Friday, September 08, 2006

Maize n Brew Q&A With The CMU Weblog

Tony over at the Central Michigan University Weblog and I got together over the internets to talk a little Chippewas/Wolverines football. In case you've been living under a rock, CMU recently hosted ACC power Boston College and nearly pulled the upset on ESPN2 to start the 2006 football season. I previewed CMU a month or so back, and thought I had a decent handle on this team. While close, I wasn't totally on point, especially at QB. Thankfully, Tony is here to correct my oversights and tell me why I should fear the Chippewas.

Being the long-winded shmuck that I am, I posed some long, supposedly in depth questions. Tony responded with more information than I ever could have dreamed of on CMU. Excellent responses to every question. A feast of knowledge. Well have at it readers. Dig in!

Maize n Brew - CMU's defense was outstanding against the run versus Boston College. They held the Eagles to just 85 rushing yards. Michigan is coming off a running romp of Vanderbilt, racking up 246 yards on the ground. How do you think CMU will fair against the Michigan running game?

  • Tony from CMU - I think this is the one area I am confident CMU can hold their own in. The D-Line is the biggest asset we have on our team. The key will be to shut down UM's run game, much like we did against BC, and thus hopefully be better able to defend against the pass -- our biggest weakness. I know UM, and well, and I know Hart and Grady are really good backs. I didn't have that sense about BC's RB -- so it definitely won't be that easy still. But like I said, CMU can still hold their own against anybody when it comes to run defense with great players like Bazuin and Keith.

MnB - On the other side of the coin, CMU's pass defense gave up a 300 yard 3 TD game to BC's Matt Ryan, a QB no one has on their Heisman list. This year's corners are young and replacing a very bad unit from last year. Do you expect them to step up or step back against Michigan?

  • Tony from CMU - Well first off, though Matt Ryan wasn't on many people’s Heisman list, he certainly wasn't some unknown quarterback. He is actually a very good QB...outsiders might not know he put those passing numbers up against us on a bum ankle (which is keeping him out of the Clemson game this weekend). So, in my opinion, those numbers were due more to a real good QB than an awful pass defense. We do have a real young secondary, especially at corner -- but watching the game in person and up-close I noticed they held their own against BC. That being said, UM's receiving core is superior to BC's and I wouldn't be shocked if UM trounced on the secondary with all the speed and athleticism they have at wideout. I don't think we will allow UM to score at will, but they will score, and sometimes it will look easy. CMU's secondary will step up, but it won't be enough.
MnB - While it's true that Ryan isn't just some jackass from Southie that BC threw a uniform on and said "play quarterback", I'm not sure I'm ready to call him a very good QB yet. His numbers last year were okay. He started 5 games last year, winning all 5 but never topping 300 yards. His numbers were 8 TDs with 5 INTs and 1,500 yards passing while playing in 10 games. He did toss 3 TDs against Boise in their bowl game, but he's been unproductive against ACC foes. For now I'll defer to Tony though, he's seen the kid live.

MnB - One of the many bright spots for CMU during the loss to BC was the play of freshman QB Dan LeFevour, a quarterback I didn't even know was on the depth chart. He went 22-of-37 for 221 yards and a 13-yard touchdown to Ontario Sneed, and was also the team's leading rusher with 72 yards and two TDs. Who is this guy? If the previous starter Brian Brunner (who was knocked out on the game's second play) comes back, who's the starter?

