This year’s recruiting class one of the best… on paper

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It’s best not to take National Signing Day all that seriously, especially when you’re talking about the Mid-American Conference. Last year’s MAC freshman of the year, wide receiver Antonio Brown, was barely heard of until August when he was a walk-on. Compare that to De’Onte Burnam, who came to CMU as the Georgia Class A Player of the Year but amassed just 44 tackles during his career.

Football coach Butch Jones called 2008 CMU’s best recruiting year in its history during Wednesday’s press conference.

There’s no doubt that it looks quite good. Several players on the list, including tailback Jahleel Addae and defensive back Derek Carter, chose CMU over the likes of West Virginia, Wisconsin and Purdue. Others ranked on the Detroit Free Press’s Blue Chip list, such as defensive end Steve Winston (#34) and wide receiver Valtorrey Showers (#60).

But quite frankly, all of it is speculation. There is a lot of potential to be had with CMU’s 22 scholarship recruits, but there is a lot of potential to be lost as well. Take Toledo, for example – the former MAC powerhouse consistently ranks amongst the top recruiting schools in the conference according to Scout.com, but the Rockets have been on the decline over the past few years.

Here are three players to watch from this recruiting class:

1) DB Derek Carter. Jones called him the “leader of the class,” which bodes well for a guy entering what was one of CMU’s weakest positions last season.

2) OL Darren Keyton. With Eric Tunney and Mike Decker leaving the offensive line, Keyton could help give CMU skilled depth at a very important position.

3) DE Steve Winston. Winston ranked No. 34 on the Detroit News Blue Chip list. That’s seven better than defensive tackle Steven Friend and ten better than linebacker Ike Brown, both of which are gone.

Here are my questions heading into spring camps:

1) Is the offensive line getting better? CMU’s line hit its stride when MAC play began, but it loses two tough linemen in Eric Tunney and Mike Decker, and Andrew Hartline and Greg Wojt will be gone after 2008. The Chippewas recruited several offensive linemen this year, including Darren Keyton, the Traverse City native who ranked No. 43 on the Detroit Free Press Fab 50. But several guys are going to have to step up, including sophomores Colin Miller and Jeff Maddux. Both were pretty good, but when it comes to arguably the most important offensive position, they’ll have to be great.

2) How will running backs Jahleel Addae and Bryan Schroeder mix in? They are two of the most highly-touted recruits on the list, but CMU loses no tailbacks to graduation. Justin Hoskins and Ontario Sneed both are entering their final years, and Carl Volny had several good runs last season. There is a lot of depth at this position with the addition of Addae and Schroeder, so I could see at least one of them, if not both, redshirting in the fall.

3) Is Ryan Radcliff the next Dan LeFevour? Radcliff posted gargantuan numbers (4,738 passing yards and 64 touchdowns, plus 618 rushing yards) at Fairview High School in Hicksville, Ohio, last year. He’s a bit smaller than LeFevour, weighing in almost 30 pounds less, but has a quick release, according to Jones, and is very intelligent. If he redshirts, he could become CMU’s quarterback as a sophomore when LeFevour graduates, making life after Dan a little less scary for Chippewas fans.

4) Who will fill the leadership roles that linebackers Red Keith and Ike Brown left behind? These guys were critical down the stretch when Central needed defense the most. Nick Bellore is the future of the unit after having a spectacular freshman season, but after that, there’s little to be had at the linebacker position. This could give recruit Armond Staten a great chance to flourish, as well as Ray Bentley’s son, Jake, who comes to CMU as a walk-on recruit. The defensive line is less of a worry with Casey Droscha and Frank Zombo returning, and CMU only loses Curtis Cutts in the secondary.

-Brian Manzullo
 News Editor

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