2011 SEASON IN REVIEW:The Chippewas used 2011 as a rebuilding year as 17 first-time starters gained valuable experience while the team finished 3-9. Central Michigan lost its last three games and six of its last seven to close out last season.
Dan Enos began his second season as CMU's head coach with a victory over Southeast Missouri State (21-6), but the team then suffered three lopsided defeats courtesy of Kentucky (27-13), Western Michigan (44-14), and Michigan State (45-7). The Chippewas managed to outlast Northern Illinois (48-41) next time out in a high-scoring affair to win their first conference game of the season. CMU was then handed three losses in a row by NC State (38-24), Eastern Michigan (35-28), and Ball State (31-27). The Chippewas briefly stopped the bleeding and snapped the losing streak with a triumph over Akron (23-22) on the road. Kent State (24-21), Ohio University (43-28), and Toledo (44-17) all got the better of CMU in the Chippewas' final three games.
With just two wins against FBS competition, CMU was ineligible for its first bowl appearance since the 2009 GMAC Bowl. The Chippewas finished at the bottom of the MAC's West Division with a 2-6 mark. CMU's record versus conference opposition was tied for the second worst in the league with Buffalo.
A 30 vs. Southeast Missouri State S 8 vs. Michigan State S 22 at Iowa S 29 at Northern Illinois O 6 at Toledo O 13 vs. Navy O 20 vs. Ball State O 27 vs. Akron N 3 vs. Western Michigan N 10 at Eastern Michigan N 17 vs. Miami-Ohio N 23 at Massachusetts
OFFENSE: QB Ryan Radcliff WR Cody Wilson WR Titus Davis WR Jerry Harris OT Eric Fisher OT Kevin Henry OG Mike Repovz OG Darren Keyton C Andy Phillips
DEFENSE: DE Joe Kinville DT Steve Winston DT Matt LosinieckivCB Lorenzo White S Jahleel Addae S Avery Cunningham
SPECIAL TEAMS: PK David Harman P Richie Hogan
OFFENSE:Senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff will have the keys to the offense once again. Radcliff led the MAC with 2,491 passing yards in league games last season. He threw 25 touchdown passes, however he was picked off by defenders 16 times as well. Enos has another option at quarterback this season as transfer Cody Kater will provide insurance and compete for snaps with Radcliff.
Radcliff has his top two targets from last season back again. Titus Davis was 10th in the MAC in 2011 with 751 receiving yards on 40 receptions, while Cody Wilson grabbed a team-high 48 passes for 526 yards.
Sophomore Anthony Garland rushed for 378 yards during in his rookie campaign. Garland and junior tailback Zurlon Tipton are going to be asked to provide playmaking ability on the ground, although neither has experience as a feature back. The rushing attack generated much less success than the passing game for CMU last season. Garland and/or Tipton could change the forecast of the entire season if they can take some pressure off Radcliff.
DEFENSE:Defensive coordinator Joe Tumpkin is clearly going to have to make adjustments after his unit allowed 428.8 yards and 33.3 points per game in 2011. Jahleel Addae was a bright spot as he led the team with 107 tackles and the MAC with four interceptions. Free safety Avery Cunningham and cornerback Lorenzo White also return to CMU's secondary. The Chippewas' starting safety hinted at the changing culture and attitude in the locker room.
"I'm confident. That's one of the big things we have been harping on all summer as a team," said Addae. "Play with confidence, practice with confidence, and that will carry us a long way."
The Chippewas were lacking a defensive playmaker in the middle of the field last season. Sophomore Cody Lopez and junior Shamari Benton are starting at linebacker this season after finishing with 58 total tackles each in 2011. The tandem provides a much needed veteran presence.
CMU's pass rush struggled big time last season. The Chippewas registered just 13 sacks as a team and defensive tackle Matt Losiniecki led the team with just two. The starting defensive ends, Joe Kinville and Caesar Rodriguez, will need to pressure opposing quarterbacks at a much higher rate to help the Chippewas turn it around.
SPECIAL TEAMS:David Harman returns for his senior season after a consistent junior campaign. The Chippewas' placekicker was 13-of-16 on field goal tries and 32-of-32 on extra point tries in 2011. CMU also returns its efficient punter Richie Hogan.
OUTLOOK:Enos believes his team will be able to turn it around this season. The Chippewas' coach who is 6-18 overall in two seasons with the school, might be on the hot seat if he cannot guide CMU back to the postseason.
"Our roster is the most complete it has been since I've been here," Enos said. "We have great depth at every position and we're excited to get this season going."
CMU starts out with Southeast Missouri State again before battling Michigan State and Iowa of the Big Ten. The Chippewas begin their MAC schedule on September 29 when they travel to the Land of Lincoln to take on Northern Illinois. CMU will conclude its non-conference slate versus the rush happy Navy Midshipmen on October 20.
The team will be at home seven times total and in five of its last seven games. CMU closes its regular season out in Gillette Stadium versus the newest member of the MAC, Massachusetts.
The Chippewas developed a handful of young players on both sides of the ball during 2011's disappointing season. The offense should be able to score points with regularity in 2012, but the defensive unit is still a big question mark. CMU will improve its record, but it does not have enough to contend for the league title.
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Football Editor