The 2010 Central Michigan football season will officially kick of tomorrow night when the Chippewas host the Hampton Pirates at 7pm. The game will mark the dawn of a new coaching regime as Dan Enos takes over for his first game and a host of players will be stepping into starting roles. In a sense, it's a passing of the torch as new coaches and players look to continue the success of their predecessors, and it all begins tomorrow night.
"There isn't one person around out program talking about Temple right now and everyone around our program is talking about Hampton and that game. That's been our focus, really since spring ball ended, was to have great summer workouts and be in great condition and then be ready to win this football game. So we are very, very focused on the task at hand" said CMU head coach Dan Enos.
Hampton is coached by second year man Donovan Rose and comes in off a 5-6 season, with their contest against CMU will mark their first against an FBS team. The Pirates return 7 starters on offense and 9 starters on defense, including senior linebacker Julio Sanchez, the preseason MEAC defensive player of the year. The Pirates feature transfer players from programs such as Auburn, Tulane, Washington State, Southern Miss, Iowa State and Michigan, but have struggled on the offensive side of the ball during Rose's two year regime.
Averaging just over 19 points per game in 2009, Hampton was a run oriented team that rushed for a total of 1934 yards and averaged 175.8 yards per game. How,bever, their workhorse from last year was LaMarcus Coker, a transfer from Tennessee who tallied 1027 yards and 6 touchdowns last season, and he has since exhausted his eligibility. In his place will step Steve Robinson, a 6-foot-2 and 220 pound power runner who added 510 yards and 4 touchdowns as a junior last season. While Hampton had success on the ground last season, it was a mixed bag through the air. The presumed starter will be senior Herbert Bynes, a 6-foot-5 and 230 pound QB from Boyd Anderson (FL) High School who threw for 987 yards and 8 touchdowns last season. He completed 51% of his passes in six starts and threw 5 interceptions. Bynes will be aided as a senior by having his top two receivers back. 5-foot-11 and 185 pound junior Isaiah Thomas was the team's leading receiver last season after catching 27 passes for 550 yards and 6 touchdowns, and he will be joined by fellow junior Reginald Hicks, a 6-foot-4 and 220 pound possession receiver who caught 26 passes for 285 yards and 3 touchdowns. Up front they feature a fairly large offensive line that includes three letter winners and is highlighted by 6-foot-3 and 280 pound senior guard Michael Ola, who started all 11 games for the Pirates last season.
With the offense full of question marks, the unequivocal strength of the Pirates lies in the defense. In 2009 they allowed an average of just 19.4 points per game and were especially stingy against the pass, allowing only 161 yards per game through the air and forcing 10 interceptions. Sanchez is the clear leader of the defense after tallying 98 tackles as a junior, 1.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble. 6-foot-3 and 225 pound safety Ricardo Silva is also back after posting an impressive junior season where he added 66 tackles and 3 interceptions. But there are some question marks on defense as well. Senior linebacker Brandon Peguese, who led the Pirates with 7.5 sacks last season, and 6-foot-4 and 340 pound defensive tackle Kendrick Ellis, both thought to be NFL prospects, are not currently listed on the roster from Hampton's website. No officially word has been released, and it could just as easily be an accidental (or tactical) omission, but it bares noting before Thursday's game.
KEY HAMPTON STATS
•Outscored 76-28 in the 1st quarter last season
•Missed 8 extra points (16-24), and were just 7-17 on field goals
•63% redzone percentage
•Did not play in a game with 15,000 or greater in attendance
HOW IT SHAKES OUT
This game really comes down to the two offensive units, as both defenses figure to be solid. For Hampton to keep this one close, they will need to be efficient on offense, limit their turnovers, and make some plays in the passing game. The chances of them being able to line up and run against the CMU rush defense is slim, so Hampton QB Herbert Bynes will need to make plays with both his arm and legs. For the CMU offense, they have a distinct size advantage against the Pirates in the trenches and should be able to attack with the run game, and then look to play-action passes for big plays down the field. CMU quarterback Ryan Radcliff will have a great opportunity to get his first season as a starter off on the right foot by getting the ball in the hands of his talented playmakers, notably Kito Poblah, David Blackburn, and Cody Wilson.
All in all, CMU should not be taking this game lightly, but they should walk out of their home stadium with a definitive win to open their 2010 season.