Sunday, August 31, 2008

Weekend Chip Shots

One week down, many more to go. Every Mid-American Conference team went into action over the weekend except for Toledo, and none of them played each other, so let's get right into it:

  • We have to start with Bowling Green's upset of No. 25 ranked Pittsburgh 27-17. I only caught most of the 4th quarter of this game and I can see why people thought the Panthers were undeserving of their ranking. No disrespect to Bowling Green: It beat a Top-25 team on the road, and we already know it's a preseason pick to win the MAC East. But Pittsburgh looked downright awful. It was like I was watching the Detroit Lions all over again: Players were dropping easy passes, at least when the quarterback wasn't trying to throw over the top into double- or triple-coverage. Very little coordination on defense and couldn't even buy a fairly easy field goal from one of the best kickers in the nation late. It was obvious this team didn't get up for the Falcons.
  • Two close losses in other MAC action: Nothern Illinois comes up short against Minnesota 31-27, and Wyoming beats Ohio 21-20. NIU looked good, from what I saw of them- they had the lead up until 22 seconds left in the game- but couldn't stop Minnesota when it counted. Still, give credit to Jerry Kill for his first game at a program that's obviously retooling after a horrendous year. Ohio had a valiant effort against the favored Cowboys, as well, but again, the Bobcats couldn't keep the lead in the fourth quarter.
  • Obviously Nebraska wasn't going to take another MAC team for granted. The Cornhuskers steamrolled Western Michigan 47-24. Broncos quarterback Tim Hiller had a nice game, too, going 30-for-49 with 342 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Two other BCS blowouts: Boston College shut out Kent State 21-0, keeping the nation's leading rusher last year, Eugene Jarvis, to 51 yards on 11 carries. Also, No. 13 ranked Wisconson beat Akron 38-17 in Madison. Badgers tailback P. J. Hill rolled in 210 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 26 carries against the Zips.
  • From Friday: Temple, coming off a 4-8 year, routed Army 35-7 on the road. 14 of the Owls' points came off a fumble return and a kickoff return. That's production you really can't buy.
  • Thursday was the MAC's best day, with teams going 4-1, but three of those wins came against Football Championship Subdivision (former I-AA) opponents. Give credit to Buffalo beating UTEP 42-17 at home. Although the Miners are pretty terrible, so were the Bulls as soon as two years ago. Coach Turner Gill is working magic up there, instilling the winning tradition he enjoyed in Nebraska. They're going to give the Falcons a real challenge in the MAC East, just like they did last year.

MAC teams went 6-6 on opening weekend, better than 5-8 at this time last weekend, and really were five points away from making it a very successful 8-4. There really were no embarrassing losses. Next weekend's much tougher, in general, with Central Michigan and Ohio having to travel to the homes of Georgia and Ohio State, the top two teams in the nation. Yikes.

Expect more coverage on here in the coming days on CMU-Georgia, especially. Even though the Bulldogs are a heavy favorite, it's difficult to tell exactly what's going to happen. Will the Chippewas show up, or will it be CMU-Clemson II?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dan Bazuin cut

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that former CMU defensive end Dan Bazuin, a second-round draft pick with the Chicago Bears in 2007, was cut Friday. It doesn't say here what reason (it's actually about other linemen getting cut), but I'm sure it had a lot to do with his injuries that left him sidelined most of last year.

Certainly doesn't mean the end for Bazuin's NFL career- You can never have a shortage of quality defensive linemen anywhere. Let's hope for the best.

Update, 11:10 p.m.
The Sun-Times posted this Q & A with Bazuin a couple hours ago, it looks like. Bazuin hasn't been 100 percent since his injury last year and says he seems to have lost his explosiveness off the line. Hopefully he fully recovers and finds himself another team this year.

'Chip Shots' Postgame notes


That's all I've got to say after CMU's 31-12 win over EIU. It was quite a ride since our coverage was on deadline for print (the only time it will be all year), so it involved a lot of running around and asking questions.

Without further ado, though, here are some of my notes after watching today's game (well, technically last night since I'm writing this in the early morning):

