2013 Central Michigan football's 10 things to know: A wildcard of wildcards

USA TODAY Sports

CMU was one of the worst bowl teams in recent memory last year, but if raw experience can cure an awful defense, the Chippewas could play a power role in this year's MAC. Schedule, roster breakdown, projections and more below.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. CMU really wasn't very good last year

Our F/+ rankings archive goes back to 2005. According to their F/+ rating, here are the 10 worst teams to participate in a bowl game in the last eight seasons:

1. 2011 Wyoming (-19.4%, 8-5)
2. 2005 Arkansas State (-17.6%, 6-6)
3. 2012 Air Force (-17.4%, 6-7)
4. 2009 Wyoming (-17.4%, 7-6)
5. 2007 Memphis (-17.0%, 7-6)
6. 2008 Hawaii (-16.6%, 7-7)
7. 2012 Navy (-16.5%, 8-5)
8. 2010 UTEP (-15.9%, 6-7)
9. 2012 Central Michigan (-15.7%, 7-6)
10. 2010 Miami (Ohio) (-15.5%, 10-4)

CMU's F/+ rating was the same as the 2012 Memphis team (4-8) and slightly worse than that of teams like 2007 SMU (1-11), 2012 UTEP (3-9) and 2008 UAB (4-8). The Chippewas ranked 73rd in Off. F/+ and 109th in Def. F/+, were below average in most offensive categories, and were dreadful in most defensive categories. All of their losses were by at least 11 points, and three were by at least 18. But they somehow squeaked by Iowa with nine points in the final 45 seconds, they held off a late comeback from Eastern Michigan, they took care of business against three awful teams (SE Missouri State, Akron and UMass), and they somehow eked out bowl eligibility. If you're looking for a pretty classic "there are too many bowls" example, you had your fill last year -- CMU, Navy and Air Force were all pretty bad football teams.

That said, CMU did, in fact, win its bowl game (Air Force and Navy got romped), and the Chippewas were quite young. If the bowl win gives the program any sort of momentum to go with its experience, the quality of last year's team might not matter.

2. That might not mean much

There were certainly some impact seniors on last year's squad: quarterback Ryan Radcliff, receiver Cody Wilson, four two- or three-year starters on the offensive line, end Caesar Rodriguez, safety Jahleel Addae. But a vast majority of last year's playmakers return to fill in this year's two-deep. The top three rushers return, as do four of the top five pass targets, all defensive tackles, all linebackers, and three of the top four defensive backs. Plus, some freshmen on offense and redshirt freshmen on defense could provide a bit of an athletic boost.

There are plenty of issues to be remedied as CMU moves forward, of course. The Chippewas will need to settle in on a quarterback, rebuild the offensive line, and figure out how to improve that hot mess of a defense. But even if the team wasn't as good as its record last year, this is still an interesting group, capable of showing some relatively impressive improvement in 2013. Head coach Dan Enos got himself a new contract following CMU's Little Caesars Pizza Bowl win over Western Kentucky, and while there is reason to be skeptical of that (check out the chart below: on paper, CMU really hasn't improved, even a little bit, in the last two years after the expected first-year regression under Enos), his program has a decent amount of potential.

Enos has taken the long way to rebuilding CMU -- minimal transfers or JUCO signees, in other words -- but Year 4 will tell us a lot about his program's future.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 3-10 | Final F/+ Rk: 95
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
30-Aug SE Missouri State 38-27 W 30.3 - 50.6 L
8-Sep Michigan State 7-41 L 26.7 - 43.7 L
22-Sep at Iowa 32-31 W 32.1 - 53.0 L
29-Sep at Northern Illinois 24-55 L 36.2 - 32.2 W
6-Oct at Toledo 35-50 L 21.5 - 26.2 L
12-Oct Navy 13-31 L 20.3 - 26.1 L
20-Oct Ball State 30-41 L 33.2 - 30.4 W
27-Oct Akron 35-14 W 30.5 - 31.8 L
3-Nov Western Michigan 31-42 L 37.6 - 39.8 L
10-Nov at Eastern Michigan 34-31 W 24.2 - 34.9 L
17-Nov Miami (Ohio) 30-16 W 28.2 - 28.9 L
23-Nov at Massachusetts 42-21 W 30.1 - 34.9 L
26-Dec vs. Western Kentucky 24-21 W 33.9 - 25.3 W
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 28.8 64 32.4 95
Adj. Points Per Game 29.6 56 35.2 113

