Wolverine Wednesday: Week One Central Michigan Preview

By: PFC Draft/Michigan writer Matt Moore (@Matt23Moore)

 

Michigan Wolverines (National Rank: 17, Record: 0-0, Conference Record: 0-0) vs. Central Michigan Chippewas  (National Rank: NR: Record: 0-0, Conference Record: 0-0)

 

Central Michigan Breakdown:

Central Michigan is coming off of a 7-6 2012 campaign, including an early season win against Iowa and a Little Caesars Bowl victory vs. Western Kentucky.

The Chippewas main question will be their offense. There will be a shift in the offensive line after losing Eric Fisher, who was the first overall draft pick this year. Along with Fisher, Central Michigan lost right guard Darren Keyton and right tackle Mike Repovz. However, if there is a part of the game that head coach Dan Enos has put emphasis on, it is offensive line play. Returning from injury is 6-8 305 pound sixth year senior offensive lineman, and former freshman All-American, Jake Olsen.  6-3 300 pound senior offensive lineman Andy Phillips should also provide some stability up front. The rest of the projected starters on the offensive line are big and athletic. The Chippewas also lose quarterback Ryan Radcliff, who threw for over 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns last season. Enos made the announcement last Wednesday that junior Cody Kater will be the starter for Saturday’s matchup in the Big House. Kater only had four passing attempts last year, but is a quarterback that can hurt you with his legs or his arm. With the new offensive line, Kater’s ability to scramble should be useful when plays break down. Central Michigan also loses wide receiver Cody Wilson, who had 31 more receptions than anyone else on the team last season.  Despite the loss of Wilson, the Chippewas remain deep at wide receiver. They return three players with over 20 receptions, including last year’s receiving yards leader, Titus Davis. Along with Davis, Central Michigan returns wide receiver Andrew Flory, wide receiver Courntey Williams, and running back Zurlon Tipton, who combined for 887 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns last year. The previously mentioned Tipton should be the biggest returner for the Chippewas’. Tipton is an ultra-productive senior running back who accounted for more 1,492 rushing yards and 19 rushing touchdowns last season. With a new quarterback in Kater, the offense should be based around Tipton’s strong running game.

Central Michigan will face one major question going into the Big House: will they run the unconventional 4-2-5, as they did last season, or will they move to a 4-3? Defensively, the Central Michigan returns seven starters, none of which are more important than junior linebacker Justin Cherocci. Last season, Cherocci lead the team with 132 tackles. Alongside Cherroci, the Chippewas return their second leading tackler, senior linebacker Shamari Benton. However, the Chippewas face the challenge of replacing All-MAC
safety Jahleel Addae. Up front, Central Michigan hopes that last year’s young defensive linemen will benefit from experience and get more of a pass rush this year.

 

What to watch for:

 

The Offense: Everyone has been talking about the future look of Michigan’s offense. How will the Wolverines’ pro-style offense look? What wrinkles will Al Borges have? Can Devin Gardner get the job done at quarterback? I think that we will get a glimpse into the answers of those questions. First off, Borges will most likely not unload his full arsenal on Central Michigan, but look for him to draw up a few plays to get on tape for next week’s matchup against Notre Dame. It will be interesting to see the Wolverines’ running game. From all accounts Fitzgerald Toussaint is back to his regular form. Look for the Wolverines to run the ball to the right, in order to give sophomore right guard Kyle Kalis more experience and to keep star left tackle Taylor Lewan fresh. It will also be interesting to see the wide receivers in action. Depth at the receiver position is lacking. Red shirt senior Jeremy Gallon has fantastic chemistry with Gardner, but one receiver can only take a team so far. Possession receiver Drew Dileo is always a good option, but doesn’t have big play capability. For the first time, we will see how Michigan incorporates Jehu Chesson or Jeremy Jackson into the passing game. Michigan has not made it official which of the two will start or if they will split time. Look for tight end Devin Funchess to play a huge role in the passing game. The sophomore has put on a ton of muscle since his already impressive freshman season. Michigan should be able to find Funchess open on play action and roll outs. Gardner made good use of those roll outs and play actions in the five games he played at quarterback last year. Look for these plays to be a big part of Michigan’s offense against CMU as well as the rest of the year. Something to also look forward to is the trash time, which sounds odd. But, it will be some of the young guys’ first time playing in the biggest college football stadium in the nation. Their blood is going to be pumping and it will be exciting to see who shows some promise for the future. One guy in particular to keep your eyes on is true freshman quarterback Shane Morris, who beat out the other quarterbacks in the roster for the backup position.

The Defense: What will the defense look like without last year’s team tackle leader Jake Ryan? The All-Big Ten linebacker hopes to return for the latter half of the season after suffering a torn ACL in the offseason. That leaves starting linebackers Cam Gordon, Desmond Morgan, and James Ross III to pick up the slack. Gordon really needs to step up at the strong side linebacker position, with Ryan being injured. Keep your eyes on him to see how he adjusts to his new position on the defense. In other injury news, senior free safety Courtney Avery is out for at least two weeks with a knee injury. Sophomore Jarrod Wilson will get the nod for Saturday, in replace of Avery. Wilson only appeared as a special teams player last year, so obviously the safety position is a huge concern for Michigan. Central Michigan will most likely attempt to exploit that weakness with some big pass plays. After all, what do they have to lose? Michigan will look to the experience of cornerbacks Raymon Taylor and Blake Countess, as well as fifth year senior strong safety Thomas Gordon, to keep CMU’s passing game in check. The defensive line has a new look going into 2013. Frank Clark will be the most interesting of the bunch. Clark is a junior defensive end with four starts under his belt, but his teammates and coaching staff have all been raving about his athleticism and offseason improvement. We will see if he can live up to the hype.

(Feature photo via www.FoxSportsDetroit.com)