November 25, 2012

Part Two: Looking back at the 2012 senior class

Central Michigan is officially bowl eligible after a sound defeat of UMass this past weekend, and their fate now rests in the hands of bowl committee's. For the 2012 senior class, it marked a step in the right direction after back to back 3-9 seasons, and the future of CMU football now appears brighter. Today we look at the rest of the senior class in the final Then and Now series.

Quarterback Ryan Radcliff

THEN: Signed with CMU in 2008 as one of the most decorated passers in Ohio High School history. Played in a superb spread offense at Fairview (OH) Sherwood High that saw him post eye shattering numbers. As a senior, he threw for 4,738 yards and 64 TD's, and he left high school ranked second in state history in both passing yards and touchdowns. Was also an accomplished catcher, and he was drafted in the 34th round of the 2008 MLB Draft. Was a two-star prospect, but also held offers from Ohio, Western Michigan, Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Ball State and Bowling Green.

NOW: Simply put, Radcliff is one of the most polarizing figures in CMU football history. It is never easy being the man who follows the legend and Radcliff can probably attest to that as much as anybody. Fair or not, in everything that he has done at CMU, he has always been compared to Dan LeFevour. However, when you compare him to any other quarterback in CMU history not named Dan LeFevour, he stands alone. Chippewa fans were also used to a level of success when he took over at quarterback and because CMU has struggled so much over the last three years, the success that Radcliff has had over the last season and a half has been greatly underappreciated by a majority of the Chippewa fanbase. He will finish with the second most career passing yards in program history and the second most career passing touchdowns in program history, with a large gap between him and Jeff Bender, who is third in both of those categories. Was inconsistent during his sophomore year and struggled mightily at the start of his junior year in 2011, but in passing yards and touchdowns in league play during his junior season. Barring injury, he will throw for 3,000 yards again this season and barring disaster, will have a career-low in interceptions, nearly cutting his previous low in half. If CMU gets to a bowl game, he could also get to 10,000 career passing yards. At this point, there are only 80 quarterbacks in the history of FBS football that have gotten to that number. CMU would have two that played back-to-back. In his last 15 games of MAC play, Radcliff has thrown 34 touchdown passes and only 11 interceptions. This season, he ranks fourth in the conference in both passing yardage and pass efficiency and has an outside shot at earning a spot on the All-MAC third team. He has done all this while maintaining a solid GPA and remaining active in several student organizations, like His House Ministries and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Despite the fact that so many fans have clamored for Dan Enos to replace Radcliff as the starting quarterback, it will be tough to replace a guy that will end up with 36 (or possibly 37) career starts and possibly over 10,000 career passing yards.

Defensive Tackle Chris Reeves

THEN: Was actually more accomplished as a wrestler coming out of Oak Park (Mich.) Ferndale High, where he finished state runner-up in 2008 at 215 pounds. Joined the team as a walk-on following his senior season, and he initially signed as a 245 pound linebacker.

NOW: Played a bunch as a freshman on a pretty good defense, but could never really take the next step into becoming a good defensive lineman in the MAC. Bounced back and forth between a starting role and a reserve role throughout his career. Has 42 career tackles and 1.5 sacks. His best two games probably came this year, when he made six tackles against Toledo and then five tackles the next week against Navy.

Tackle Mike Repovz

THEN: Signed with CMU as a junior out of Lansing (Mich.) Catholic Central, and it proved to be a blessing as he would injure his knee and miss his entire senior season. Butch Jones stuck with his commitment and still upheld the offer despite his injury. Repovz would actually recover in time to help LCC win the Class B state title, and he was also an accomplished hoops player who averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds per game. Actually signed with CMU as a defensive end prospect.

NOW: Despite not having the talent of some of the other lineman in this class, he is still a good lineman that would start for most teams in the conference. Has been a very good fill-in over the last two years when Olson has gone down with injury. Was part of a good offensive line unit this season that has opened holes for Zurlon Tipton and protected Radcliff.

Defensive End Caesar Rodriguez

THEN: Signed with CMU in 2009 after a hotly contested recruiting battle with Western Michigan. Two-star prospect out of Miami (Fla.) Christopher Columbus who also held offers from Kent State, Delaware, Florida International, Louisiana-Lafayette and Western Kentucky. Had 50 tackles and 14 sacks as a senior, and famously hit it off in his visit to CMU with his host, Frank Zombo. Arrived in Mount Pleasant at 200 pounds soaking wet, but was quickly tabbed for playing time with his ability to rush the passer.

NOW: Has been a solid defensive lineman for four years in Mount Pleasant, but only recently cracked the starting lineup on a permanent basis. Added almost 40 pounds to his frame during his time here and will graduate with a degree in Communication. It always seemed like he was very close to having a breakout game and he finally did have a game with multiple sacks against Miami on Saturday. He has carved out a solid career, capped by a senior season in which he has had 39 tackles and three sacks, including eight tackles against Ball State.

