Competition Stiff in Deep, Experienced Chippewa Secondary

Jason Wilson
Aug. 18, 2014

By Andy Sneddon, -

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Central Michigan defensive backs coach Archie Collins was non-committal as to who will start in the secondary when CMU opens the season on Aug. 28 against Chattanooga.

Sure, Collins was being a bit coy, the better to keep his troops motivated what with the opener more than a week away.

But there is also a good measure of legitimacy feeding his reluctance to publicly commit.

The Chippewas graduated just one secondary starter - Avery Cunningham, now in training camp with the St. Louis Rams - from last year's 6-6 team that was third against the pass (203.9 yards per game) in the Mid-American Conference.

Every other DB who suited up for the Chippewas in 2013 returns including Brandon Greer and Jason Wilson, both of whom started all 12 games at cornerback a year ago.

Also back is Kavon Frazier along with Kevin King, Tony Annese and Jarret Chapman.

Chapman and Frazier each logged nine starts a year ago, while Annese and King were among a number of Chippewas who saw increased playing time as the 2013 season progressed.

Both King, a senior, and Annese, a sophomore, started the final three games last season. King was named CMU's Special Teams Co-Player of the Year, while Annese - who returned two interceptions for touchdowns -- was named the team's Defensive Rookie of the Year. Chapman, a senior, and Frazier, a junior, logged nine starts each a year ago.

Greer, Frazier and Wilson shared the team lead with five pass breakups last season. Frazier and Wilson both made three interceptions to share the team lead.

Among the others in the hunt to claim a starting job or a spot on the two-deep are sophomore Winslow Chapman, senior Dennis Nalor and junior Denzel Wimberly.

With a stable loaded with so many experienced veterans who have logged significant playing time, it's understandable that Collins is taking his time and allowing things to play out in practice.

"It's competitive every day," Collins. "None of my guys are ever starters until we get on the field for that first game. I never know until that point.
"It helps with them having experience because now you can tweak things and they understand better what you're talking about. It makes it easier when you're teaching the guys.

They're able to see routes a little bit better, and they've seen it in game situations. That allows them to recognize things a lot better."

Still, as any coach will tell you at this point in the season, there is plenty of work ahead, plenty of refining, plenty of teaching ahead.

"What we're getting better at every day is reading our keys," Collins said. "The better they read their keys, the better they'll be as a player. I always tell the guys `See a little, see a lot.'

"Once they get their eyes trained correctly, they'll be able to see the play. That's what we're always working on."

And what the Chippewa secondary is working against, daily, is perhaps the MAC's best receiver in Titus Davis, the headliner among a strong Chippewa receiving corps.

Defending such high-level competition, on daily basis, continues to benefit Collins' troops.

"Titus Davis is one of the best receivers in the MAC, if not the best," Collins said. "I'd say not only in the MAC, but in a lot of different conferences you can name.

"Obviously Titus gets a lot of pub, but all of our receivers are good. It helps our guys to go against great talent every day."

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