Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring Practice Notes for 3/31

Stopped by practice today and caught some good action. Just thought I would leave a few news and notes.

- The team seems to be really hurting at cornerback. Kyle Smith and Kevin King were working with the second team defense and Lorenzo White Jr. and Derek Carter are the first team CB's right now. Avery Cunningham is playing backup safety, which is somewhat surprising given their lack of experience at CB, but perhaps that will change come the fall.

- I was really impressed with Tim Phillips and have been. I spoke to him after practice and will have a story out on him this week. He has a great center of gravity and a strong base. He is very tough to tackle. He reminds me a little bit of Lewis from Ball State, but perhaps that is getting to far ahead of things. I think Phillips has been the most impressive back outside of Austin White, but White has to sit a year. Phillips, Tipton, and Cotton are the consistent rotation of backs during practice.

- Enos looked to be frustrated with today's practice. He was getting upset with the quarterbacks at times for failing to get to the line of scrimmage and get the plays and formations together in a timely fashion. There were also some tight ends and wr's that were lining up wrong and not getting on the line of scrimmage.

- The QB battle is interesting. Sometimes it appears Fricke is No. 2, sometimes it looks as if Westendorp may be the guy. Niznak has looked good when he gets his reps. An interesting thing is that Westendorp has been taking snaps as a personal protector for the punt team. That brings up memories of Drew Stanton blowing out his ACL. I wouldn't count Niznak out for being on the active roster this season.

- Jordan McConnell continues to get a lot of first team reps at WR. The coaching staff must like him a lot. He has looked good in practice, but I have concerns about his ability to be a receiver on the outside.

- Depth seems to be pretty good at TE this season. Blackburn is a good player in my eyes and now they add Fleming, Southworth, and Sawicki to the mix. Odykirk has also looked good at times when he gets targeted.

- Right now my plan is to host a live chat a week from Saturday during the final Saturday practice of the spring. I will open it up to questions from CMU fans and readers to talk about anything CMU football. Practice has been starting around 9 a.m., so if you are interested or have some questions, be sure to be there.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Practice Update for 3/22

I got a chance to catch another CMU Spring practice on Tuesday and the guys were in full pads. There wasn't too much to report on but there are a couple notes I thought I would pass along:

- Looks like Kyle Smith didn't quite make the cut at quarterback as he is now being worked out with the safeties and defensive backs. He looked to be getting a big teaching session during practice as he had an assistant with him at all times explaining drills and coverage schemes. That would leave Radcliff, Fricke, Westendorp, and Niznak at QB. I would expect (just my opinion) that Radcliff, Fricke, and Westendorp will be the order next fall with Niznak getting redshirted and then next spring will see A.J. and Alex battle for the backup spot for 2012.

- Still a lot of issues with the snaps but Coach Enos seem to be more frustrated with center Nick Reynolds than the QB's. Junior Darren Keyton has not practiced this spring and it doesn't appear that he will either, but he has played center in games before, so I would think he is the top candidate once the season starts, but they also may need him at guard, so Reynolds may have to be the starting center.

- Radcliff seems to be doing more with his leadership this spring and OT Eric Fisher has also been pretty vocal. For a team that needs leadership, it is good to see some guys in key positions trying to step up.

-I really like what I have seen out of redshirt freshman DT Leterrius Walton. He has been a beast in drills, just running guys over with his strength. At 6-6, 297, his potential seems limitless, but he is still somewhat raw.

-Also, one other note, Kashawn Fraser has not been at spring practice but I don't know if that is an indication that he won't be playing next fall or if he is just away because of injury. Couldn't really find any answers and he is still on the roster, but certainly as a senior DE, the team could use him next fall if he has a desire to play.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

First Day of Spring Practice

The 2011 Spring Practice session started for the CMU football team on Tuesday morning and I was on hand to check out the action.

In terms of injuries, CMU looked to be pretty healthy. Better than most springs at least. The notable red jerseys were DL Andy Phillips, TE Connor Odykirk, DB Jason Johnson, FB Tyler Lombardo, WR Jeremy Wilson, LB Kyle Zelinsky, OL Mike Repovz, and OL Darren Keyton.

Jake Olson and Rocky Weaver took part in drills but didn't go through contact as Olson is still coming back from his knee injury and Weaver still has a club on his left hand.

In terms of position changes, Valtorrey Showers is moving to defensive back and he looked good during the practice. He caught a fumble that popped out of Austin White's hands and returned it for a score and also had a pass deflection during team head-to-head drills.

When the teams did full scrimmage plays (without pads mind you) the starting offensive line was Eric Fisher, Kevin Henry, Nick Reynolds, Jeff Fantuzzi, and Adam Schneid. Keep in mind that Olson, Weaver, and Keyton were out, and all will likely start.

The running back rotation was Paris Cotton, Zurlon Tipton, and Tim Phillips, who is back from a torn pectoral muscle prior to the start of the 2010 season. White also got a lot of reps and he looks really good with his agility and footwork, but he has to sit out a year, which can be tough.

