by P. Carl Giordano, Managing Editor

Central Michigan head coach Dan Enos says this is the best team he’s had at Mt. Pleasant, and we believe him. Of course, the bar is pretty low when you’ve been at a job only two years and gone 3-9 each season. The Enos era follows a string of five straight winning seasons, the last four of those ended in bowl games, so the Chippewa fans can’t be overly happy.

There are several angles that make CMU improvement likely, however. First, sr. QB Ryan Radcliff’s improvement curve is pointing up, as he’s improved his TD-to-interception ratio significantly from 2010 to 2011, while throwing for 6644 yards the last two seasons. His completion percentage could be better, but considering he’s got thee quality, experienced pass catchers returning, an upswing is probable. Radcliff (right) is operating behind a very experienced offensive line, a group returning four senior starters including a pair of probable all-conference players at tackle. This group hasn’t been healthy the last two years, as o.c./offensive line coach Mike Cummings was forced to use 10 players in 2010 and started 10 different players up front last season. That unit lost only one of those 10 starters, so it will be deep. In fact, the Chips lost a MAC-low 13 letterman from last season!

The running back situation is in good hands, as Zurlon Tipton returns to join soph Anthony Garland (ran for 378 yards and 4.6 ypc as a true frosh last season). Tipton has seen limited action over his first two seasons due to injuries, but he averaged 4.7 ypc last year and caught 17 passes in six games in 2011. Garland was called into action after Tipton and the graduated Paris Cotton were injured and ineffective and his highlight was rushing for 141 yards against Akron in a nailbiting 23-22 win for the Chips. That’s all good, right?

Now, about that defense. It’s not good...at all. The CMU front seven was an ineffective and less-than-aggressive group. The Chips gave up 187 ypg on the ground (93rd in the nation), were 96th in total defense and 99th in scoring defense, allowing 33 ppg. They ranked 110th in sacks, 97th in tackles-for-loss and 114th in turnover margin thanks largely to forcing only 11 turnovers (only 2 teams in the nation recorded fewer, Minny and Fresno). Now, the “cup half full” philosophy says that with 15 defenders returning who started at least one game and an experienced secondary led by first team all-MAC strong safety Jahleel Addae (shown at left), things will get better, and they might.

Summary: This is the MAC, so it’s not a huge gap from top to bottom, even in the tougher West Division. The Chips will know quickly what they’re made of, facing Michigan State and Iowa after a “cupcake” opening against Southeast Missouri State. Then CMU goes into the MAC West fire visiting Northern Illinois and Toledo, who went 1-2 in the division last season. Rather than lower expectations based on the first two seasons’ results and the increasingly demanding schedule, the coach chose to go in a different direction. "Our expectations are we are going to compete for a MAC Championship and play in a bowl game," Enos said and the MAC media event. Nothing like hanging a bull’s-eye on your back, coach. Whatever he’s selling, the CMU administration is buying, as Enos was awarded with a one-year contract extension. The team will improve, but we’re not quite sure we agree with Enos’ evaluation of the MAC West race. They’ll be better, but not good enough to go to Detroit.


Return To Home Page