  • It was by no means a blowout win, but I'm sure CMU will take it. Eastern Illinois is a tough FCS opponent, just like North Dakota State was. They're not ranked No. 18 for no reason. Bodie Reeder, at a lot of points, was comfortable in the pocket and made very good throws. Defensive end Pierre Walters lived up to his billing, too, with 8 tackles and a sack.
  • The Chippewas' run defense was the key. It held the Panthers to 83 yards on 31 carries - less than three yards per touch. Stopping the run is arguably the biggest key to keeping an offense in check and it showed. Eastern Illinois was fairly efficient in the passing game, but it had no running game to compliment it, therefore 12 points.
  • Senior tailback Justin Hoskins ran well, too. A lot was said about Ontario Sneed's running performance, but Hoskins came in late in the second half and looked 100 percent, too. He finished with 41 yards on eight carries, showing a lot of speed and running past tacklers. Granted, that had something to do with EIU's defense, which wasn't quite as fresh that late in the game, but you have to give Hoskins credit.
  • Jean Pitts and Joe Bockheim, despite limited touches, looked good. Bockheim's only catch was an excellent 20-yard sliding pull-in late in the first quarter to convert a third and 17. Pitts had three catches for 26 yards, but none bigger than the diving grab he made to give CMU a 17-3 lead late in the first half. Those two are going to be critical in opening up Central's passing game, especially next week at Georgia.
  • Punter Brett Hartmann had a nice debut Thursday, placing two punts inside EIU's 20-yard line in the first half - one at the 12-yard line and one at the 8.
  • Other good outings: Sophomore linebacker Nick Bellore, who tied a career-high of 16 tackles. Must be nice not having Ike Brown and Red Keith take all of them, I guess! Also junior end Frank Zombo and his 2.5 sacks, including a forced fumble inside EIU's red zone. Sophomore Sean Skergan caught his first touchdown of his college career, an 11-yard reception in the fourth quarter. That was his only reception.
  • A couple rough outings: Starting tailback Carl Volny, who finished with 22 yards on 10 carries. Could be the jitters, but it seemed like he didn't have the burst that Sneed did. Also the offensive line, who gave LeFevour a little too much pressure at times (and two sacks). The only real reverse play, in which receiver Antonio Brown was supposed to carry the ball, was botched because of an EIU defender that got through, causing a 20-yard loss. (Didn't matter because of a Panthers personal foul that gave CMU an automatic first down the following play)

I'll update the blog as much as possible over the weekend, probably with a quick Mid-American Conference recap, but it's Labor Day weekend, so I'm not sure how much I'll have on here. Keep checking, and vote in the poll if you haven't already!


Thursday, August 28, 2008

'Chip Shots' Five Halftime Notes


One half down, one half to go. It's starting to get darker and the lights are starting to get lighter here. It's been a pretty up-and-down first half, despite what the score says... here are some thoughts heading into the 2nd half of our season opener at Kelly/Shorts:
  • The entire defense, aside from Eastern Illinois' 80-yard field goal drive, has been spectacular. It's stopping the run very effectively, holding EIU runners to 31 yards, and 20 of them came on one play. The pass rush didn't really come until the 2nd quarter, topped off with Frank Zombo's forced fumble on quarterback Bodie Reeder. That set up a one-play 18-yard catch by Jean Pitts to make the score 17-3.
  • Ontario Sneed is back (6 rushes, 64 yards). To be fair, he has a tendency to do well in home openers (168 yards last year against Toledo), but he's got his aggressiveness back. He's breaking tackles and getting into the open field. Carl Volny, on the other hand, is struggling, with 7 carries for 17 yards.
  • Antonio Brown is picking up where he left off. Three returns for 64 yards - he's definitely giving CMU a huge advantage in field position. On the other hand, special team is doing well, too- EIU's been pinned inside their 10-yard line on multiple occasions.
  • Jean Pitts is looking good, particularly on one amazing 18-yard diving catch in the end zone. Dan LeFevour's throw was spot-on, staying away from the defender. I hope we got that catch on photo.
  • Quarterback comparison: LeFevour, 13-for-19 for 155 yards and a touchdown. EIU's Reeder: 10-for-15 for 93 yards.

Check back here at the end of the game for more notes and thoughts on the season-opener!

Pre-game photos and notes

The first game of the season is almost upon us. About 9 minutes until kickoff here, so I figured I'd get some pre-game photos up. Also, some notes:

  • Tight end Rocky Weaver is a late scratch. David Blackburn is starting in his place.
  • Matt Terpening (Indianapolis Colts) and Greg Gabriel (Chicago Bears) are in the press box tonight. It's early in the season and we're already getting scouts here, it looks like. I haven't talked to them quite yet, though.
  • The crowd is looking good so far. Not as many people as I thought I'd see this close to the game, but it'll probably fill a little more over the next 20 minutes or so.
Without further ado, though...

I'd type up little cutlines, but the game's about to start. Expect more coverage on here and on throughout the game, though!

It's game day!

So it's finally Aug. 28 and college football is right around the corner. Hope everyone's excited as we are in prepping for tonight!

