August 26, 2013

Enos: 'Cody is going to have to make some plays'

Central Michigan opens their season on Saturday when they travel a few hours south to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan. This game will mark the first meeting between the two teams since 2006, when Michigan defeated the Chippewas 41-17 in Dan LeFevour's first official start.

In between that point, UM was led by Rich Rodriguez and CMU led by Butch Jones. Both were close friends and served on the same staff at West Virginia, and they had agreed on to play each other during the regular season. But with Jones now at Tennessee and Rodriguez at Arizona, that agreement is moot and the Wolverines and Chippewas will finally battle it out.

With game week upon CMU, head coach Dan Enos had a chance to reflect on game and his teams upcoming matchup.

"We've had a very good camp, and I still our players have worked extremely hard," said Enos. "We had a good summer and had a lot of good leadership. Injury factor, we came out in pretty good shape, so knock on wood. We tried to be physical and get after each other as much as we could, but overall a very productive camp. We feel like we have a very good football team. We like the depth we have created over the past few years with recruiting, and we really like our recruiting class that just got here as well. Just like every team at this type of year we are optimistic, and as a whole we really like our roster better than any time since I've been here."

Of course, the biggest talking point in camp was the starting quarterback role. Cody Kater, Alex Niznak and Cooper Rush were thrust into a competition to replace three year starter Ryan Radcliff, with Kater eventually pulling away from Niznak.

"We had three guys all competing for the position, and we like all three of those guys and think they have bright futures. The competition at the end of the day made all three of them better. It was really to watch them leave spring practice and be challenged with different things they had to work on, whether that be fundamentally or schematically. It was a great competition, Cody Kater was the guy we eventually decided to go with. He will be a redshirt junior and he's from right here from the state of Michigan who was a very good high school quarterback and basketball player. He's athletic, he can run and obviously he can make all the throws we are going to ask him to make."

As a former quarterback himself, Enos was in a unique position to relate to his new signal caller.

"I told him when he was named the starter, now the hard part starts," added Enos. "But he has remained very focused and very diligent in his time and work outside of practice. I think he's trying to step up and lead a little bit more, being more vocal in the huddle and things like that. When you get named the starter I think you get a little more comfortable in that role now that this is your team"

Of course, opening at Michigan has it's own unique challenges. The Wolverines enter the season ranked No. 17 in the country, and many have tabbed them to reach the Big Ten Championship game.

"They are very good and very well coached," said Enos on Michigan. "They have a very athletic quarterback in Devin Gardner who I thought really played well for them last year. Defensively Coach (Greg) Mattison does a great job schematically with getting guys in the right spots. And then you have to go there and play, which I think our players are looking forward to. What college football player wouldn't want to play at Michigan Stadium? But they're a pretty good football team, I think they are ranked in the Top 20 preseason rankings and picked to win their side of the Big Ten as well. It will be a huge challenge, but that's why these guys came to Division 1 football for games like this and these types of opportunities."

Despite CMU's struggles between 2010-12, the team always seemed to be competitive with BCS schools, highlighted of course by a 32-31 over Iowa on the road last season. In 2011 CMU battled both Kentucky and NC State, as they held halftime leads in both. And in 2010 they had a shot to win it on the final drive in a 30-25 loss to Northwestern. Even a 45-21 loss at Virginia Tech in 2010 was misleading, as the Chippewas outgained to Hokies 401-394, held an eight minute advantage in time of possession and forced them to go 0-8 on third down. Only the games against Michigan State in 2011 and 2012 could be labeled blowouts, and the Chippewas fully acknowledge what they need to do to be competitive on Saturday.

"We have to be able to run the ball in every game this year, that's going to be a big focus for us is to be able to run the football. Obviously we are not going to be able to go into Michigan Stadium with that defense they run and be able to pound them and run the ball 55 times. Cody is going to have to make some plays. But if we have a run game that helps everything. Any time a team can make you one dimensional they have an advantage"

Central Michigan and Michigan will kickoff on Saturday at 3:30PM. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

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