  • Tony from CMU - Brunner was the anointed starter for the season, but after being knocked out with a concussion on the second play of the BC game, and still suffering from the side effects, he has been ruled out of playing officially against UM. Dan LeFevour will be starting, and though he might be an unknown to you, he was competing for CMU's starting spot from day one. It basically came down to a 3-man competition (and still is mind you), Brunner the redshirt sophomore, against LeFevour and Duane Brooks, redshirt freshman. Both LeFevour and Brooks are much, much, more athletic than Brunner (as you can see by LeFevour's rushing numbers) -- Brooks has the strongest arm. It is quite apparent that Brunner will probably play some still this year, but eventually be pushed aside if LeFevour and Brooks cement that they can handle the starting QB position -- they are both much more Kelly's type of QB (athletic, fast, can throw and run, improvise easily because their legs -- think Kent Smith, former CMU QB). If LeFevour can hold his own against UM, I have no doubt he will become the full time starter heading into MAC play, though I do not underestimate Brian Kelly's want to shuffle in different QB's still -- he stated he will do this again. So basically look for both LeFevour and Brooks to play, and then further into the season all 3 playing, and eventually either LeFevour or Brooks becoming the full time starter -- they are just better than Brunner overall.

MnB - CMU's running game was somewhat of a disappointment statistically. LeFevour carried the load with 72 yards, but starting tailback Ontario Sneed only registered 47 yards on 7 carries. Do you think the game plan will be changed to strengthen the running game against Michigan? Do you think the running game was fine, and I'm simply missing something?

  • Tony from CMU - You heard of the sophomore slump right? I fully expect that from Ontario this year, and BC was a good indication of the start of it. Even towards the tail end of fall camp Brian Kelly called Sneed out saying he was playing apprehensively. UM will be even worse, especially after they showed how dominant they could be against the run with Vandy. Look for the only rushing yards to be done by the QB (of any significance). Kelly will definitely try to establish the run early with Sneed, but when that fails, just like in the BC game, look for QB draw plays, and improvising on the fly. If LeFevour/Brooks can throw UM off with their speed, and thus help open up the passing game, look for CMU to get on the board more than once.

MnB - Daniel Bazuin, how good is this guy? Are other members of the line capable of getting pressure on the QB? Who's stepped up so far?

  • Tony from CMU - How good is Bazuin? He is first round pick good...he is top 15 in the NFL draft good. That is just fact. He wasn't rated #3 best DE in the nation by CBS for no reason. This guy can play with the best of them. He will get pressure, like it or not; you will have to gameplan around him if you want to stop him. Thomas Keith, sophomore LB is highly underrated. He led the team in tackles last year, he led the team in tackles against BC...he can get the job done against anyone too. Issac Brown and Doug Kress (LB's) are also very solid players, maybe not as good, but they can hold their own -- just not dominate. UM better take them all seriously however, not just Bazuin.

MnB - Kinda tounge in cheek. I wrote this about Bazuin in July:

"Rumor is he swallows offensive linemen whole. Then he goes into the stands and steals lollipops from children, before eating them. His appetite earned him MAC Defensive Player of The Year honors, Honorable Mention All-American, and named to five different pre-season defensive awards watch lists. He will play on Sundays in 2007, for lots and lots of money."

Interesting to hear about Keith though. I did give CMU's LB corps props as the MAC's best this year.

MnB - Who is CMU's top offensive threat? Is it the emerging LeFevour? Is it the established Sneed? Is it WR Obed Cetoute Genaille who posted a 102 yard game against BC? Or is it someone else?

  • Tony from CMU - Well this is a tough question because their is an established offensive threat, and an emerging offensive threat. Sneed is the established threat, but I think he is, and will fall off. I am not saying he isn't a threat anymore, but he is still so young, and he is taking his bumps like a lot of players their second year. He still on any given play can break a run for a TD. That being said, if I HAD to choose, I would say LeFevour. Not only is he emerging, he might currently have the most potential to win us a game. He showed a lot during BC. UM fans might underestimate his capability because they never heard of him, but think about it. This guy never took a snap at any collegiate level, let alone against a top 30 college football team, and annual powerhouse, and he dominated. He passed beautifully, he ran with ease. He made one mistake, at the end of the game with the INT...but that's more on coach Kelly than the QB, that was just a crazy play call, the end. LeFevour can run the offense, throw a nice ball, and run like the wind. He is the threat. If he can play like he did against BC all year, CMU will win the MAC West. The one knock on him, during summer/fall practice is he is inconsistent, so we will see how he does against UM. (Keep in mind, though I hype him up a lot, UM is a whole new shark and I don't expect LeFevour to be able to play as well as he did against BC due to UM's very good defense). I don't even want to talk about Obed Cetoute...he has blown 2 big games two years in a row for us, last year against Indiana, this year against BC. Indiana he dropped a pass in the endzone, this year on a beautiful wide-open pass down the field (a for sure TD) by LeFevour he just blatantly dropped it. He makes me sick, to be honest. He has big play capability, but he has shown he can't make the big play in the big games when it counts. Those 102 yards are deceiving.