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 64 73 74 77
RUSHING 74 75 55 87
PASSING 51 82 92 72
Standard Downs 76 72 81
Passing Downs 80 83 77
Redzone 93 79 105
Q1 Rk 99 1st Down Rk 55
Q2 Rk 87 2nd Down Rk 70
Q3 Rk 55 3rd Down Rk 105
Q4 Rk 43

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Ryan Radcliff 242 407 3,158 59.5% 23 9 13 3.1% 7.3
Cody Kater 6'3, 220 Jr. *** (5.6) 2 4 12 50.0% 0 0 0 0.0% 3.0
Alex Niznak 6'3, 227 So. ** (5.4)






Cooper Rush 6'3, 216 RSFr. ** (5.4)








Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Zurlon Tipton RB 6'1, 219 Sr. ** (5.2) 252 1,492 5.9 5.7 19 +12.4
Saylor Lavallii RB 5'9, 213 So. ** (5.2) 57 263 4.6 4.3 2 -1.8
Anthony Garland RB 6'1, 218 Jr. ** (5.2) 44 189 4.3 3.8 1 -5.1
Ryan Radcliff QB 16 52 3.3 2.7 0 -2.7
Cody Wilson WR-F 5 32 6.4 2.7 0 +0.8
Tim Phillips RB 5'7, 174 Sr. ** (5.0) 5 18 3.6 0.8 0 -0.8

3. Zurlon Tipton is entering Year 19 at Mount Pleasant

I guess when you come across a man named Zurlon, you notice him from Day 1. That makes it feel like he's been around a while. In 2012, however, Tipton made a name for himself (get it?) on the field as well; in a conference full of good running backs, Tipton was one of the best. He got reasonable help from his line, but he showed the ability to create for himself, too. Tipton has a good combination of short-yardage power and explosiveness in the open field. And he is backed up by a couple more reasonably capable backs.

The biggest story for CMU this year will probably be who wins the starting quarterback job following three-year starter Ryan Radcliff's departure. But the winner of the QB derby will have help in the backfield.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Cody Wilson WR-F 103 74 840 71.8% 8.2 27.0% 44.7% 8.3 106.0
Titus Davis WR-Z 6'2, 190 Jr. ** (5.4) 79 43 850 54.4% 10.8 20.7% 63.3% 10.5 107.2
Courtney Williams WR-X 6'1, 212 Jr. *** (5.5) 49 24 260 49.0% 5.3 12.8% 53.1% 5.3 32.8
Zurlon Tipton RB 6'1, 219 Sr. ** (5.2) 36 24 287 66.7% 8.0 9.4% 58.3% 8.0 36.2
Andrew Flory WR-X 6'0, 182 So. ** (5.3) 25 17 340 68.0% 13.6 6.5% 24.0% 12.4 42.9
Caleb Southworth TE 14 9 113 64.3% 8.1 3.7% 71.4% 8.3 14.3
Ben McCord TE 6'4, 243 So. *** (5.6) 12 8 72 66.7% 6.0 3.1% 75.0% 5.4 9.1
Tyler Lombardo FB 6'1, 248 Sr. ** (5.3) 11 7 64 63.6% 5.8 2.9% 63.6% 5.8 8.1
Connor Odykirk TE 6'3, 242 Sr. NR 11 6 36 54.5% 3.3 2.9% 81.8% 4.0 4.5
Jarrett Fleming TE 6'5, 264 Jr. ** (5.2) 8 4 44 50.0% 5.5 2.1% 75.0% 5.0 5.6
Deon Butler WR 6'3, 217 Jr. ** (5.2) 7 6 84 85.7% 12.0 1.8% 14.3% 8.8 10.6
Corey Willis WR 5'10, 170 Fr. *** (5.6)








