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MOUNT PLEASANT - Senior safety Jahleel Addae headlines a Central Michigan defense that will return as many as 20 lettermen from a year ago.
Addae earned All-Mid-American Conference first-team honors as a junior in 2011, the first CMU defensive back in a decade named to the all-conference first team. He tied for the MAC lead in interceptions (4), ranked eighth in tackles per game (8.9) and was ninth in total tackles (107).
He will again be paired in 2012 with Avery Cunningham, who was second on the team with 79 tackles last season.
"It all starts with Jahleel and Avery on our defense," said CMU head coach Dan Enos. "Both of those guys are tough and athletic, and they love to play the game. They are great leaders, and they raise the intensity level for everyone at practice.
"Those two guys are as good as anybody in the league at their positions, and they make everybody on our team better."
The secondary will be the most veteran position group for the Chippewas in 2012, with corners Lorenzo White, Dennis Nalor and Jarret Chapman also returning.
Armond Staten and Mike Petrucci are graduated from the linebacking corps, but Shamari Benton returns to a starting role and both Cody Lopez and Ryan Petro saw significant playing time as true freshmen in 2011.
The most experienced player up front is senior end Joe Kinville, who along with Cunningham was one of just two players to start all 12 games on defense in 2012. The former walk-on tied for the team lead with 5.5 tackles for loss last season.
Steve Winston will again anchor the middle of the line, while Matt Losiniecki started eight games as a true freshman in 2011. Leterrius Walton, Chris Reeves, Darryll Stinson and Caesar Rodriguez all are expected to return to significant roles again in 2012.
In all, CMU will return at least 12 players who started multiple games in 2011 and seven of its top 10 tacklers from a year ago.
Spring Game April 14: CMU's spring football game is Saturday, April 14 at 2 p.m. at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. The Chippewas' players and coaches will host a free kids clinic prior to the game; the clinic is set to begin at 11:30 a.m.