Kelly/Shorts Stadium, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan
CMU opens against struggling Rams program
Central Michigan stumbled through much of the stretch run last year, winning just one of its last six outings. Granted, the Chippewas did knock off MAC East co-champ Ohio with that one win. Granted, also, they did make it to a bowl game. That turned out to be a 55-10 defeat.
No doubt, head coach John Bonamego and his Chippewas are more than anxious to get things back on track. What better way to get the chains moving, so to speak than hosting a struggling Rhode Island team in the 2017 opener.
Central will be . . .
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However, CMU still has some offensive weapons, along with talent and depth on the defensive side. Rhode Island, meanwhile, is an FCS program coming off a 2-9 season. A 2017 Colonial Athletic Association coaches preseason poll picked Rhode Island for last in a 12-team conference.
This is the first meeting between Central Michigan and Rhode Island, which has never beaten an FBS team (0-14).
(Last year: 2-9, 1-7 CAA)
● The Rams only conference win was a 44-14 victory over Elon, a team that Toledo opens with on Thursday night.
● The last time URI won a season opener was 2009 (41-28 over Fordham).
● Rhode Island added two FBS transfers at QB during the offseason, bringing in Tyler Harris (from UCF) and JaJuan Lawson (from New Mexico). Both have two seasons of eligibility remaining.
● Harris, who has his degree from UCF, was at one time rated as the No. 25 pro-style quarterback recruit in the nation. He had offers from Alabama and Mississippi State, among others. The strong-armed QB committed to SMU, but later changed his verbal to UCF.
● Rhode Island returns three wide receivers who caught at least 23 passes last season. Senior Harold Buckner III led the way with 28 receptions. His 411 yards was second on the team.
● Senior running back Harold Cooper needs 374 yards to become the ninth Rhode Island player to reach 2,000 career rushing yards. He already ranks ninth in program history with 3,430 all-purpose yards.
● Cooper (second team, kick returner) is one of two all-conference players for URI. The other is defensive lineman Jose Duncan (third team). Cooper was the only player in the league (and one of three in the FCS) with two kick returns for TDs last year.
● Rhode Island returns eight starters on the offensive side, while another returning player started the final three contests.
(LAST SEASON: 6-7, 3-5 MAC)
● The Chippewas return 17 starters, with 9 on offense, 6 on defense and 2 with special teams.
● CMU’s offense may look somewhat different this year as new coordinator Chris Ostrowsky figures to use a spread offense.
● Former Michigan Wolverine Shane Morris (6-3, 225, Sr. ) once started a bowl game (2013) for the Maize and Blue. Bonemego will decide between Morris and redshirt freshman Tony Poljan (6-7, 225) as to who gets the opening start.
● Wide receiver Corry Willis ranked fourth among MAC receivers last year with 1,087 yards (with 9 TDs). Fellow senior Mark Chapman also returns.
● Although the Chippewas did their share of passing last year with Rush at the helm, running back Devon Spalding got 138 carries that he turned into 765 yards with six TDs.
● Five seniors are among the defensive contributors on an experienced unit that ranked fifth (MAC) in total defense last year. Joe Osterman is stout up front and junior Malik Fountain was a First Team All-MAC selection. Amari Coleman is also made the first team after leading the conference in pass breakups (15) and interceptions (4).