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What to Expect From Central Michigan on Thursday Night



I did a Q&A with Central Michigan beat writer Nate Schneider. He writes for the Morning Sun and had a few questions for me as well which I answered here. This is what he had to say about OSU’s first opponent on Thursday.

1. Central Michigan isn’t a team most OSU folks know a lot about. What Big 12 (or Power Five) team would you compare them to in terms of style and what they’re trying to do on offense or defense?

I’d say a strong comparison offensively for Central Michigan in terms of style would be what Charlie Weis’ Kansas teams tried to do with a pro-style attack that relies on a strong running game to set up the pass.

While previous head coach Dan Enos departed for Arkansas, the Chippewas have not changed any of the terminology or schemes as they retained offensive coordinator Morris Watts and he is slated to call plays this season. The only area where CMU coaches and players have pointed to as being altered is in the stressing of a more up-tempo play-calling system.

Seeing the Chippewas go into some no-huddle drives isn’t out of the question. As far as defense, before this year I would have told you Texas Christian or Auburn as CMU ran a 4-2-5 setup from 2012 through 2014. But with new defensive coordinator Greg Colby on board, the Chippewas plan on running a more traditional 4-3-4 base such as Alabama.

Schematic changes are not very common from one year to the next after leading the conference in total defense, but that is what Central Michigan is doing following a MAC-best 2014 output. With a new head coach and a new defensive coordinator, it will be interesting to see how CMU’s philosophies on both sides of the ball unfold against an actual opponent.

2. Who are the three best players on CMU and why?

After an FBS bowl record-setting performance on Christmas Eve in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, you have to throw quarterback Cooper Rush into the mix. He has made 23 starts over the last two seasons and took a major step forward last year. Over the weekend, Rush was voted a team captain by teammates so it’s clear he has the command and respect of the locker room. He is poised for a breakout year in the Mid-American Conference as long as the playmakers around him provide enough help.

A second player to look out for is senior center Nick Beamish, also voted a team captain. Beamish is entering his fourth year as a starter and is on the Rimington Award watch list for a second straight season. He has to be considered the preseason favorite to be All-MAC first team at his position.

Lastly, junior safety Tony Annese has been a ball hawk ever since joining the starting lineup late in the 2013 campaign as a redshirt freshman. In fact, Annese recorded identical 34-yard interception returns for touchdowns in his first two career starts. He has continued to blossom ever since and is getting some national recognition on the Thorpe Award watch list. Annese and fellow safety, senior Kavon Frazier, form an experienced duo in the back end of the defense.

3. I believe I read that CMU hasn’t hosted a Power Five team in quite a while. How big of a deal is this game to fans, players and the school itself? What will the atmosphere be like?

The last Power Five team Central Michigan hosted was Syracuse last year,[1. Ed. note: Kyle is a moron.] but with that 40-3 drubbing it’s a game the Chippewas would rather forget. Central Michigan also hosted Michigan State in 2012, another contest that had a lopsided outcome.

The game against MSU saw a capacity crowd of 35,127 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. With East Lansing only an hour down the road, it was an easy trip to Mount Pleasant for Spartans fans. Not exactly quite as easy of travel for the Oklahoma State faithful, but it is clear CMU fans are going to show up in large numbers and I’m sure the Cowboys will also bring in a good crowd of their own.

It’s hard to predict an attendance, but it wouldn’t shock me if this game drew 30,000-plus. A season opener and national television definitely add to the fun atmosphere of this one. The CMU community is already behind the John Bonamego era in a way it never embraced Coach Enos.

4. How has the program changed from last year to this year with the head coaching switch?

Like I said, many of the philosophies have remained the same and a good portion of the assistant coaching staff also remains intact. I’d say there are more similarities than differences, but there is certainly a different feel to Bonamego.

This is his dream job. He is having the time of his life and it shows, despite battling tonsil cancer throughout the summer. It seems to be a more positive and inclusive environment for the players, the students, the community and even media. The press actually feels welcome at practice and don’t have to wait 45 minutes for the head coach to take a shower, which was the kind of power play stuff that was occurring in years past.

5. Cooper Rush is QB1. What is his personality like and what does he do well on the field? Where is he susceptible to making mistakes?

When Rush was a redshirt freshman, he was clearly afraid to say anything aside from calling the play in the huddle. He didn’t want to ruffle any feathers, step out of turn or anger anyone with something that might be construed the wrong way. You could see him coming into his own last year as he developed as a leader and felt more like a veteran.

Now, he is fully comfortable as a captain. He is way more talkative these days and as an Academic All-MAC representative the last two seasons, Rush is making CMU fans proud off and on the field. He sees the field very well and goes through his progressions when the first option doesn’t work out. Rush set many MHSAA records while in high school at Lansing Catholic Central and he’s proven to be worthy of Central Michigan’s scholarship as he is a very cerebral and accurate quarterback whether it be underneath, intermediate or deep throws.

The question becomes whether the wide receivers around him can help Rush reach the next level, because it’s clear he’s ready. If you had to pinpoint one area where he’s struggled the last two years, it is with missing sitting linebackers over the middle. As a redshirt freshman he probably had six passes intercepted in that fashion where he didn’t anticipate a defender underneath.

He improved greatly in that area last year, but still managed to let it creep in every once in a while. Rush can also occasionally hold onto the ball a smidge too long, which led to some unnecessary sacks his first two years as starter.

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