Wesley Thomas WR 6'0, 185 Fr. *** (5.5)








Eric Cooper WR 6'0, 180 Fr. ** (5.4)








Zach Crouch TE 6'5, 235 Fr. ** (5.4)








Mark Chapman WR 6'0, 167 Fr. ** (5.4)








4. Titus Davis is a potential star

The winner of the QB battle will also have one hell of an explosive weapon in Titus Davis. Granted, Davis will need to improve his catch rates if he is to become CMU's new No. 1 guy (and stay out of trouble), but his ceiling is quite high. He caught 10 of 14 passes for 208 yards in a loss to Western Michigan, and even in his least efficient game of the season he showed absurd potential: Against NIU, he caught just one of eight passes ... for 92 yards and a touchdown.

Between Davis and sophomore Andrew Flory (three catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns versus Western Kentucky), CMU has some serious big-play potential. But someone will have to make the little plays, too.

5. Dan Enos loaded up on receivers

It is typically a fool's errand to look at an incoming recruiting class as a reflection of what a coach feels were his biggest needs. If you are relying on incoming freshmen to fill a hole, that hole is probably going to go unfilled. That said, it is difficult to ignore the fact that, in his 2013 signing class, Enos brought in five receivers/tight ends and five offensive linemen. These two units make up 48 percent of the incoming class and perhaps an even higher percentage of the higher-ceiling guys. According to Rivals.com, all five three-star signees, and five of the seven players receiving the highest two-star designation (5.4) are either receivers or offensive linemen.

One has to figure a few of these guys will see the field in 2013, especially in the receiving corps. (It often takes linemen a little while longer to assimilate.)

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 98.5 3.20 2.86 42.1% 59.4% 20.8% 132.2 2.4% 4.2%
Rank 76 22 90 29 101 92 34 19 26
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Eric Fisher LT 34 career starts; 2012 1st All-MAC
Darren Keyton RG 36 career starts
Mike Repovz RT 28 career starts
Jake Olson RT 26 career starts
Andy Phillips LG 6'3, 306 Jr. ** (5.3) 18 career starts
Nick Beamish C 6'3, 305 So. ** (5.2) 13 career starts
Kevin Henry RT 6'4, 306 Jr. *** (5.6) 4 career starts
Ramadan Ahmeti LT 6'7, 300 So. ** (5.4)
Aaron McCord C 6'4, 305 Sr. ** (5.4)
Cody Pettit RG 6'3, 300 Sr. ** (5.4)
Derek Edwards OL 6'5, 270 Fr. *** (5.6)
Jack Ford OL 6'6, 273 Fr. *** (5.5)
Shakir Carr OL 6'5, 292 Fr. *** (5.5)
Alex Coty OL 6'5, 280 Fr. ** (5.4)
J.P. Quinn OL 6'5, 270 Fr. ** (5.4)

6. It seems every offensive line in the MAC is rebuilding

Ball State is replacing four multi-year starters, including two all-conference picks. Kent State is replacing three three-year (at least) starters, including two all-conference picks. Miami is replacing three multi-year starters, including a four-year guy.

And now you've got CMU, looking at replacing four guys who combined for 124 career starts. The offensive line is experience-friendly. In most years, you're probably going to have to replace some reasonably experienced guys. Plus, only three of the four lost linemen were starters for most of 2012 (Jake Olson was lost for the year early on). But CMU's returning total of 35 career starts is still quite low, and it will be interesting to see if any of the higher-upside freshmen find early work in the rotation. Size isn't an issue for CMU -- the six returnees from last year's two-deep average 6'4, 304-- but experience is.

