Saturday, July 31, 2010

My MAC Preseason Ballot

I decided I should show all the readers my MAC Preseason Ballot. It is only fair right? Feel free to criticize it all you want, as I will probably be wrong in many areas, but this is my outlook.

MAC West:
1. Northern Illinois - I like what Jerry Kill has done with the Huskies and I think given all the talent that is leaving the division, he has the toughness and experience in key positions to take the West.
2. Toledo - This could be a stretch, but Toledo has a lot of potential due to some risky recruiting and an offensive line that returns four starters as well as an experienced secondary, which can be huge in a conference like the MAC. I think Toledo will be tough in the passing game on both sides of the ball, which tends to be the right recipe in the MAC.
3. Central Michigan - It just seems to be too much to replace for CMU when you lose LeFevour, Brown, Anderson, Zombo, Gordy, and others. Add in a new system and a tough schedule, and I just don't think the Chippewas will be able to win some of those close games they have won in the past. Sorry, just my honest thoughts.
4. Western Michigan - I was surprised to see many with the Broncos on top of the West. Losing Hiller is huge for this team, as is losing Brandon West. They do return six starters on defense, but that defense was pretty poor, giving up 419 yards per-game. I think the Broncos are looking at about a 6-6 season.
5. Ball State - The Cardinals have arguably the best player in the conference in MiQuale Lewis, and he returns his entire offensive line. In fact, all of the Ball State offense is back, so they have to be more dangerous on that side. Really, they can't get worse than they were in 2009, but I still don't see a jump to the top of the West for BSU.
6. Eastern Michigan - I don't have much hope for Ron English and EMU either. The Eagles were just plain awful last year and a 4-win season would be a huge improvement. The Eagles should be more competitive, but I still see them at the bottom of the division.

East Division
1. Temple - Temple has the experience to win it all, and they are my MAC Championship pick. I think with 9 starters back on offense, including Bernard Pierce, the Owls have the ability to control games with a slower tempo. The Owls should also have a solid defense that is needed to win the conference. Home games with CMU, Ohio, and Bowling Green also give me reason to believe they are the favorites.
2. Ohio - Frank Solich has a good thing going at Ohio and I suspect he will have another bowl-eligible season in 2010 thanks to a strong defense led by Noah Keller and competitive offense with LaVon Brazil. Brazil should have a monster season this year.
3. Miami - Only two teams brought a quarterback to Media Day, and Miami was one. Zac Dysert didn't do much last year, throwing 16 INT's to 12 touchdowns, but he still threw for 2,611 yards and was able to learn on the job as a freshman. Look for him to lead an experienced offense to success in 2010.
4. Kent State - Spencer Keith was the only other quarterback at media day and he also enters his sophomore season for the Flashes. Most of the KSU offense is back, but the rocky career of Doug Martin will keep KSU from reaching the top of the division.
5. Bowling Green - The Falcons lose almost all of their skill position players, so it will be a tough year, but the Falcons should still pose some problems for their opponents each week.
6. Buffalo - I think Jeff Quinn can do some good things at Buffalo, but putting in a very different system will cause some early turbulence. Look for the Bulls to get better as the season moves on setting up a competitive 2011 season.
7. Akron - A new coach for Akron won't bring immediate success as the Zips still have a lot of areas to improve. The secondary is almost all new and combining that with a new system means the Zips will likely give up a lot of yards and points on defense.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Breakdown of Enos Interview Part 2

Today I released Part 2 of my interview with Dan Enos. The focus was on the offense. You can read the interview here:

Here are a few thoughts that stand out based on what Enos had to say (his quotes are in italics)

We have a quarterback on campus right now in Kyle Smith, who is a freshman, who can run a 4.6. He is 210 pounds and if he ends up being the guy and gives us the best chance to win, you will see us run the quarterback a little more. If Ryan Radcliff is our quarterback, I wouldn't say he will kill us running and we will run him some, but we will keep him more in the pocket. It will constantly be evolving each season.

