NEW ... 2010 Central Michigan Preview
Central Michigan DT Sean Murnane
Central Michigan DT Sean Murnane
Posted Aug 6, 2010 2010 Preview - Central Michigan Chippewas

Central Michigan Chippewas

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Dan Enos
1st year: 0-0
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 18, Def. 22, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 15
Ten Best Central Michigan Players
1. LB Nick Bellore, Sr.
2. DT Sean Murnane, Sr.
3. LB Matt Berning, Sr.
4. FS Bobby Seay, Jr.
5. WR Kito Poblah, Sr.
6. DT John Williams, Jr .
7. C Colin Miller, Sr.
8. TE David Blackburn, Jr.
9. OT Jake Olson, Soph.
10. QB Ryan Radcliff, Soph.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 2 Hampton
Sept. 9 at Temple
Sept. 18 at Eastern Mich
Sept. 25 at Northwestern
Oct. 2 Ball State
Oct. 9 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 16 Miami Univ.
Oct. 23 at NIU
Oct. 30 Bowling Green
Nov. 5 Western Mich
Nov. 13 at Navy
Nov. 20 Kent State
Nov. 26 at Bowling Green

Okay … now what?

Four years ago, Central Michigan wasn't awful, going 6-5, but it hadn't come close to winning a MAC title in years and hadn't gone to a bowl game since the 1994 Las Vegas Bowl. In stepped Dan LeFevour early in the 2006 opener against Boston College, and 38 wins, three MAC titles, four bowl games, and two head coaches later, and the program is undergoing a wee bit of an overall.

LeFevour might not be the most talented player in recent MAC history, (Mr. Roethisberger and Mr. Moss might have their say in that debate), but college résumé-wise he's the greatest and most accomplished player the conference has ever seen. His loss to the NFL, along with his the departure of top-shelf targets Antonio Brown and Bryan Anderson, four starters in the secondary, and head coach Butch Kelly, will mean CMU will have to reinvent itself a bit.

In steps Dan Enos, a former Michigan State quarterback who turned hot head coaching prospect, and he's going to do things his way.

While it's asking a lot for anyone to match the success of Brian Kelly and Jones over the last few years, and it's impossible to match what LeFevour brought to the offense, so Enos is going to change things up a wee bit and get away from the full-blown spread attack of the last few years, be more balanced, and get even more aggressive defensively. The result might not bring another MAC title right away, but don't count out the defending champions quite yet.

Jones and his former staff did a nice job of bringing the talent to Mount Pleasant, helped by a good pipeline to Florida, so the shelves are stocked with enough solid players to be deep in the hunt for the championship once again.

The defense should be terrific in the middle with linebackers Nick Bellore and Matt Berning, and tackles Sean Murnane and John Williams, providing a good backbone to work around. The offensive line might not be the best in the MAC, but it's going to be extremely good with four starters returning, and there's speed and quickness to potentially overcome the inexperience at running back and receiver.

But even with all the positives, no one is expecting the success to keep on rolling the way it has over the last four seasons. That doesn't mean there aren't expectations, and that doesn't mean Enos won't coach with something to prove. A good coach can win and win big at CMU, and it can happen right away.

What to watch for on offense: A snap taken from under center. The shotgun will still be in place and there will still be plenty of running from the quarterback, but Enos will look to run a conventional attack with more downfield passing, more work for the running backs, and a bit more of a pro look. There's enough speed at receiver to push the ball down the field, and there's enough experience and talent on the line to allow all the new starters time to operate.

What to watch for on defense: More of a push to get to the quarterback. The defense was terrific last season, but it was a read-and-react attitude more than a cream the QB attack. That's going to change on the outside with the dogs being turned loose to hit the passer around. While the Chippewas aren't going to do anything crazy, the hope will be to use the overall speed and quickness to wreak more havoc.

The team will be far better if … everyone forgets Dan LeFevour ever existed. Ryan Radcliff, Derek Rifenbury, and A.J. Westendorp aren't going to be LeFevour, but they're all decent quarterback prospects who should be solid if they're allowed time to grow into their jobs and roles. It would be a huge help if the offense started to use the tight end more to give the new starter more help, and Enos and offensive coordinator Mike Cummings will do just that with David Blackburn getting more passes thrown his way.

The schedule: It's not a plus and it could mean a rough year for the rebuilding team. Having to go to Temple, who should have the MAC's best team, in the MAC opener could be a statement moment, or it could be a rude awakening. Making matters worse are road trips to Northwestern and Virginia Tech before mid-October, but CMU could still be 3-3 as long as it doesn't blow the layup at Eastern Michigan or at home against Ball State. Getting Miami University from the East at home is a big break, and the Chips need it with the showdown for the West title likely to come the following week at Northern Illinois. Closing up at Navy and at Toledo, who should be explosive, means CMU has to get bowl eligible early in November.

Best offensive player: Senior WR Kito Poblah. Center Colin Miller should be an all-star and the hope will be for QB Ryan Radcliff to become the team's best offensive player, but Poblah should be the star out of the gate now that he gets to be the No. 1 target. He was the third man in the mix last year behind Antonio Brown and Bryan Anderson, but he still caught 53 passes for 681 yards and four touchdowns, and he should explode.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Nick Bellore. While he might not be the MAC's best defensive player, he'll be a lock for first-team all-star honors even after moving from the outside into the middle. The leader of the defense has 382 career tackles with 4.5 sacks and 25.5 tackles for loss, and he should dominate once again with help from the defensive tackles, Sean Murnane and John Williams, cleaning things up on the line.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Ryan Radcliff. He doesn't have to be a superstar, but he has a little bit of experience, a live arm, good mobility, and a bit of a grace period to figure out what he's doing. He gets the unenviable task of stepping into the shoes of LeFevour, and while he's not going to be asked to win games for the team and carry the attack on his back, he needs to be above-average for the Chippewas to be in the hunt for the MAC title.

The season will be a success if … CMU goes to a fifth straight bowl game. It'll be a minor shock if the Chippewas are alive for the MAC title midway through November because of the bad combination of rebuilding on both sides of the ball and the rough schedule. Going to another post-season game would be a great step in the process and would show that the program is close to being back to where it wants to be after the big transition.

Key game: October 23 at Northern Illinois. While the MAC opener at Temple will set the tone for the conference season, the trip to DeKalb is the key to the West race. The loser will have a ton of work to do, and if CMU comes away with the defeat, it might have to run the rest of the conference table with a nasty date at Toledo to close.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Score after three quarters: Central Michigan 379 – Opponents 174
- Fourth quarter scoring: Central Michigan 86 – Opponents 84
- Punt returns: Central Michigan 20 for 270 yards – Opponents 8 for 36 yards

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