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 90 114 108 116
RUSHING 91 111 102 110
PASSING 74 117 109 120
Standard Downs 118 104 121
Passing Downs 105 105 106
Redzone 121 124 120
Q1 Rk 114 1st Down Rk 123
Q2 Rk 96 2nd Down Rk 93
Q3 Rk 117 3rd Down Rk 99
Q4 Rk 118

7. Experience is good ... in theory...

While the offensive line and quarterback positions won't have much experience, most of the defense will. Is that a good thing? Some new blood might not be a bad idea for a defense that ranked 102nd or worse in almost every major advanced category above. This unit really didn't have any particular strength in 2012, other than perhaps the play at safety; but one of the two starting safeties is gone, and there is no immediate answer for Jahleel Addae's lost play-making ability.

Experience will help with some of last year's woes, but you need talent first. Does the defense have any?

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 89.0 3.21 3.75 41.7% 70.2% 14.2% 65.7 3.8% 3.4%
Rank 111 99 109 99 80 118 111 90 113
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Caesar Rodriguez DE 13 32.0 4.3% 9 4 0 0 0 0
Joe Kinville DE 13 27.5 3.7% 5 2 0 1 0 0
Leterrius Walton NG 6'5, 300 Jr. ** (5.3) 10 21.0 2.8% 3.5 2.5 0 1 0 0
Steve Winston DE 13 19.5 2.6% 3 1.5 0 0 0 1
Jabari Dean DT 6'2, 288 So. ** (5.3) 12 17.0 2.3% 1.5 1 0 0 1 1
Matt Losiniecki NG 6'3, 280 Jr. ** (5.3) 13 15.5 2.1% 2 0 0 0 0 0
Chris Reeves DE 8 10.5 1.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Louis Palmer DT 6'2, 283 So. ** (5.4) 10 7.5 1.0% 1 1 0 0 0 0
Shafer Johnson DT 6'1, 300 So. ** (5.4) 10 7.0 0.9% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Blake Serpa DE 6'3, 250 So. ** (5.4) 10 6.5 0.9% 1 1 0 0 0 0
Kenny McClendon DE 6'2, 250 Sr. ** (5.2) 12 4.5 0.6% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Alex Smith DE 6'3, 250 Sr. *** (5.5) 5 2.0 0.3% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Kelby Latta DT 6'3, 312 RSFr. *** (5.5)

Donnie Kyre DE 6'2, 242 Fr. ** (5.4)







Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Shamari Benton SLB 6'0, 223 Sr. *** (5.5) 13 90.0 12.0% 1.5 0 1 3 0 2
Justin Cherocci MLB 6'0, 231 Jr. NR 13 87.5 11.7% 2.5 0 0 2 0 0
Cody Lopez WLB 6'1, 217 Jr. ** (5.2) 13 21.0 2.8% 2 0 0 2 0 0
Tim Hamilton SLB 6'1, 233 So. *** (5.5) 9 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ryan Petro WLB 6'1, 219 Jr. ** (5.4) 11 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Nathan Ricketts LB 6'3, 221 RSFr. *** (5.5)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Avery Cunningham FS 6'0, 203 Sr. ** (5.3) 13 65.0 8.7% 6 2 2 4 2 0
Jahleel Addae SS 13 64.5 8.6% 7 2 4 5 0 0
Jason Wilson CB 6'0, 174 Jr. ** (5.4) 13 39.5 5.3% 0 0 2 7 0 0
Jarret Chapman NB 6'0, 194 Jr. ** (5.3) 11 38.5 5.1% 0 0 0 6 0 0
Anthony Young CB 11 33.0 4.4% 0 0 1 3 1 0
Kavon Frazier NB 6'0, 213 So. ** (5.2) 13 27.0 3.6% 0.5 0 1 3 0 0
Lorenzo White CB 13 23.5 3.1% 0.5 0 1 9 0 0
Kevin King DB 5'10, 190 Jr. ** (5.2) 11 10.5 1.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Taylor Bradley DB 8 10.5 1.4% 0 0 1 1 0 0
Brandon Greer FS 6'1, 203 So. *** (5.5) 13 10.0 1.3% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 1
Leron Eaddy DB 5'10, 196 Sr. ** (5.0) 13 8.5 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Denzel Wimberly SS 5'10, 201 So. ** (5.3) 13 6.0 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dennis Nalor DB 6'0, 178 Jr. ** (5.3) 13 5.5 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jordan Fields DB 5'11, 170 RSFr. *** (5.6)






