec was great at putting the ball
inside the 20, but the coverage team didn't help out the cause allowing
11.1 yards per return.
Outlook: The kicking game will turn out to be
fine, but Aguila needs to hit more of his attempts inside the
40. Brown is an elite kick returner, but he could stand to do
more on punt returns while the punt coverage team has to be far better. Hartmann is a big-legged punter who should be a major factor over
the next three years.