By John Agovino, Associate College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: Dan LeFevour's last year in Mount Pleasant was a memorable one as he led the Chippewas to their third MAC title and fourth bowl contest during his tenure under center.
After a sub par 2008 campaign, the Chippewas opened 2009 with a rough, 19-6
setback to Arizona on the road. However, the veteran squad buckled down and
took the field the follow week and shocked Big Ten opponent Michigan State by
a 29-27 decision. The impressive win on the road against the Spartans began a
streak of seven straight victories, and during that run Central Michigan
absolutely clobbered opponents, winning five of those seven contests by double
figures. The Chippewas' winning streak was snapped on Halloween night against
Boston College, as the Eagles handled LeFevour and company by a 31-10 margin.
Once again CMU regrouped and closed out the regular season with three straight
wins over Toledo, Ball State and Northern Illinois.
With the West Division secure the Chippewas headed to Detroit to take part in
their third conference title contest in four years and this year's opponent
was a gritty Ohio squad, who they faced in the 2006 championship game. The
Bobcats put up a tremendous fight, but in the end the Chippewas had their
third MAC title thanks to a 20-10 victory. With 11 wins under their belts, the
Chippewas were invited to the GMAC Bowl to take on the Troy Trojans. In what
was a thrilling shootout, the Chippewas were able to sneak past Troy 44-41 in
an overtime extravaganza that sent LeFevour into the sunset as the best
quarterback to ever play at Central Michigan.
OFFENSE: Considering the Chippewas will have to replace the best quarterback
in program history, along with possibly two of the top receivers to ever play
at CMU (Bryan Anderson and Antonio Brown), it is safe to assume the offense
will take a few steps back this season.
The majority of the experience rests on the front line where four of the five
starters are back. Having a strong line will be key for first year coach Dan
Enos, who will have to groom LeFevour's replacement. As of now Ryan Radcliff
will likely be the signal caller come September 2nd, and it is important for
him to play his own game and not try to duplicate his predecessor's
Although Anderson and Brown are both gone, the Chippewas do return a solid
target in Kito Poblah, who finished with 53 receptions a year ago. There is no
telling how Poblah will respond as the team's go to receiver, but he will
clearly have a major role in the passing attack.
"It's gonna be pretty fun," said Poblah. "I am excited about this year. He
(coach Enos) told me that we got some plays, some trick plays, so it is gonna
be pretty fun."
After Poblah there are some players with experience, such as Cody Wilson and
Taylor Bradley, but also expect Matt Torres to make an impact throughout the
season. Another player gone that is often overlooked is running back Bryan
Schroeder, but fortunately his replacement is Carl Volny, who has plenty of
DEFENSE: The Chippewas consistently made headlines due to their performance
offensively, and rightfully so, but the defense was just as important this
past season, as the unit held opponents to just 18.9 ppg. However, that might
change this year with only five starters returning. The Chippewas were stout
against the run in 2009, and should continue to perform at a high level in
that area with the return of Sean Murnane and John Williams at the tackle
positions. However, getting pressure off the end could be an issue with Frank
Zombo gone. Look for sophomores Caesar Rodriguez and Darryll Stinson to play a
major role this season and both players looked more than capable during spring
The strength of the defense this season rests at linebacker, where seniors
Nick Bellore and Matt Berning come back for their final year at CMU. Berning
is solid on the outside, but Bellore is clearly the sparkplug for the
Chippewas. The senior led the team last year with 132 tackles and has started
in 41 straight games. His tenacious and relentless play on the field is the
driving force for this defense. What hurt the Chippewas last season was their
pass defense, and with only one starter back in the mix, it could be a problem
once again in 2010. CMU finished ninth against the pass last season, and will
have to hope Vince Agnew and Lorenzo White can step in and do an admirable
job. However, with inexperience on the front line, the new corners might be in
for a long season.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Brett Hartmann returns as the Chippewas' punter, but the kicker
for CMU is currently up for grabs with a couple freshman likely battling for
the job. As of now David Harman has a slight edge in the race, but this could
be an issue for CMU throughout the season if he does not pan out. Last season
Jahleel Addae showed flashes of brilliance in the return game and with Antonio
Brown gone, look for Addae to get the bulk of the work in this area.
OUTLOOK: After being one of the elite teams in the conference for the past
four seasons, the Chippewas have to start over with a new coach and learn to
deal with life after LeFevour. Clearly the offense will take a few steps back
this season, as Radcliff tries to build up his game experience, so the defense
will have to perform at a high level. Still, with question marks surrounding
that unit, it could be a transition season for Central Michigan.
However, coach Enos feels that if the team keeps its focus then they will have
a chance to succeed.
"We want to be a team that plays with great effort, plays fast and plays with
great toughness, that doesn't beat themselves," said coach Enos.
Even if the team plays with that tenacity, they still might have trouble
handling their daunting road schedule which contains out of conference
opponents such as Northwestern, Virginia Tech and Navy, and a MAC slate which
includes Temple and Northern Illinois. Central Michigan will not plummet in
the standings, but a return to the title contest might be too much to ask from
the Chippewas in what is clearly a rebuilding year.