I just wanted to tell you guys that if you're not planning on attending tonight's game, expect plenty of coverage on here and on CM Life during the game itself:

  • will have real-time updates right on its front page whenever a team scores, plus a small recap at halftime and after the game.
  • Chip Shots Weblog, right here, will have periodical updates on other random information, such as statistical updates, photos, general information and more. Expect more coverage on here after the game as well as tomorrow, too.
  • CM Life's print edition Friday will be stocked with coverage, including stories, plays/players of the game, a report card and more.
If you guys haven't already, be sure to check out or Football Preview from yesterday's CM Life. Clocking in at 16 pages, we have the most pre-season coverage on the CMU football team than you'll find anywhere else, trust me. It took us a lot of work, so give it read, and leave some comments/suggestions! We greatly appreciate it!

We hope to see you all tonight,

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Football preview: Laying out the MAC West

First of all, check out the CMU Football Preview in Wednesday's edition of CM Life. It took two weeks of work to get everything together and throw it into one big section, so we hope you enjoy it!

Picking the Mid-American Conference West Division was one of the toughest things I’ve had to do in awhile. CMU coach Butch Jones had it right — this division looks as competitive as it’s been in at least a few years. No team really lost that much from last season, except maybe a starting running back here and there.

What I managed to do was separate the pretenders from the contenders and rank each of the teams from 6 to 1. Even separating the two groups wasn't easy — for example, I could’ve easily picked Toledo as a contender and put Western as a pretender. But in the end, this was what I came up with... feel free to comment with your thoughts, if you wish:


It’s frustrating to pick EMU to finish last in the division at 1-4, because it looks like a team that easily could improve off of last season, when they went 3-2 and knocked off WMU and CMU for the Michigan Mid-American Conference crown. Problem is, every other team in the division has a foundation to build from, too. The Eagles return quarterback Andy Schmitt and wideout Jacory Stone, but it loses top runner Pierre Walker. They do get three home divisional matchups — against Toledo, NIU and CMU — and should win one of them. But I don’t see enough real improvements for them to move upward in the MAC West this season.

Good news: The Huskies return all but four starters this season, including quarterback Dan Nicholson and tailback Justin Anderson. Bad news: They bring in a new coaching staff. That’s not to say coach Jerry Kill won’t have an impact on this program — he turned both Saginaw Valley State and Southern Illinois from pretenders to contenders over the last couple decades — but don’t expect a turnaround in his first season. Especially not with one of the worst rushing defenses (210.1 yards allowed per game) and passing offenses (202.4 yards per game).

4. TOLEDO ROCKETS (5-3, 3-2 MAC West)
Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Toledo finished higher in the MAC West. After years of dominating this division, I doubt they’re going to continue losing. Quarterback Aaron Opelt has a year under his belt, and while the team does lose running back Jalen Parmele, they come back with DaJuane Collins, who ran very well when he had the chance last year (99 carries, 649 yards, seven touchdowns). Their schedule also is favorable: They get both Ball State and CMU at home this year, plus two of their three crossover games. This Oct. 25 showdown could be Central’s biggest challenge and possibly its only loss.


A very good sleeper pick to make the MAC Championship this year. Last year was a complete fluke season for Western. Take away one amazing kick return from Akron and tight one-yard runs from Ball State’s Frank Edmonds and CMU’s Dan LeFevour and the Broncos could’ve finished 6-1 in the conference. It was one close letdown after another and it leaves a huge chip on this team’s shoulders, especially guys like quarterback Tim Hiller and wideout Jamarko Simmons. Unfortunately for the Broncos, though, they get both CMU and Ball State on the road this year and neither team looks like they’re going to lose.

A lot of outlets are picking this team to win the MAC for a reason. The potential of this year’s Cardinals team is scary. They lost virtually nobody on offense — quarterback Nate Davis gets all of his weapons back, including wideout Dante Love and tight end Darius Hill, and could get even better this season as a mirror image of Dan LeFevour. In fact, Ball State could have the best offense in the MAC this season! It also has a fairly easy schedule, its toughest game being at Indiana. I was pretty close to picking this team to represent the MAC West, but a couple of factors changed my mind to...

You’re probably thinking, “Of course a CMU football blog is going to pick Central to win.” You might be right. But there are plenty of logical reasons to pick Central. They get their two toughest opponents — Western Michigan and Ball State, both of which they beat last season — at Kelly/Shorts this year. Every critical offensive piece to last year’s championship team, right down to each offensive coach on the sideline, is back. If Jones’ bantering on Carl Volny is anything like that of Antonio Brown last year, CMU might have a consistent running game to add to that. Sure, the defense lost several leaders, but it brings potential with linebacker Nick Bellore and defensive tackle Sean Murnane. Although the schedule isn't the greatest, with two three-game road trips, CMU should be able to overcome that and make a return trip to the MAC Championship. If they can make it that far, a three-peat, to me, is in the books.

On one final note, expect plenty of football coverage on and right here on this blog during and after Thursday's CMU and EIU game. We're trying a lot of new things this year to keep you guys informed, so please leave any comments or suggestions. We encourage them.