I think it is clear that we all jumped to conclusions on what the offense will look like. Enos is wise enough to know you can't be committed to a single idea or thought and you need to roll with the punches about your strengths and weaknesses. I would think an area of strength could be that the team could look one way with one quarterback and totally different with another. It gives CMU some options if things are working or Radcliff doesn't develop into a true starter.

Well, one thing that is interesting with that is that in 2007, (Michigan State) led the Big Ten in passing. Last year we were second in passing.

I think people forget what the MSU offense looked like in past years. Certainly they were not afraid to throw the ball in 2007 or even when Stanton was quarterback. Now, 2008 was ugly, but they also did win nine games. I think in a spread offense we think it has to be pass-happy, but don't forget that CMU still ran the ball a lot.

I was always told that systems don't win championships, players and coaches do.

This is a very true statement. Take Ohio State for example. They had a very old school style of football when they first won the national championship under Tressel and now with Pryor, they are starting to get a little radical with the playbook and play to his strengths. A good coach is always trying to learn and give his players the best chance to win.

Lastly Enos talked about the defense and special teams and why there is little questions there and I think as football fans, the focus is all on offense because that is where most of the statistics are. But, two years ago, I got hundreds of emails about the defense and how it cost CMU games. In 2009, the defense was stellar, and nobody had any complaints, but you can't take that for granted. The defense should be good this year, but you can't expect it to be what it was last year either. In terms of special teams, that is a big deal. The kicking game was pretty consistent under Aguila and we all remember some of the back kickers in CMU's past.

Thursday's edition will focus on recruiting and NCAA policies. The big moment in that section is where Enos talks about recruiting Florida. I think you will all want to read that.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Breakdown of Enos Interview Part 1

Part 1 of my interview with Dan Enos came out today. This is the first in a three-part series where the coach answers questions from fans. Here is the story for your reading pleasure:

Here are some interesting notes from the first interview:

I personally think one of the X-factors this year for skill players is Taylor Bradley. He didn't play last year for academic reasons but he is a guy that has a ton of ability. When he practiced in the spring, he was a guy that had the ability to get off the line, separate, and run down field and make big plays.

That was a quote from Enos when talking about replacing skill players. I have always liked Bradley from an athletic stand point. He made some nice strides at receiver his freshman year and then came on late as a cornerback in his sophomore year. Now, after a year off, Bradley will have to step up, but he may have lost a step. After moving back to receiver, Bradley could be the big deep threat for CMU this year.

When asked about NCAA instituting a policy where all college football teams play six home and six road games each season, Enos replied:

Obviously I would love that here at CMU. I am sure each school and conference would have a different opinion on it, but I am sure the MAC would think that would be great. It would be no different than the NFL and their scheduling and it would level the playing field even more.

Why can't that happen? From a logical standpoint it makes sense, but it will never happen because the NCAA is all about money and big business.

My ultimate goal for CMU, and I have made this statement to our players and staff, CMU has proven it can be at the top of the MAC, having won 12 games last year. I think the next step is, and I told someone the other day who asked why we have the BCS logo on things around the office, if Central would have beaten Arizona and Boston College last year, people would have been talking about them playing in a BCS bowl.

This was Enos talking about his hopes for CMU. While CMU could position itself for a BCS run with another couple of ranked seasons, it would be a huge accomplishment to continue that trend this year with the loss of so many players. While Boise State, Utah, and TCU make it look easy, it is going to take a lot of stars aligning for CMU to get there in his tenure.

We are going to have the guys run out to the student section and we plan on keeping the "Walk of Champions." Anything we can do to keep the fans and students involved, we are 100 percent going to continue to do.

I think a lot of people think Enos was going to wipe away any CMU traditions and it is clear after speaking with him that this is not the case. He wants to embrace what CMU is all about and wants the players to continue the traditions they started and enjoy.

I will have some more thoughts after tomorrow's interview comes out. Let me know what you think about what Enos has had to say.

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