John Bonamego steps onto Central Michigan's campus with a clean slate to work with after Dan Enos' departure. This team won seven games last year but only returns 10 starters and faces a much improved MAC schedule. Reaching a bowl game will be a tall ask.
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Previewing Central Michigan’s Offense for 2015
Junior Cooper Rush, last seen throwing an FBS bowl-record seven touchdown passes in the Bahamas Bowl, is back at the helm for his third season as Central Michigan’s starting quarterback. He is poised for a stellar season as long as he gets enough help from the talent around him.
Lost to graduation is four-year star wide receiver Titus Davis, so figuring out who can replace his production on the outside is a must. Candidates include senior Jesse Kroll (36 catches, 582 yards, four TDs) and junior Anthony Rice (30 catches, 321 yards), as they are the returnees with the most on-field experience and have familiarity with Rush. But watch out for a trio of sophomores in Mark Chapman, Corey Willis and Eric Cooper; all three are athletic wide receivers with big-play potential.
The running back spot will feature a battle among senior Saylor Lavallii, junior Martez Walker and sophomore Devon Spalding. If a clear-cut starter emerges, it might be Spalding as he had a couple impressive efforts toward the end of 2014 and finished the campaign with 371 rushing yards on 73 attempts plus four TDs.
Central Michigan must replace starters at left guard and right tackle, but the Chippewas have the benefit of senior left tackle Ramadan Ahmeti and senior center Nick Beamish entering their third seasons as starters.
Previewing Central Michigan’s Defense for 2015
Central Michigan used a 4-2-5 defensive scheme the past three years but will return to a 4-3-4 base under new coordinator Greg Colby. After the Chippewas finished first in the MAC in total defense a year ago (355.5 yards per game), there will be some turnover in personnel, but there’s also a core of returning starters who should allow for a fairly seamless transition with Colby in charge.
The Chippewas should be strong on the defensive line, which will be anchored on the outside by senior end Blake Serpa (four sacks last year) and junior Joe Ostman. That duo combined for 22.5 tackles for a loss.
A big question mark for CMU will be at the linebacker spots as senior Tim Hamilton (37 tackles) takes over as the leader of that group. There is inexperience aplenty when figuring out who is going to fill the other two starting spots.
Two seniors return in the secondary, with Central Michigan being particularly steady at safety. Senior Kavon Frazier and junior Tony Annese both have a nose for the football and a lot of games under their belts.
Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128
Previewing Central Michigan’s Specialists for 2015
Brian Eavey (8-of-9 field goals) resumes his duties after taking over for the injured Ron Coluzzi in Week 2 of the 2014 campaign. Although Coluzzi returned two weeks later, he stuck with only punting (37.6-yard average) after handling both prior to his injury. But if Eavey falters in the kicking game, the Chippewas can feel confident in having the strong-legged Coluzzi as a backup plan. Redshirt freshman Cooper Mojsiejenko, the son of a former NFL punter, could also challenge for punting duties. Amari Coleman, Willis and Chapman are candidates to be used in the return game.
Following five seasons of mostly mediocre results under previous coach Dan Enos, the slate is clean for John Bonamego to put his stamp on the job for years to come. The biggest key will be finding enough production at wide receiver to give the very talented Rush a chance to put up the big numbers of which he is capable. With some proven and promising talent on board, Central Michigan has a chance to surprise people. But a middle-of-the-pack finish in the MAC West Division is most likely.