For the last three seasons, the Chippewas have enjoyed contributions from unlikely sources. Specifically, underclassmen have played critical roles in the success of the Chippewas in the 2005, 2006, and 2007 seasons. Lately, Chippewa underclassmen have been some of the most productive in the country.
The recent string of extremely successful and productive freshman started back in 2005. During this season, Ontario Sneed burst onto the MAC scene and established himself as an elite running back. As a true freshman, Sneed rushed for 1065 yards and 8 touchdowns. Sneed also proved to be equally dangerous as a receiver. In 2005, Sneed snagged 51 passes for 433 yards and another 3 scores.
These impressive stats earned Sneed several postseason accomplishments. Rivals.com named Sneed a Freshman All-American, and Sneed was also named an All-MAC honorable selection.
Obviously, the biggest name included in this category of underclassmen has to be Dan LeFevour. In 2006, LeFevour found his way into the starting lineup and never relinquished his starting role. After throwing for 3031 yards and 26 touchdowns, in addition to running for 521 yards and 7 scores, LeFevour was named MAC Freshman of the Year and a 1st team All-MAC selection.
As a sophomore in 2007, LeFevour's performance was even more impressive. In his second year as the starting signal-caller, LeFevour threw for 3652 yards and 26 scores, in addition to running for 1122 yards and 19 scores. After posting these numbers, LeFevour was named MAC Offensive Player of the Year.
In 2007, CMU had two more underclassmen emerge as significant contributors; one on each side of the ball. Both as true freshman, wideout Antonio Brown and linebacker Nick Bellore were able to see major playing time early and they made the most of it.
In Antonio Brown, the Chippewas have found their second consecutive MAC Freshman of the Year. As a true freshman, Brown caught a school-record 102 passes for 1003 yards and 6 scores. Brown proved himself equally, if not more, dangerous as a returner. Brown posted a whopping 27.7 yards per kickoff return, in addition to an impressive 12.4 yards per punt return.
After enrolling early and participating in spring practice, Bellore quickly found his way onto the field. Bellore immediately found his way into a starting spot in the Chippewa linebacking corps, and rewarded the CMU staff for their confidence in him. Bellore recorded 102 tackles, 7 tackles for a loss, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble, and 2 interceptions (one of which was in the Motor City Bowl).
Simply put, freshman find their way onto the field in Mt. Pleasant. More importantly, these freshman not only find their way onto the field, they dominate while they are on it.