Receivers were Cody Wilson, Jerry Harris, and Jordan McConnell. Cedric Fraser, Deon Butler, and Jonathan Taylor also got a lot of reps as did Billy Myler in the slot position and Reggie Brown. David Blackburn and Jarrett Fleming handled the tight end duties.

Quarterback rotation was Radcliff, Fricke, Westendorp, Smith, and Niznak. I thought Radcliff did some good things but still struggled with snaps at times. Fricke looked to be the most accurate and Westendorp threw with a lot of zip on the ball. Smith really struggled with accuracy and his ball hangs to long. Niznak did some good things, but is a work in progress. He looks to be thinking and not reacting. He also struggled with snaps at times, but physically, he fits right in with the veterans and is not lacking in size.

On defense, The starting defensive line was Joe Kinville, Steve Winston, John Williams, and Darryll Stinson. Linebackers were Armond Staten, Mike Petrucci, and Shamari Benton. The cornerbacks were Derek Carter and Lorenzo White Jr. while the safeties with Jahleel Addae and John Carr.

Caesar Rodrgiuez, Leterrius Walton, and Kenny McClendon got a lot of reps with the D-Line as well while Avery Cunningham was playing safety behind Addae and Carr.

In terms of kicking, David Harman did the kicking during the two-minute drill and went 1-for-2, missing a short kick where there was a bad snap, and hitting a longer kick to end practice. Cody Wilson was the holder during the kicks.

It is really hard to judge who did well as this was the first practice and there were no pads, but I thought the QB play was mostly good. The QB-center exchange is still a problem though, which is troubling.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

MAC Tournament Live Blog

Don Helinski will be hosting a live blog for each and every MAC Tournament game, including the CMU women's games here:

If you are looking for a chat during the contests, Don is your man.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Live Chats

Unfortunately I will not be at the MAC Tournament this week. The financial costs of sending me are deemed to great by our company and that is the way it is for a lot of smaller papers. There is no place I would rather be than Cleveland. If people are interested, I can still host some live chats during the games, but I will be following along just like you and not actually seeing things happen live. If you are interested in chatting CMU sports while listening to the games, let me know at or leave a comment.

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MAC Men's Tournament Predictions

Well, the 2011 MAC Men's Basketball Tournament begins tonight. Here are my picks for each game, all the way to the championship:

First Round:
No. 12 Toledo at No. 5 Ohio: I see Ohio winning this with ease. Toledo is just not very good and Ohio can put up a lot of points
No. 11 Eastern Michigan at No. 6 Akron: Akron has been very tough at home and EMU is just too inconsistent. I like the Zips.
No. 10 Northern Illinois at No. 7 Bowling Green: BGSU has struggled on offense at times, and NIU can get hot, but I think the Falcons squeak out a win here.
No. 9 Central Michigan at No. 8 Buffalo: As much as CMU fans would like a win, I just don't see it for CMU. The Chips have been to streaky on the road and Buffalo has been solid at home. CMU may be able to keep it close on emotion, but ultimately the Bulls should pulls this out.

No. 2 Western Michigan vs. No. 7 Bowling Green: I really like how Western has played in the second half of the season and think they have a chance to win the tournament. I think they will find ways to score on BG's slow-it-down defense and advance with some east to the semifinals.
No. 3 Miami vs. No. 6 Akron: I like the Zips in an upset as they will have the fans on their side and Miami is still short-handed without Antonio Ballard. Miami has been tough for everyone, but Akron just recently beat the RedHawks soundly.
No. 1 Kent State vs. No. 8 Buffalo: Kent State proved it is the top team in the MAC coming in, but the Flashes have struggled in recent tournaments. I do see a win for Kent State in the quarters, but don't expect it to be a blowout by any means.
No. 4 Ball State vs. No. 5 Ohio: I look for Ohio to have too much offense for Ball State to match. If the Cardinals can find their range from the outside, they may be able to win, but I still look for the Bobcats to advance in this one.

No. 2 Western Michigan vs. No. 6 Akron: I look for the Broncos to win this game, which should be competitive. I think the Broncos can match up with Akron athletically and should pose some problems for the Zips with their perimeter defense.
No. 1 Kent State vs. No. 5 Ohio: These two had two very close games this season with Ohio winning the recent battle at Kent State. I think the Bobcats will show improved defense this tournament and find a way to take out the Flashes with their explosive offense.


No. 2 Western Michigan vs. No. 5 Ohio: If it works out like this, it should be an exciting game with a lot of strong guard play. My pick would be with the Bobcats to win as I think their scoring is more consistent. I know repeats don't happen often, especially from a fifth seed, but my pick to win the bid is the Bobcats.

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Friday, March 4, 2011

CMU vs. WMU Live Chat

Join me starting at 1:45 p.m. for a live chat during the Central-Western men's basketball game.

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