Monday, August 25, 2008

CMU's Two-Deep Roster

Check out CMU's first football game notes here:

The main news that comes out of here is the first two-deeps. Few surprises, except for one at running back. Here's a small rundown:

Quarterback: Dan LeFevour (Jr.) / Brian Brunner (Sr.)
No surprises here. CMU probably has the best 1-2 quarterback tandem in the MAC.

Running back: Carl Volny (So.) / Ontario Sneed (Sr.)
Probably the biggest change we'll see Thursday is Volny at running back. Not too surprising, since Butch Jones has mentioned his name all throughout the offseason with Sneed and fellow senior Justin Hoskins working injuries out. This is a great chance for Volny to make his case.

Fullback: Bryan Schroeder (Fr.) / Tyler Reed (So.)
Schroeder is CMU's lone freshman starter entering the season opener.

Wide receiver: Bryan Anderson (Jr.) / Antonio Brown (So.) / Jean Pitts (Jr.) / Joe Bockheim (Sr.)
Anderson and Brown are locked in at the top two. Pitts and Bockheim aren't too surprising as the next two starting wideouts. It'll be interesting to see their roles in the place of Justin Gardner and Duane Brooks.

Tight end: Rocky Weaver (Fr.) / David Blackburn (Fr.)
We've heard good things about Weaver, but he's had injury trouble as of late, so it was kind of surprising to see him on the depth chart.

Offensive line: LT Andrew Hartline (Sr.) / LG Jeff Maddux (So.) / C Colin Miller (So.) / RG Allen Ollenburger/Joe McMahon (Jr.) / RT Greg Wojt (Sr.)
Nothing new here, either. Having Hartline and Wojt, two experienced offensive linemen, on the tackles is a good sign. CMU needs them to stay healthy.

Defensive line: DE Sam Williams (Jr.) / DT Sean Murnane (So.) / NG Casey Droscha (Sr.) / DE Frank Zombo (Jr.)
The big change, obviously, is Murnane filling the hole left by Steven Friend. Jones and Droscha both complimented his work over the offseason and expect good things out of him. Ends Williams and Zombo should get even better this year.

Linebackers: WLB Barron Miles (Jr.) / MLB Nick Bellore (So.) / SLB Tim Brazzel (Jr.)
Miles and Brazzel have their work cut out for them, having to fill the shoes of Red Keith and Ike Brown. So does Nick Bellore, who may turn into the defense's emotional leader as a sophomore.

Secondary: CB Josh Gordy (Jr.) / SS Eric Fraser (Jr.) / FS Bobby Seay (So.) / CB Tommy Mama (Jr.)
A lot of pressure on this unit to improve the pass defense, CMU's biggest weak point last season. Gordy and Fraser have plenty of experience and should help lead the younger, less experienced Seay and Mama.

Special teams: K Andrew Aguila (Jr.) / P Brett Hartmann (So.)
The team is going to miss punter Tony Mikulec, who provided great leadership at his position. Hartmann, once a kicker, will fill in this year.

Expect a MAC West countdown on this blog tomorrow or Wednesday to accompany Wednesday's CM Life football preview. Feel free to comment on the depth chart, or perhaps who you think may challenge CMU in the MAC West!

Lastly... a new poll is up. Fire away.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dan LeFevour's ESPN SportsNation chat

Incase you missed LeFevour's chat on ESPN SportsNation, you can check it out at this link here:

You also can find his ESPN First Take interview if you go to and click "College FB." Check the right-hand side and you should be able to find it. (If not, try clicking "More Videos.")

It's probably going to be a slow weekend for football news, but the consolation is that once next week kicks in, thing are going into high gear from that point on. Just make sure to check CM Life, starting with Monday's paper and then our Football Preview in Wednesday's.

One last thing: "The World According to Garp" on FOX Sports picked CMU-Georgia as one of eight possible upsets heading into the 2008 season.

Have a good weekend... feel free to comment and check out the poll question if you haven't already!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dan LeFevour on ESPN this week

I just got back from today's practice... it appears quarterback Dan LeFevour's going to make two ESPN appearances on Friday:

10:45 a.m. : ESPN First Take on ESPN2

Noon : online chat is going to have a press release on it later today, I believe, so check that out for more information.
Also... two other updates from practice:
  • Tight end Rocky Weaver is out for next Thursday's game, it looks like.
  • Taylor Bradley made the switch to defense to provide depth in the secondary. Probably a good thing with all the capable wideouts the team has.
Things to keep an eye out for, too: I'm interviewing some players on the NCAA Football 09 video game and putting up a nice feature next week right here on the blog. It's just one of those off-beat things I'm going to periodically put up here to broaden the scope a bit.

Stay in touch!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Getting back in the thick of things

Not too much to report on today - I'm finally moved back into Mount Pleasant for the next nine months, so expect more regular updating, especially once the season begins next week.

