Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Rating position groups on a football team is a subjective proposition.
There is an absolute, however, when it comes to Central Michigan and its starting cornerbacks, seniors Amari Coleman and Josh Cox.
“I’d be surprised if there’s a better corner tandem in the conference,” CMU defensive coordinator Greg Colby said.
The numbers support Colby’s belief.
Coleman is entering his third year as a starter, and last season earned First Team All-Mid American Conference honors when he made a league-high 15 pass breakups and shared the conference lead with four interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
Coleman is on the Thorpe Award Watch List. The award goes to the top defensive back in college football.
“He’s one of the best I’ve been around in my years in college, at any level,” said Colby, who is in his third year as the Chippewas’ defensive coordinator and has been in the football coaching business for more than 40 years. “He’s got everything you need. I’d be surprised if he’s not playing at the next level. I hope that doesn’t jinx him.
“He’s got all the tools, and now he’s got the experience under his belt.”
Cox, who has successfully made the transition from safety, made three picks a year ago, earning Third Team All-MAC honors.
“Technique-wise, he knows what he’s doing, he’ s smart,” Colby said. “That’s his thing. He’s in the right place doing the right things at the right time, and that allows him to be as good as he has been.”
Moving inside: With such experience and talent on the corners, the Chippewa defense can afford to rely on Coleman and Cox for one-on-one coverage on the outside, meaning they can commit the safeties more to the middle of the field.
“I know I’m glad we’ve got (Coleman and Cox) because it allows us to do some things schematically that a lot of times you can’t do if those corners aren’t those types of players,” Colby said.
Safety is one of the major question marks on a defense that returns eight starters. Among those who graduated is hard-hitting Tony Annese, a two-year starter and one of the unquestioned leaders of the defense.
The most experienced in the candidates to start at safety is Otis Kearney, who appeared in every game with five starts last season. Among the others at the top of the list vying for playing time are junior Ty Swain, senior Ray Golden, converted quarterback Zach Oakley, a junior, and newcomer Darwyn Kelly.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Kelly is a graduate transfer from Illinois, where he made 17 tackles last season. The Washington, D.C. native was a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection for the Illini.
“I’m hoping Darwyn steps up and gives us a real solid presence out there with his experience and his intelligence,” Colby said. “He’s got a lot of playing time under his belt.
“He’s a physical kid too, which is what we were looking for. In our scheme, our safety has to be a linebacker and so that’s what we’re hoping that he can give us.”
Special teams work: Friday’s practice at Kelly/Shorts Stadium was devoted strictly to special teams, giving many of the players at the top of the depth chart a much-deserved breather after back-to-back days of practices in full pads.
The weekend: The Chippewas were scheduled for an intersquad scrimmage on Saturday at Kelly/Shorts, and on Sunday the players and coaches will take a break from the field, but will attend team meetings.