Opponent Preview: Central Michigan

Posted on Posted in Michigan Football

Last Season: 7-7
Top 5 Returning Starters: RB Zurlon Tipton, WR Titus Davis, OT Jake Olson, LB Shamari Benton, S Avery Cunningham
Key Losses: OT Eric Fisher, QB Ryan Radcliff, WR Cody Wilson, WR Jahleel Addae, DL Joe Kinville

Fire up, Chips. It’s go time.

Michigan welcomes their in-state brethren from Mount Pleasant to kick off the 2013 campaign. Arguably, this is most likely the easiest game on Michigan’s schedule this season, though a case can be made for Akron as well. Since last season, CMU is a team searching for its identity. Can it be a consistent winner where they won five straight games to end the season last year? Or a team struggling to stay within the .500 range by giving up 50 points in consecutive weeks to Northern Illinois and Toledo a season ago. At any rate, expectations are always high after coming off a bowl victory the following season. For Dan Enos and his Chippewas, this is no different.

The Offense

The obvious area of the offense that sees the biggest change from last year is the offense line. Tackle Eric Fisher, who went number one overall in the NFL Draft last season, will no longer be paving the way for the Chippewas. Taking his spot is senior Jake Olson who has some experience under his belt — nine games total — but has a history of injury problems that cut his seasons short. Redshirt sophomore center Nick Beamish, a welcomed addition of youth and experience to line, started all 13 games last year and will anchor the offensive line at center.

The most exciting and electrifying player on offense is senior running back Zurlon Tipton. Tipton had an excellent 2012 season who rushed for nearly 1500 yards and 19 touchdowns. His talent may cause

SR RB Zurlon Tipton is poised to have a big 2013 season.

problems with the Wolverines defensive line and having to adjust without Jake Ryan as well. Though, his success depends on his offensive line. It helps that Michigan misses out on facing Fisher.

The biggest question mark with this Chippewa offense is the quarterback position. With Ryan Radcliff moving on, there is a considerable amount of drop-off with experience on the depth chart. The two frontrunners to win the starting position is junior Cody Kater and senior A.J. Westendorp. Each have been on campus for awhile, but game experience has been limited for both players as each have a total of four passes to their statline. At this point, the battle could go either way.

CMU also has to recover from losing their leading wide receiver from a year ago in Cody Wilson. Wilson caught 74 passes last year. Luckily, the Chippewas have a returning WR who is a legitimate threat to make big plays. Titus Davis, who averaged 20 yards per catch last season – which topped the nation with receivers over 40 catches – will be looking to fill the void Wilson. Davis finished 2012 with 43 receptions for 860 yards and eight touchdowns. Also returning is Courtney Williams who is expected to have a bigger role this season compared to last as he finished with 260 yards.

The Defense

The heart and soul of the Chippewas defense last season, All-MAC safety Jahleel Addae, is no longer on the team. It’s a big loss to fill and returning safety Avery Cunningham is expected to resume the role Addae left. Which, in all reality, are fairly big shoes to fill.

Returning LB Shamari Benton lead the team in tackles last season.

Replacing Addae’s leadership and experience on the defense is returning senior linebacker Shamari Benton. Benton, who had a team leading 126 tackles last season, will be expected to have the same
quality year this season. Also adding experience to linebacker position are Cody Lopez and Justin Cherocci. Both have game experience and are expected to see considerable playing time this season.

On the defensive line, the Chippewas are returning their tackles Jabari Dean and Leterrius Walton. The biggest loss on the line are at the end positions, as CMU will have to replace both.  Though the positions are up for grabs, it is speculated that senior Alex Smith will likely win one of the end positions.

Outlook

To be frank, Michigan’s overall talent and experience in the skilled positions will overpower this CMU team, making this week one match-up much more enjoyable than last year. The inexperience and question marks on the Chippewa offense will doom them week one. Though Michigan has question marks and issues of their own, I don’t see the Wolverines having problems with this team. This is the first serving of Michigan’s two-course meal with the MAC this season. The Wolverines will be looking to continue their success against the conference week one and also a few weeks later against Akron.

Derek Devine
Institutional voice of Alma College during the day, Michigan fanatic at night. Taking TBHR to the next level one post at a time.