I do want to bring this up, though, courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Georgia fans are talking about the opener with Georgia Southern on Aug. 30. Then they are talking about the all-important trip to South Carolina on Sept. 13. But waiting in the middle on Sept. 6 is a game with Central Michigan, the two-time defending MAC champions.
About right now a bunch of you are snickering and saying: “Barnhart, please! Get a grip! It’s just the MAC!”

But consider this: Remember how Troy and QB Omar Haugabook came to Sanford Stadium and rolled up 488 total yards last season? Haugabook had 310 yards passing against a very good Georgia defense. Georgia needed four turnovers to pull away and win 44-34.

LeFevour is better than Haugabook. Last season he became only the second player in Division I-A history to pass for over 3,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 yards. He had 4,774 yards of total offense. By contrast Tim Tebow, the Heisman Trophy winner, had 4,184 yards of total offense (3,286 passing, 895 running).

I know. The competition level is much different. But a hot quarterback can be a great equalizer (see Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State vs. Michigan).

Although virtually everybody is looking at Georgia as CMU's only sure loss, he brings up some good points. And this is coming from me, who had the privilege to drive 13 hours to South Carolina and back for Clemson's 70-14 beatdown of CMU last season.

After that game, I talked with Tommy Bowden, who knew from the get-go that I was a Central Michigan reporter ("I can tell," he joked). He said CMU caught Clemson at a bad time- his team was coming off two disappointing losses and a bye week, meaning two weeks to prepare for CMU. Not only that, but it was Homecoming, which gives added motivation to the team and the 80,000 screaming fans in Orange.

Georgia, despite entering the season No. 1, doesn't have an extra week. And unless Georgia Southern pulls off the near-impossible, it won't enter its CMU game with a chip on its shoulder. We all know the tendency of Central to have slow starts to a season, but there are plenty of reasons for that to change this year (No turnover in the coaching staff, many starters returning, two days of extra rest for the game since it plays EIU on a Thursday).

I'm not saying it's a good upset pick - we ARE talking about No. 1 Georgia, and we know CMU doesn't exactly wake up well to BCS games outside the Big Ten. And if you think a high-powered offense is enough for a mid-major to overtake the Bulldogs, just look at what their defense did to Hawaii and quarterback Colt Brennan in the Sugar Bowl last year. But the possibility of the Chippewas knocking off the Bulldogs is certainly there. And if it does happen, you can kiss the lack of national respect goodbye.

Oh, and last note: I have a new poll up. Apparently the last poll wasn't a very good question, since all 11 voted 1st place in the MAC West. This one's a little tougher, I think.

Friday, August 15, 2008

In the news

The Eastern Illinois opener at 7 p.m. Aug. 28 is Herb Deromedi Day. The first 2,000 fans get a nice treat: a 1980s-era Herb Deromedi sideline mesh-back hat. Check the link out for more on the special event.

The Washington Times ranks CMU #46 on its countdown. Compared to other outlets, that's a decent ranking, despite the Times' thick criticism of the defense, saying "sculptures made of Play-Doh" might have been just as effective.

Grand Rapids Press article on senior receiver Joe Bockheim. Look for him to make a bigger impact this season, particularly as a wideout (he primarily played on special teams last season).

Another story on junior quarterback Dan LeFevour.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

CMU Football Media Day

CMU held its media day today at the Indoor Athletic Complex and Kelly-Shorts Stadium. We weren't expecting too much to happen in terms of big news, but coach Butch Jones had plenty to say about his football team after several practices and a couple scrimmages. We had the chance to talk to him, plus several players (which you'll see more comment from in our football preview on Aug. 27).