Defensive End Alex Smith

THEN: Arrived at CMU as a three-star linebacker out of Barrington (Ill.). Was highly regarded after a senior season that saw him tally 101 tackles, 18 TFL and 8 sacks. Was brought in as a MIKE linebacker and chose the Chippewas over offers from Wyoming, Northern Illinois, Akron and Eastern Michigan. Was part of what was considered an extremely talented linebacker group that included Shamari Benton, Will Schwarz, Adam Fenton and Kyle Zelinsky.

NOW: As a linebacker, he has been stuck behind some pretty good players, including Nick Bellore, Matt Berning and Mike Petrucci. Despite that, he managed to contribute as a sophomore and a junior. He won a starting job in camp as a sophomore in 2010. This fall, he was moved to defensive end and won the starting job in camp, but due to injuries, has not been able to stay on the field. Was injured in the fifth game of the season in 2012, but was never redshirted, leaving open a possible return.

Corner Lorenzo White Jr.

THEN: Obviously well known because of his father's career at Michigan State, White was a major recruiting coop in the 2008 class after he chose the Chippewas over a reported offer from the Spartans as well as Toledo. Was regarded as one of the top defensive backs in Florida out of Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Dillard High as a senior, drawing interest from programs such as Miami (Fla.) and LSU before his senior season. Also ran on the top 4x100 track team in the entire country.

NOW: Started in a few games as a sophomore before stepping into a full time starting role after Bradley got hurt against Kentucky last fall. This year, he has gone back and forth between a starting spot and a reserve spot. He had a big interception against Akron this year and had three pass breakups against Miami, a career high.

Defensive Tackle Nate Williams

THEN: Joined the team as a walk-on after the 2009 season. Transferred from Indiana State, where he played sparingly as a true freshman. Originally from New Haven (Mich.), where he posted 96 tackles and 14 sacks as a senior.

NOW: Played sparingly at the end of the season as a junior last fall and made a few appearances on the depth chart in a reserve role this season. Will graduate with a degree in entrepreneurship.

Wide Receiver Cody Wilson

THEN: Was the first commitment in the 2009 class out of Rochester (Mich.) Adams High, he became one of the Chippewas best recruiters as he constantly spoke to guys such as Shamari Benton, Zurlon Tipton, Adam Fenton and Eric Fisher. Famously worked out with then Detroit Lions quarterback Jon Kitna in the offseason. Was a wide receiver and running back in HS, and he caught 52 passes for 985 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. Also ran for another 440 yards and 7 touchdowns.

NOW: Told me once that he would have chosen CMU over MSU because the spread offense fit him better. It is ironic that he ended up playing most of his career in a system that he was not recruited for and probably did not fit his natural strengths as much. However, Wilson has a work ethic that is second to none and is one of the smartest football players you will ever come across. On his way to carving out a place in CMU history, he was an All-MAC second team receiver and third team punt returner in 2010 and was an All-MAC third team receiver in 2011, despite battling injuries for a good part of the season. Not sure where he will be on this year's all-conference team, but he still leads CMU in receptions and is second in receiving yards. Wilson has caught a ball in 39 consecutive games, which is currently second in the country. He will likely leave Central Michigan with the fifth most career receiving yards and the third most career receptions (behind Antonio Brown and Bryan Anderson). If he gets one more receiving touchdown, he will also crack the top ten for most career touchdown catches. Similar to Radcliff, his good friend, Wilson has done all this while maintaining a good GPA and serving in several student organizations on campus, such as His House Ministries and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Wilson will probably be given an opportunity to make a team in the NFL, but if he doesn't make it, he has a bright future in front of him, including the possibility of being a very good football coach if he should choose to take that path. CMU is fortunate that it will not be too difficult to replace him on the field, because of the bevy of young receivers that they have in the program. However, it will be very difficult to replace him in the locker room and on the practice field. He has not only been one of the best receivers to pass through Central Michigan, but one of the best people as well.

Defensive Lineman Steve Winston

THEN: Signed with CMU in 2008 over offers from Eastern Michigan and Ball State. Chippewas offered the Muskegon (Mich.) Heights product after he camped at Michigan.

NOW: Played a bunch as a freshman and a sophomore, but never really developed into an All-MAC player as an upperclassman. Has been a versatile defensive lineman, going back and forth between end and tackle throughout his career. Winston had two games last fall where he made seven tackles: against South Carolina State and NC State.

Corner Anthony Young

THEN: Took an alternate route to Central Michigan, that's for sure. Ended up at Palomar Community College in California after a standout prep career at Ontario (Calif.) Colony High School Was ranked as a four-star recruit and the No. 25 JUCO player in the country when he signed with Iowa State in 2010. Would play two seasons with the Cyclones before a coaching class over his injury led to his transfer. Ended up at CMU for one season as a senior. HS coach was Anthony Rice, the former Notre Dame QB and father of the Chippewas 2012 wide receiver commit of the same name.

NOW: Was given a scholarship as a senior in Mount Pleasant and eventually earned a starting job at cornerback. He made seven tackles in his first start, against Ball State, and also had eight tackles and a pass breakup against Akron. Young had seven tackles in the win over Miami on Saturday.

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