Josh Cox DB 5'10, 180 Fr. ** (5.4)

8. Attacking from all directions (by necessity)

Either by design or necessity, CMU came at you from everywhere last year. Safeties Avery Cunningham and Jahleel Addae combined for almost three times more tackles for loss than all CMU linebackers combined and almost as many sacks as CMU's starting defensive ends. That's impressive for the safeties ... and less-than-impressive (to put it kindly) for members of the front 6-7. Cunningham returns, as do ball hawks Jason Wilson and Jarret Chapman (combined: two interceptions, 13 passes broken up). However, this secondary was still far from strong (CMU was 120th in big plays allowed through the air, i.e. Passing PPP+), and the front of the defense is not guaranteed to improve.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Richie Hogan 6'2, 207 Sr. 50 41.8 2 12 15 54.0%
Curtis Huge 7 39.0 1 0 2 28.6%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
David Harman 54 61.3 16 29.6%
Connor Gagnon 6'1, 198 Sr. 19 58.9 5 0.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
David Harman 43-44 11-12 91.7% 4-8 50.0%
Curtis Huge 1-1 0-0 N/A 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Saylor Lavallii KR 5'9, 213 So. 29 23.1 0
Courtney Williams KR 6'1, 212 Jr. 11 21.0 0
Defarrel Davis KR 6'2, 175 Sr. 7 24.3 0
Cody Wilson PR 11 2.8 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 84
Net Punting 90
Net Kickoffs 71
Touchback Pct 85
Field Goal Pct 45
Kick Returns Avg 47
Punt Returns Avg 119

9. Wanted: a leg

In Saylor Lavallii and Defarrel Davis, CMU has a rather impressive pair of kick return men.Plus, punter Richie Hogan isn't bad, and CMU almost can't help but improve in the realm of punt returns this year. But kicker David Harman was perhaps the strongest player in last year's special teams unit, and he is gone.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2012 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug at Michigan 22
7-Sep New Hampshire NR
14-Sep at UNLV 110
21-Sep Toledo 62
28-Sep at N.C. State 61
5-Oct at Miami (Ohio) 106
12-Oct at Ohio 83
19-Oct Northern Illinois 50
6-Nov at Ball State 84
16-Nov at Western Michigan 93
23-Nov Massachusetts 124
29-Nov Eastern Michigan 118
Five-Year F/+ Rk 87
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 100
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* +2 / +7.9
TO Luck/Game -2.3
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 14 (7, 7)
Yds/Pt Margin** +0.3

10. The wildcard

We can conclude quite a bit about teams in the 2013 MAC. We know UMass and Akron will probably still struggle (and we know the odds are decent that Eastern Michigan will, too). We know that Northern Illinois, Toledo and Ohio are probably going to be strong, and we know that Kent State and Ball State (and, because of experience, perhaps Buffalo) should be, too.

But we really don't know much at all about Central Michigan. According to F/+, the Chippewas were the No. 9 team in the conference last year. They had plenty of flaws, more than most, but in 2013 they'll have as much experience and depth as anybody in the conference. I find myself growing pretty optimistic about CMU -- this team has more pure upside than most MAC teams -- but then I look at those defensive stats again and grow gun shy. Can you blame me?

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