I did jot down a few notes from Butch Jones' 3 p.m. press conference:
  • The first thing to note is Jones' attitude this year from last year's media day. He was a lot more stressed at the podium last year, admitting the team still had a lot of work to do prior to its game at Kansas. This year, he's more upbeat, talking about his incoming freshmen class and how he's getting everybody into as many competitive situations as he can.
  • Jones talked a little bit about the new 40-second play clock that's going to be implemented this year around college football. He said he's getting his players used to that extra 15 seconds between plays, amongst other minor rule changes, thanks to some officials that came to practice.
  • The team has 39 freshmen in training camp, compared to 11 seniors, Jones said. He said the seniors are spending extra time off the field with the younger players and helping them out, setting a good example of leadership.
  • Several injuries to report on:
    • Freshman defensive back Lorenzo White is out for the year with a knee injury he suffered working out with his dad.
    • Senior tailbacks Ontario Sneed (broken arm) and Justin Hoskins (ankle) are day-to-day.
    • Freshman tight end Rocky Weaver sprained his ankle over the summer, but shouldn't be out too long, Jones thinks.
  • Speaking of the running back position, sophomore Carl Volny continues to impress, picking up where he left off in the spring, Jones said. With all of the talk surrounding him, I wouldn't be surprised to see his name atop the depth chart come the first week of the season. The way Jones talks about him reminds me of last year, when he called then-freshman wideout Antonio Brown " lightning in a bottle" during media day.
  • Jones calls this year's freshman class the best he remembers seeing at CMU.
  • On sophomore linebacker Nick Bellore: "The leader of the defense," Jones said. "He's having a better summer than last year." Speaking of the rest of the linebackers, Barron Miles, Tim Brazzel, Matt Berning and Mike Petrucci's names were brought up to help fill the voids that Ike Brown and Red Keith left.
  • Sophomore wideout Antonio Brown is putting on muscle, Jones said, and is learning a lot in terms of running routes and such. That's quite a bit to say about a guy that broke 100 receptions in one season for the first time in school history - in his first year, no less.
  • CMU's first game, despite against a Football Championship Series opponent, is no cakewalk. Eastern Illinois is the same caliber as a North Dakota State, Jones said. He points out that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo played at EIU and their running back is a transfer from the Florida Gators. He also mentions he's never seen a schedule quite like this year's, with a couple three-game road trips and the No. 1 team in America, the Georgia Bulldogs, on tap. Yes, it could be a tough road for CMU this season.
  • The Chippewas possibly could see freshman defensive lineman Josh Allison, one of the star recruits last year, fighting for playing time.
  • A lot of emphasis on special teams work this year, Jones said. The depth chart won't be determined until the week of the Eastern Illinois game. (Check out CM Life's Aug. 27 issue for our Football Preview, which will have the final depth chart heading into the season opener)
  • Jones talked about the change in tradition at CMU, particularly this year. The halls of the Indoor Athletic Complex, as he pointed out, are getting facelifts here and there to showcase the tradition of CMU's football program. "Those things don't just happen overnight," he said. "I love talking about building a football program because so much goes into it, there's so much behind-the-scenes work that is critical."
  • Finally, someone asks about junior quarterback Dan LeFevour. The definition of a great player, Jones said, is a player that not only plays his best, but makes players around him better. We've heard the rest... and nobody on the team is paying much of a mind to the Heisman talk, even with the giant advertisement at Comerica Park.
  • As far as wide receivers go, sophomore Kito Poblah's had a very good camp, Jones said. He had even more things to say about senior Joe Bockheim. "What a great story," Jones said. "He came in and said he'd do anything. Every coach wanted him on special teams. He's done a great job there."
Next came the player interviews. For the first time, we got to speak to Antonio Brown. He wasn't available to the media last season, so it was good to get to know him a little bit and see what he's working on. Hopefully we'll talk to him a little bit more as the season progresses and see how he's able to move so quickly on the field!

I don't have too much else to say on the interviews quite yet, we're going to save a lot of it for the football coverage the week we get back to printing newspapers, but I did take a few pictures while I had my camera on me:

The team setting up for the picture.

Ontario Sneed, Antonio Brown, Bryan Anderson, Dan LeFevour and Justin Hoskins... kind of a preview of what to expect in a couple of weeks on a story we're working on.

LeFevour chats with WNEM TV-5 in Saginaw.

Sneed and Hoskins. Both are day-to-day heading into the final weeks of preseason.

I'm still finishing my internship at The Saginaw News, so expect more regular updating next Monday, Aug. 18. It's been a heck of a day today trying to juggle this event and a split shift at work! Until then, take it easy!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sports Illustrated's College Football Preview

I meant to update with this a few days ago, but I'm a busy person and all.

I never got a chance to check out a more in-depth SI preview, but I found this to be interesting: CMU is ranked #57. Other notable rankings:

#54: Michigan. Only three spots ahead? People really don't have too much faith in Rich Rodriguez's freshman season with the Wolverines. With everythin that's transpired, I guess it isn't a big surprise.
#59: Purdue. On the other side, we have the Boilermakers ranked two spots behind the Chippewas. This might be a little bit of a stretch with Curtis Painter returning at QB, but we'll see.
#65: Bowling Green. The next-best MAC team. Ball State is #67.
#82: Indiana. This one, I don't know about, even for a low-tier Big Ten team.

I'll try to update more often with more preview coverage from other media outlets. I know ESPN's started theirs a week or so ago.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Is CMU the best football team in Michigan?

I'd like to refer you to a column written by Gaylord Herald Times sports editor Jeremy Speer, a CMU alum and former CM Life sports journalist:

Speer brings up an interesting point. Many are talking about the possibility of Rich Rodriguez's first season as coach at Michigan being a downer year. And Michigan State hasn't been all that special in recent years, but coach Mark Dantonio (they guy Brian Kelly replaced at Cincinnati) could have the Spartans heading in the right direction after a close loss to No. 14 Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl last year.

