Monday, April 03, 2006
AN ABSURDLY PREMATURE ASSESSMENT OF: CENTRAL MICHIGAN
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SMQ spins the wheel for a hastily-rendered, too-soon look at a random school's prospects for the fall, sans inveitable academic and criminal suspensions, sudden transfers, debilitating injuries and other miscellaneous misfortunes of the long summer
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The most obscure winning team of 2005 emerges from the spectre of major violent crime and seeks to complete a pass, any pass
PAST FIVE SEASONS: 20-36 (13-27 MAC) / 2005: 6-5 (5-3 MAC)
STARTERS BACK, ROUGHLY: 16 (7 Offense, 8 Defense, 1 Punter)
WHAT'S CHANGED: The quarterback, for starters, but we'll get there in a minute. What's really going to be different this fall is the absence of the murder charges that hung over the Chippewas last season. Eight former CMU players were among ten people in all charged with offenses ranging from second degree murder to obstruction of justice and just about everything in between in a June 2004 beating death outside a club; three pled down to manslaughter in the case last month, with their sentencing to come in days, and six more trials and sentencings are coming over the next three months. All of which should be history by the time new players report for practice in early August.
WHAT'S THE SAME: Defensive end Dan Bazuin terrorized not only media spotters attempting to pronounce his name but also opposing MAC offenses - and a couple Big Ten schools, too: in two games against Indiana and Penn State, Bazuin had 15 tackles, two for loss, four sacks, two batted passes and three forced fumbles - en route to leading the country in tackles for loss, finishing second in sacks, being named MAC defensive player of the year and setting himself up for a darkhorse all-America run and Jason Babin-like draft rise as a senior. If you're like SMQ, you've never heard of him, but expect Bazuin to be getting wet, slobbery, "Most Underrated Players You Should Know" kisses in "Scouting the Nation" spreads everywhere in preseason magazines this summer.
There's also pleasant surprise Ontario Sneed, a freshman who saved the offense from the projected "bombs away" approach by ripping off 1,065 yards and caught 51 passes when star back Jerry Seymour was among the murder indictments.
OKAY, UM, QUARTERBACK? The good news is that should-be starter Brian Brunner is a 100 percent career passer. Bad news: he's 3-3 in four total snaps, which puts him only 1,065 behind departed two-year starter Kent Smith. And by far, he's the most experienced of five candidates allegedly vying for the position, wherein Smith accounted for more than 6,000 career yards and 51 touchdowns and went way over 300 yards passing in each of the last three games last season.
WHAT'S UP WITH THE SECONDARY? Last year, opponents' passing stats; outside of run-happy Ohio, which only threw for 101, MAC offenses all threw for well, well over 200 yards, usually closer to 300, and the Chippewas gave up an average of 280 yards, 108th nationally. Josh Betts threw for 395, and mighty Phil Horvath and Dan Nichols combined to throw for 435. Three of those secondary starters will be back.
YEAH, BUT THE FREAKIN' QUARTERBACK! Right, he's probably going to suck.
OVERLY OPTIMISTIC POST-SPRING CHATTER CMU's not done yet with the Spring drills, but its media site is already seeking to soothe inevitably uneasy feelings about the passing game by delivering the blow-by-blow of the team's first full-contact scrimmage, where Brunner "took all the snaps with the first offensive group and was solid throwing the ball," lobbed "a perfectly-thrown fade pass," "hit a wide open Bryan Anderson in stride deep over the middle on a play that resulted in a 65-yard touchdown" and "threaded a pass between the safeties" that resulted in "the catch of the day" by delightfully-named receiver Obed Cetoute and a brief KO of safety Aaron Carr. Also, props to back-up Jean Pitts, who stood out Saturday when he "ran his route into the end zone, then dove back toward the pylon to bring in the underthrown ball." No trepidation, apparently, that the ball was, you know, underthrown (albeit by Dan LeFevour, not Brunner).
REASON FOR HOPE: Bazuin, Sneed, murder stuff in the past.
REASON TO BE AFRAID, VERY AFRAID: Spectacular grabs aside, Brian Brunner has yet to drop a perfectly-thrown fade pass on Toledo or Northern Illinois in more hostile settings.
IF THIS TEAM WERE ANY RANDOM POP CULTURAL, HISTORICAL, POLITICAL, LITERARY OR OTHERWISE NOTABLE FIGURE, IT WOULD BE... Pop/neo-soul/boy group All-4-One, still re-living the glory days of 1994, year of its greatest success - the minor hit "I Swear" - as well as the Chippewas' greatest hit: the minor game "The Las Vegas Bowl."
HONESTLY, WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE SCHEDULE, SMQ'S THINKING: 4-7. Smith was the difference in a fairly thin chasm between 6-5 - bordering on 8-3 - and 3-8 last year.
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