SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Central Michigan Chippewas

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Mike DeBord (4th year, 9-25)
2002 record: 4-8
MAC finish: 6th (West)
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 206.1 ypg
(5th in MAC, 23rd in nation)
Pass: 166.2 ypg (12th, 95th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 140.8 ypg (3rd, 45th)
Pass: 264.4 ypg (13th, 106th)
Projected Starters
Offense (5 returning starters in bold)
WR  Jacob Brown  So. 
WR  Justin Harper  So. 
LT   70   Adam Kieft   Jr.  
LG   60   Derek McLaughlin   Sr.  
C   69   Eric Ghiaciuc   Jr.  
RG  78  Drew Mormino  Fr. 
RT  72  Jeff Jenerou  So. 
TE   85   Tory Humphrey   Jr.  
QB  11  Jeff Perry  Jr. 
FB   49   Adam Supianoski   Sr.  
HB  21  Kenan Lawhorne  Sr. 
Defense (2)
DE  55  William Brookshire  Jr. 
DT  56  Matt Wohlgemuth  Sr. 
NG  76  Tony Thompson  So. 
DE  93  Dan Bazuin  Fr. 
BLB  24  James King  Jr. 
WLB  53  Eddie Hillery  Sr. 
MLB   45   Anthony Tyus Jr.   Jr.  
SLB   26   Jon Nelson   So.  
CB  32  Derrick Holoman  Jr. 
CB  33  Marlin Maxwell  So. 
FS  22  Mike Thomas  Jr. 
Special Teams
43  Mike Gruzwalski  So. 
40  Brian Brandt  Sr. 
KR  33  Marlin Maxwell  So. 
PR  Justin Harper  So. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  at Michigan 
Sept. 6  New Hampshire 
Sept. 13  Eastern Kentucky 
Sept. 20  at Ball State 
Oct. 4  at Bowling Green 
Oct. 11  Northern Illinois 
Oct. 18  Toledo 
Oct. 25  at UCF 
Nov. 1  Eastern Michigan 
Nov. 8  Akron 
Nov. 15  at Western Michigan 
Nov. 22  at Navy 
Central Michigan has been crowned MAC champion four times in the last 25 years, but 1994 was the last time the Chippewas celebrated a league title -- an achievement that is likely to elude them in the short term.

It's a good thing head coach Mike DeBord is a big-picture guy, because his program is progressing slowly.

Over his first three seasons, CMU has improved from 2-9 to 3-8 to 4-8. Small steps to be sure, but the Chippewas still won four games last season despite finishing 12th in the MAC in pass offense and 13th in pass defense.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

If Central Michigan is to continue its slow ascension up the MAC food chain, the Chippewas must improve offensively. Finding a solid No. 1 quarterback is the top priority. Senior Derrick Vickers is the incumbent, but that didn't mean much in the spring. DeBord opened the quarterback position for competition, and junior Jeff Perry emerged at the top of the depth chart. Perry, who has not thrown a pass in a game since high school, tossed two touchdowns in the spring game and led his team to a 14-7 win. He will have to fight off junior Grant Arnoldink, sophomore Kent Smith and Vickers during preseason camp.

Terrence Jackson, a second-team All-MAC pick in 2001, was slowed by a foot injury that limited him to just 399 yards in seven games last fall. Keenan Lawhorne will also get some carries.

Injuries to the receiving corps played a large part in the Chippewas' anemic pass offense. Three players expected to contribute -- Obed Cértoute Genaille, Scott Gibson and Willie Hill -- missed the entire 2002 season. Senior Steve Messam, who had 26 receptions for 300 yards and three touchdowns, is the top returning pass catcher.

Three starters return on the offensive line. Junior Adam Kieft and Eric Ghiaciuc will man tackle and center, and Derek McLaughlin is back at one guard position. Sophomore Jeff Jenerou started five games last season at the other tackle position. The foursome averages over 300 pounds and will present a formidable front in the MAC.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

Junior Kalani Muragin is the lone returning starter from one of CMU's strongest units last season -- the defensive line. Muragin will battle promising sophomore Tony Thompson to hold onto his position.

The Chips welcome back two starting linebackers, Anthony Tyus Jr. and Omari Colen, but senior Eddie Hillery beat out Colen for the start on the weak side during the spring. Tyus and Colen combined for 118 tackles last season.

The secondary features a pair of returning starters in junior safety James King and senior cornerback Dante McKnight, though McKnight was beat out in the spring by junior Derrick Holoman. Former receiver Marlin Maxwell is the frontrunner at the other corner.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Special teams should be a strength for CMU thanks to the return of punter Brian Brandt and kicker Mike Gruzwalski. Brandt averaged 39.6 yards a punt last season, and Gruzwalski earned Freshman All-America accolades after connecting on 14-of-19 field goals.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

DeBord is confident that this is the season CMU breaks out of the one-more-win-than-last-year trend. "I expected to win immediately," DeBord said of his arrival at CMU four seasons ago. "However, our program was not ready to win. We have made great progress with a lot of things. I think we have more depth and speed now, and I could see us making a great jump this year."

If that's to happen, the offense will need to improve significantly, starting with the quarterback situation.

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