The thought of the Chippewas as the best football team in Michigan certainly is a nice thought for CMU fans - and almost a realistic one. But for them to be muttered in the same breath as these two, not only do they have to breeze through their MAC schedule (one loss or less, probably to Ball State if anybody), they have to win at least one BCS game, if not two. They get two awfully good chances when they play at Purdue and Indiana.

Purdue is the toughest of the two for several reasons. They return quarterback Curtis Painter, who put up video game-like statistics against CMU in their two games last year and poses a real matchup problem for the Chippewas' secondary. Not only that, but it's Central's fourth game of the season, and in each of the past two years the team has had a tendency to struggle in its opening weeks (44-14 loss to North Dakota State, anyone?). I do think Central will do better than 45-22, but it's going to be awful tough to knock off the Boilermakers, even after playing them twice last year. (Remember, Purdue got to see CMU twice, too.)

Indiana's no cakewalk, either. They return quarterback Kellen Lewis, who has a bit of running ability of his own (700+ yards rushing, 9 TDs). And the Hoosiers went 3-0 against the MAC last year with wins over Western Michigan, Akron and Ball State, although none were blowouts.

It's certainly open for discussion. CMU has its best chance in awhile to be considered one of the elite Michigan teams if both Michigan and Michigan State struggle this year. But in order to do that, they need to perform in the national spotlight - as in, at least a win if not two at Purdue and Indiana and a respectable effort at No. 1 Georgia.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

CMU No. 8 on ESPN's non-BCS power rankings

"The Chippewas return all-everything quarterback Dan LeFevour, but he's yet to take this team to the next step against a BCS opponent. That's not all his fault, the CMU defense has been a weak spot for a couple years. LeFevour will have a golden opportunity against Georgia and then two weeks later against a Purdue team it should have beaten in the Motor City Bowl last season."

For the non-BCS, that's probably a fair ranking. I would rank them ahead of Florida Atlantic, though. I'm not too sold on that team even with its win over Minnesota last season.

Monday, August 4, 2008

E. J. McLaughlin

A more in-depth article in the Grand Rapids Press concerning safety E. J. McLaughlin, who last spring was ruled academically ineligible to play this season. One thing worth noting: He's going to Compton Community College in California, the same college junior kicker Andrew Aguila came from.

And it does look like McLaughlin's going to play at Compton, so should he improve his grades and come back next season, he won't have to work after a season off. He had some bright moments in CMU's secondary last season, including an interception and a fumble recovery.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

MAC Football Media Day (MAC West)

I wrote earlier that I would post my recap of last Tuesday's MAC Media Day, so here it is. Everything I have is on my tape recorder, so getting through all the audio on it takes awhile.

Tuesday, for the most part, presented a good opportunity for me to get with representatives from each of the 13 teams. While there wasn't enough time to really get in depth with everybody, I did get a glimpse of what teams are doing and what they think of CMU's football team, plus a small snapshot of what players think of NCAA Football 09 on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. First up: The MAC West, which held print interviews from 9 to 10:30 in the morning.

Besides, this may be the best opportunity to put some coverage on here, because regular updating won't take place for another 2-3 weeks or so. I'll try to keep posted on here periodically with any updates.

Here's an approximate timetable of my day:

8:15 a.m.: Finally made it to Ford Field after a couple traffic james on I-75 south. The first thing I noticed getting into town was the giant Dan LeFevour poster plastered on the back of Comerica Park's scoreboard. That thing is massive. It seems CMU is doing what it can to promote its football program, something Athletics Director Dave Heeke was involved with during his time as senior associate AD at Oregon, when then-quarterback Joey Harrington received similar publicity at Times Square. The hook? "Joey Heisman."

9:05 a.m.: The first set of coaches and players made their way into the room. Each team had a roundtable for them and extra seats for the press. First up for me, obviously, is CMU. Jones brought junior quarterback Dan LeFevour and senior guard Andrew Hartline with him. Really, the talk of the morning was the LeFevour poster and his Heisman candidacy, so he had to fend those questions off a little bit. He says he's paying little mind to that talk. But he did say he trimmed down a little bit, probably because he did a lot of running this summer. That should bode well for his scrambling ability this year, as if he needs any extra speed.

9:20: Next up is Ball State, a team many think will snap CMU's three-peat bid. One thing worth noting: All 11 starters from last year's offense return for this year. Coach Brady Hoke obviously was enthusiastic about that, but also mentioned there are no gimmes in the MAC West. Quarterback Nate Davis is more mature, he said, and is becoming a much better leader for this season. As for a possible CMU-Ball State rivalry developing? Hoke said it's already there, since his time as a Cardinal athlete. But this year's game in Mt. Pleasant could be the biggest in some time, especially since it's Senior Day for Central.

