The Chippewas defense focuses on their front seven, which is designed to disrupt, disrupt and also… disrupt.
They excelled at that in 2021, keeping opponents in third place at 34.4 percent conversion ratings, good enough for ninth place in the nation. That was thanks in part to one of the best rushing defenses in the country, as the Chippewas grounded opponents at 118.5 yards per game, best for 18th in the country. Their success at creating pressure and forcing punts resulted in a scoring defense of just 25.8 points per game, good enough for third-best MAC and placement in the top half of the programs.
The 2022 edition of the Chippewas Front Seven will be missing some of their biggest names, but a quick roster search reveals that some of the younger prospects have plenty of potential talent – helped in part by Jim McElwain’s decision to play redshirt for the entire 2020 recruiting class, which happens to be one Had a lot of defensive talent.
Their success as a unit will depend on them developing and honing their skills through multiple camps and exercises, which should be fairly easy given Defense Coordinator Robb Akey has been in Mt Pleasant since the beginning of the McElwain regime to help defend himself relax development.
We look at the three positions on the top seven of who we expect to contribute in all of those positions below:
The defensive end space will leave not one but two starters for the 2022 campaign as Troy Hairston (graduation) and Amir Siddiq (move to Charlotte) will no longer be on the roster.
It poses a small issue in terms of proven depth, but the planned starters should at least bring some relief to Chippewa fans like LaQuan Johnson, whose rise as a freshman in the 2019 campaign showed promising flashes, and Thomas Incoom, a former standout in Division II, are marked as starters at the ends.
Johnson, a Flint native, played a role as a rotation end in 2021 after missing all of 2020 with an ACL injury in the first game of the season and ending with 13 tackles, including four tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in nine appearances (in five starts.)
His 2019 season was great, with 33 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and six sacks in the season. So if he can match those numbers again it will be a big help for the Chippewas pass rush.
Incoom, who excelled at D-II Power Valdosta State, was also a rotation option in 2021, scoring two starts in all 13 games and amassing 28 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. The leap in talent didn’t seem to phase Incoom, who ended up fitting perfectly into Robb Akey’s primary attacking scheme. With more cracks at the racquet in 2022, he could improve on his already excellent numbers.
On-roster options for the backup end roles include fourth-year player Fred Stokes and a number of redshirt freshmen in Quindario Lee, Cade Cote, Jonah Pace and Michael Heldman, all of whom saw 2021 special teams play.
A handful of newcomers should also be in contention for roles, including Myrtle Beach Collegiate’s Ounar Conde (14 sacks and 23 tackles for loss in 2021), JUCO sacking leader Malik Denkins (31 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 14 sacks at). squatting). College in 2021) and consensus three-star recruit Kade Kostas from Rockford [MI] HS, all arrive in autumn.
Defensive tackle will be the staple of the Chippewa Front Seven in 2021, with every contributor from last season returning to their previous positions in 2022.
The tackling duo of John Wesley Whiteside and Jacquez Bristol will be particularly important to the aggressive nature of the Chippewa front, with sixth-grader Robi Stuart returning from an injury that sidelined him all of 2021 to provide depth and spirit . Tyrece Woods, a former Buffalo transfer, was a key element of the rotation in 2021, while Jason Williams is also looking to make an impact in the sophomore.
Whiteside, a former Austin Peay transfer, was the surprise of 2021 for CMU when the six-foot-tall, 297-pound tackle recorded 22 tackles for 7.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks after serving as a relatively unannounced prospect had walked in. shows a vicious outburst that often disrupts the backfield.
Bristol have become a mainstay on the line since debuting as a true freshman in 2019 and have had a good 2021 season as a full-time starter with 36 tackles for 5.5 tackles for losses and three sacks, with three passes defended and two forced fumbles.
Stuart hasn’t contributed since 2020, but 2019 was the year that showed Stuart’s promise as a prospect and made the third-team All-MAC with 32 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in the MAC West Title season of the CMU ended. If Stuart can hit similar numbers in 2022, CMU will absolutely have the depth to make many opposing teams sweat.
Woods played in all 13 games, starting six and catching four tackles for loss and three sacks in his first season after arriving from Buffalo and should be a stellar contributor in the long-term plans post-2022, but is currently believed to have even more depth serve for the chips.
Where CMU’s front seven will have to prove themselves in 2022 is in linebacker position, as they faced some tough losses in George Douglas (Southern Illinois) and Troy Brown (Ole Miss), two top-class linebackers who would have given that chips have to accept the transfer portal some safe parts to rely on.
That’s not to say what CMU has left won’t be able to shoulder the burden; Last year’s backers proved capable prospects despite their relative inexperience. Justin Whiteside and Kyle Moretti both played in all 13 games last season, with three combined starts and a project to return to those positions in 2022.
Moretti, from Aravada, Colorado, was a revelation in particular. He finished seventh on the team with 47 tackles, four tackles-for-loss, a sack and a forced fumble in his true freshman season, which put him against some of the top strata on the list.
Whiteside also proved a prolific backup with 28 tackles, 7.5 tackles-for-loss, three sacks, two passes defended and a fumbled recovery in 2021 while playing alongside Moretti. A year as an established starter should also allow Whiteside to get even better.
Things get a bit more somber from there, as the third linebacker spot in this flexible 4-3 defense is often shot with a third safety spot, with Fernando Sanchez III, Logan Guthrie, Ormondell Dingle and Corey Gildersleeve Jr. all expected to fight role.
We should have more clarity on this situation when fall camps begin, but there is a nice two-man core for the Chippewas to build on for the 2022 campaign.