Our Zach Collums got with James Jimenez of the Hustle Belt to get an inside look on the team the 2015 Oklahoma State Cowboys open up against, the Central Michigan Chippewas. Here's a quick look into what the Chippewas did in 2014 along with some key offensive stat leaders before getting into the Q&A.
2014 Chippewas (7-6 overall, 5-3 MAC)
- At Kansas (24-10)
- Vs. Syracuse (40-3)
- Bowl game Vs. W. Kentucky (49-48)
Cooper Rush - QB
Thomas Rawls - RB
Titus Davis - WR
1) Tell us a little bit about your football team: traditions, uniform schemes, any NFL players, returning juniors or seniors, big question marks, star players, and anything thing else you would think to include.
CMU has a good tradition of recent for the football program. A lot of individual talent that has come out of Mt. Pleasant has done well for themselves in the professional level, with Joe Staley and Eric Fisher being first-round draft picks (and Fisher being 1st overall,) and of course, you can't forget Antonio Brown. Jahleel Addae has found recent success in San Diego, making noise in the payoffs last season. He slates to be a potential starter at safety next season. Leterrius Walton, a defensive tackle, was drafted in the 6th round by Pittsburgh this year, while star wideout (and Brown's replacement) Titus Davis signed UDFA in San Diego and Thomas Rawls has been signed UDFA in Seattle. Frank Zombo plays in KC, and Dan LeFevour (the man, the myth, the legend) plays in the CFL with Montreal. He has faced injury woes since going pro, and was having a breakout season with Hamilton before tearing an ACL. Last year, we started sporting adidas jerseys that completely changed the uniforms, going with a bold typeface and wider stripes, and a weird electric pattern in the jersey in the white and gold versions. (You can embed pictures here to your convenience, I imagine.) For traditions we have the "Oowah, Chips!" chant, and say "Fire Up Chips!" instead of "Go Chips!" We also shake keys on 3rd downs on defense (key plays-- get it, key plays?) We also shoot an in-stadium cannon after every touchdown, so that's pretty cool. It sits on a hill by the student section and home sideline. Our fight song is "The Fighting Chippewa" and is performed in short after every CMU touchdown and sang a cappella during the PAT. Okay, now for the actual analysis part... there are plenty of stars on both sides of the ball to look out for. QB Cooper Rush exploded during the Bahamas Bowl, and was a nice exclamation mark to a season of development for him. It will be interesting to see how he performs without his security blanket Davis. Devon Spalding projects to be a starter at halfback, and had some big games towards the end of the season as a true freshman. Tony Annese quarterbacks the defense and is the main ballhawk on the squad. Joe Ostman and Blake Serpa cause a lot of problems at the ends as well, and the 4-3 that we're running starting this season will definitely be a benefit to them. The O-Line did a great job of keeping Rush upright last season, and Nick Beamish and Rahmadan Ahmeti will be returning as three-year starters. For all the individual talent, there are a lot of question marks. With a lot of senior leadership gone (Davis and Rawls combined for 50% of CMU's offensive yards,) and a coaching staff that only recently got settled after Coach Dan Enos unexpectedly resigned before National Signing Day, Coach Bonamego will have to rely on young, inexperienced players to make his system work. We're going to see this team struggle a lot to get going, especially in the non-con schedule.
2) What's Central Michigan's playing style? Do you guy run out of the I or the shotgun? Heavy pass or heavy run? Spread out or two tight end sets?
I wish I could tell you, but we're just gonna have to find out in our game against you. Coach Bono has talked about adjusting the offensive gameplan slightly to fit the personnel, which probably means that he looks to go up-tempo. At the Spring Game this season, it looked to be a lot faster-paced and shotgun oriented than in years past, which is making for a lot of excitement. When CMU was up-tempo in the mid-2000's under Brian Kelly and Butch Jones, we experienced some of CMU's best football ever, including a #25 year-end ranking. We'll see what happens!
3) Seeing as we start the season in Michigan, what's the stadium atmosphere like? How are the fans? What's the best places to eat around town?
It's the first game of the season, it's on a Thursday night, it'll be on national TV... Mt. Pleasant will stop in its tracks for those three hours. CMU is one of the best schools in the MAC in attendance for football, regardless of schedule, and since moving the student section back to the east sideline earlier this year, the students have been a LOT more involved in the game. The atmosphere is electric for sure, as is the tailgate before hand. As for weather, I expect a crisp, slightly warm fall night. The fans can be a little harsh on their own team at times, but they will definitely cheer when things are going good. I was part of a well-known group of SuperFans (hi Shannon, hi Nick, hi Grant!) at Central before I graduated in May, so I cheered regardless. For food, I definitely suggest Dog Central after the game. It just opened up two years ago, but it's already one of the most popular places in Mid-Michigan, with a plethora of gourmet hot dog selections and a Coke free-style machine. There are no bad choices on that menu.
4) What's the expectations for the season? New coach or big time recruits coming in? Returning players that could make a difference?
The expectation is... no expectation. As I mentioned earlier, Coach Enos left CMU in a bad place with his resignation; it's a surprise we lost only two recruits in a group of 17 eventual signees. CMU has also lost a lot of it's star players to the NFL or to graduation (or suspension/dismissal,) so it's yet to be determined how exactly this season is gonna go. Athlon sports predict we'll finish 111th in the nation, and 4-8 will probably be the record we end up this season. As passionate as Coach Bono is (he is a former Chippewa footballer himself,) it's also his first head coaching gig in a twenty-plus year career. There's gonna be a lot of ups and downs for sure.
5) From an OSU fan's perspective, many would think that OSU will blowout Central Michigan. What's the thought with Central Michigan fans about this game? Do you guys think you just have a chance or think you could surprise the nation?
Any CMU fan that I ask about this game has said that OK State will wipe the floor with us. The last couple P5 or independent teams that came to play at Kelly/Shorts Stadium on national TV have: 3-9 Syracuse last year (41-3,) and 7-6 Michigan State (41-7) and 6-6 Navy (31-13) back in 2012. Of course, there's always the magic of the first game at home, which could definitely give CMU an advantage, and with this season being played in honor of Derrick Nash, a cornerback who recently died of Hodgkin's lymphoma, there will be a lot of emotion in that first game. All that being said, when it comes down tot the actual game itself, CMU will have to be nearly perfect just to keep up, much less win.
There you have it, the opener at CMU should be some fun for the players and the fans who get the chance to head up to Mt. Pleasant. Maybe Gundy should read the answer to number three, so he will know where to eat when he lands.