9:30: I sat down with Western Michigan senior wideout Jamarko Simmons. He feels this year's Broncos team is much stronger, in terms of senior leadership, than last year's team... plus, that early ejection in last year's 34-31 loss to Central is still in the back of his mind. I was impressed to hear he's taking anger management classes to help control his temper, because some accounts from that play (he was ejected for kicking linebacker Red Keith after a tackle) say Keith grabbed his foot and invoked the "kick." He's taking responsibility for it anyway and seems to have a new mindset for this year.

9:40: Jeff Genyk, coach at Eastern Michigan, sees predictions (particularly of the team's last-place finish in the MAC West) as "nothing but historical references." He remembers Northwestern receiving the same lack of respect when it won Big Ten titles in 1995, 1996 and 2000 - all of which Genyk was a part of. Although the team does lose leading rusher Pierre Walker (who ran for 149 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Eagles' 48-45 win at CMU), Genyk likes the prospects of his next starting rusher, senior Terrence Blevins.

9:50: New Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill has plenty of experience at taking teams to another level: He took Div. II Saginaw Valley State into national rankings during his five years there (1994-98) and brought Southern Illinois from 1-10 in 2001 to 12-2 in 2007 with five FCS playoff appearances. He hopes to pull the same type of turnaround at NIU, which loses just four starters from last year's squad. Fun fact: While at SVSU, Kill coached against then-Ferris State offensive coordinator Butch Jones.

10:10: Last but not least, Toledo. After four bowl appearances in his first five years, coach Tom Amstutz is coming off two consecutive 5-7 seasons (3-5 MAC). How to get the team back to prominence? "It starts with our defense," Amstutz said. "It's a great area of concern. We finished 2nd in the conference in scoring, so we're scoring point, but we have to play better defense." The Rockets gave up a conference-high 304 points in MAC play last season, including 52 to Central.

10:20: I had some extra time, so I went back over the Ball State table to talk to quarterback Nate Davis, who's a pretty light talker. The biggest things he is working on are his decision-making, his composure and his footwork. He's not thinking too much about the Ball State-Central game in November, but instead trying to take it a game at a time, starting with Northeastern on Aug. 28.

10:25: Ken Hoffman, Motor City Bowl executive director, sat down with me for a small chat. He compared managing a bowl game to managing a football team: You always try to get better and do the little things each year. This year, they held a golf outing, which was the day before, in an attempt to raise money and send up to 3,000 kids to this year's Motor City Bowl on Dec. 26. "I think we came close to $45,000," he said. He also likes the possibility of a Big Ten team showing up again this year. Since the Big Ten agreed to send its 7th-seeded team to the game about 6 or 7 years ago, only Northwestern (2003) and Purdue (2007) actually made it. With 6-6 teams eligible for bowl games and more than 65 bowl spots available, Hoffman think it's getting more and more likely for the Big Ten to show up at Ford Field.

Coming soon: MAC East interviews.

Friday, August 1, 2008


This being the first post, I would like to welcome readers to the Chip Shots Weblog! Here, you'll find plenty of discussion on the CMU football team heading into its 2008 season, from injury updates to game recaps to quick thoughts and more. My hope is that by the time we enter the season and onward that we'll have a quality forum for discussion and debate (as long as it's clean!).

First, I'd like to introduce myself- I am Brian Manzullo, entering my second year as senior football writer for Central Michigan Life. I also am entering senior year at CMU as a journalism major (although I have a feeling it won't be my last year there). Currently, I'm two weeks away from completing my Metro reporting internship at The Saginaw News. Afterwards, I am moving back to CMU and getting back to the swing of things, hopefully inching closer to graduation!

While you'll find plenty of football coverage in CM Life's pages this coming semester, we're going to use this blog for many different purposes, such as breaking updates, opinions, around-the-MAC updates, roundups, mailbags (as long as readers chip in) and anything else that serves a general interest with MAC football. As some of you know, CM Life only publishes three times per week- Monday, Wednesday and Friday- so the idea is to not wait until the next publication if something breaks on a Wednesday afternoon. We'll more than likely have it on or right here on our blog, especially if it's something small, such as an injury update.

Within the next couple days, I will have some coverage on here, albeit a little late, from Tuesday's MAC Media Day in Detroit. I spoke with representatives from every team, including WMU wideout Jamarko Simmons on this season's CMU/WMU showdown and even Kent State tailback Eugene Jarvis on this year's video game offering of NCAA 09. There's also around-the-league discussion on quarterback Dan LeFevour and what each team's doing in preparation for the 2008 season.

In the meantime, though, thank you for stopping by and I hope you check here periodically for the latest on CMU and MAC football!