MnB - Um... So what the hell happened against BC? Everything in the papers, on the net, and on TV has just roasted Head Coach Brian Kelly. Is it fair? What's your impression of the coach now? What's the consensus at CMU about him?

  • Tony from CMU - Oh the criticism is fair -- HE cost us the game, the end. Right now UM should be playing a 1-0 CMU team who just beat a perennial powerhouse in BC -- they should have their eyes wide open and be a little nervous. Instead, no one will see how good this team can be, they will just see the 0-1. Why? Because out coach made some of the most ridiculous decisions you can make as a head coach. I wouldn't even expect a Little League coach to make those calls. Putting in Brooks after LeFevour dominated BC, only so he could fumble the ball and cough it up right when we are back in the game and on the verge of a TD. Going for it on 4th and 8 on your own 25, yet not going for it on 4th and inches on BC's end. Doing that swinging gate play to end the game when we were moving the ball and looked like we would easily tie it. Blame the 'L' on the coach...BC should thank Kelly because their season should be over already. I am being 100% serious too. So don't underestimate CMU as a bad team coming to get trounced on in the big house. Kelly has done a heck of a job with this team (and this IS a good team), and has taken responsibility for what he did. The consensus is he is a solid coach, great motivator and recruiter, who made some bad mistakes, but probably will learn from them and continue to move CMU in the right direction.

MnB - Finally, how do you think CMU will react? What's CMU’s strategy coming into Michigan Stadium on Saturday?

  • Tony from CMU - This team believes they can win, and beat anyone these days. This isn't the CMU of old who just came out and hoped they could win/compete, they believe it. They have confidence, and they have good players. They have a staff that prepares them well. CMU will come out fired up from the gate, and don't be surprised if it is close early on. LeFevour will get his rushing yards, and potentially give CMU some big plays. What UM will win on is the young, inexperienced secondary. Chad Henne should be able to break out of his inconsistent play and just put together a solid day passing against CMU. CMU won't give up though, and just like during the BC game, don't rule out a comeback if they fall behind, and UM lets them hang around. I thought we would lose by 3 TD's against BC...there were too many questions. Now though I see we have a real good team, and they've proved it. I don't dare underestimate them like I did against BC. I hope UM doesn't, or they will get a wakeup call. However, in the end, UM has one of the best teams in the country, period. Along with home field advantage, and due to their great receiving core being able to take advantage of the CMU secondary I look for UM to pull away eventually. UM 37 CMU 14, but CMU will play them tough and head into the MAC schedule with everyone knowing they are a team to fear.

Thanks Tony! In appreciation I extend to you a laurel and hardy handshake.

Alright boys and girls, its almost game time. You know who we're playing now. Armed with this knowledge go forth and do tailgate battle with CMU fans.

As always, emerge "The Victors".

Go Blue!


At 10:59 AM, Blogger Joey said...

Nice work here.

At 1:27 PM, Blogger Maize n Brew Dave said...

Thanks joey. Credit goes to Tony for his answers. Great stuff.

At 9:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a big Michigan fan, but I'll be cheering for my alma mater, CMU Saturday!

UM lost a good alumni when they failed to admit me about 30 years ago! This is the only time I ever cheer against Michigan.

This blogsite is excellent, I'm going to start following it throughout the season.

Go Blue next week!


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