2015 Preseason Media Prediction: 5th Place, MAC West
Head Coach: John Bonamego (First Season)
► Any head coaching change would likely be worth a few questions, especially when it is the incoming coach’s first collegiate head coaching gig. John Bonamego, a former Chippewas player, does have extensive NFL coaching experience. How that might translate is one question. Another, unexpected and unfortunate question arose several months after he accepted the CMU position. Bonamego announced he was diagnosed with cancer (left tonsil). How much that might affect the transition and/or season remains to be seen.
► Several key playmakers are gone on offense. Among the departed are RB Thomas Rawls and WR Titus Davis. Can other players step up?
► Can this year’s defense overcome some personnel losses to stay among the MAC defensive leaders?
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► Davis was a First Team All-MAC player who totaled 60 receptions for 980 yards and 13 TDs last season. “He was a great player. He made my job easier,” quarterback Cooper Rush said at MAC Media day. “We’ve got … good receivers coming back. … My job is getting them the ball, and they can make a lot of plays.”
► Anthony Rice is the leading returning receiver. He had 36 receptions for 582 yards and four TDS. An athletic sophomore group has the potential to step in and be productive, especially with Rush tossing the ball.
►Rawls earned Second Team All-MAC honors while leading CMU with 210 carries for 1,103 rushing yards.
► Devon Spalding and Saylor Lavellii return after combining for 669 yards and eight TDs on 157 rushing attempts.
►Andy Phillips and Nick Beamish were both First Team All-MAC selections last year. Phillips is gone, but Beamish (center) will be back, along with two other starters
► Quarterback Cooper Rush is probably the linchpin of the Chippewas offense. “I don’t think you can win on any level anymore without (success at) the quarterback position. “Having a young man in Cooper that has started for two years already, I don’t have any doubts that he will be totally prepared,” offensive coordinator Morris Watts said. “From the first time I saw him as a player in high school … his accuracy was just unbelievable. Naturally, that hasn’t changed, and he’s increased him arm strength. He’s increased his overall strength. He’s increased his speed. He works at anything he thinks he needs to improve (and) busts his fanny to get it done.”
► Rush, a junior, ranked fourth among MAC QBs in passing yards per game (242.8 ypg). He was third in pass efficiency.
► Central Michigan nearly pulled out one of the most exciting comeback wins in bowl history last year when CMU lost to Western Kentucky, 49-48, in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl. Rush tossed seven touchdowns on the day and five in the final quarter.
► CMU topped the MAC in time of possession (33:24 mpg).
► CMU was first in total defense (319.9 ypg) and ranked second in scoring defense (22.6 ppg) last year.
► The Chips were first in rushing defense (97.8 ypg) and third in pass defense 222.1 ypg).
► Greg Colby steps in as the new defensive coordinator.
► Two All-MAC First Team selections have departed – LB Justin Cherocci (117, fourth in MAC, 10 TFL) and NG Leterrius Walton.
► DE Blake Serpa and Joe Ostman are back after combining for 104 stops and 22.5 TFL.
► Safety Tony Annese is a key in the secondary. He had 74 tackles (49 solo, and three interceptions). Corner Brandon Greer, who notched three interceptions is back, as is safety Kavon Frazier (58 tackles).
► CMU was in the middle of the pack (8th) when it came to sacks.
► The Chippewas finished minus-five in turnover margin and were ranked 11th at -0.38 per contest.
► WATTS ON 2015 DEFENSE: “I don’t think there is any doubt; everybody feels more comfortable on the team when you are good on defense. Weather … can be an inhibitor to your offense, (but) to know that you are good on defense and you can score 21 points and win, that’s a great feeling. We feel good about our defense this coming year.”
► CMU ranked fifth in field goal percentage (.727). However, the Chippewas were tied for lowest attempts in the league (11) and converted eight. Returning kicker Brian Eavey (8/9) made just one FG beyond 40 yards.
► The Chips were last in net punting average (31.9) and punt average (36.4). Ron Coluzzzi came back from injury to handle the punting, but he could provide both punting and placekicking if called upon.
► Dan Enos, who served as CMU head coach from 2010-2014, left to join the Arkansas Razorbacks staff. He is the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
► Central Michigan opens with two home games. The first will be a Thursday night biggie as Oklahoma State comes to Mt. Pleasant.
“We’re excited about it. What better way to open a college football season than Thursday night at home against an opponent like that,” – RUSH
► Watts filled in for Bonamego, who has been undergoing cancer treatment, for part of MAC Media Day, Watts, however, indicated Bonamego is planning to keep on schedule with his football duties.
“He’s battling. He comes in every day after going into treatments. He plans to be at every practice,” Watts said. He doesn’t take any shortcuts in his job and his preparation. … I just hope our football team takes from him and will be really tough. … He’s a tough guy.”
► Speaking of tough – or at least rough – such is life in the MAC West. The Chippewas will follow road games at Syracuse and Michigan State in late September with a MAC opener at home against defending champ Northern Illinois. Then it’s back on the road to face Western Michigan. The back end of the schedule is a little more forgiving with games against Kent State (away) and Eastern Michigan (home) to finish the regular season.