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2016 MAC Player Countdown #3: Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan

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Rush proved he wasn't just a one-hit wonder in 2015. Can he carry the load of the Chippewas offense on his right arm again?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Cooper Rush first became a national darling as the player who threw for seven touchdowns and 497 yards in a single bowl game in the inaugural Popeye's Bahamas Bowl in 2014.

That year, he was coing off his second season as the starter, his first season at the helm full-time under Dan Enos, who ran a more conservative pro-style offense.

Many pundits had legitimate questions as to whether or not Cooper Rush could repeat the season he had in 2014, when he had Titus Davis as a lead receiver and Thomas Rawls as a running back prior to the start of the 2015 campaign.

There were also questions of whether or not Rush could adapt to a new coaching style, as new head coach John Bonamego promised a more wide-open gameplan on offense.

In 2015, Rush not only showed that he could be a steady producer despite losing 51% of his total offense, but made vast improvments, passing for 3,848 yards (an all-time CMU record for a single season) and 25 touchdowns last season.

The most impressive part about those numbers was Rush's ability to utilize the offense and spread the ball around; seven of CMU's receivers had at least 500 receiving yards last season.

The 6'3", 230 lb. senior out of Lansing Catholic HS is chasing multiple all-time records at CMU going into the season and could very well set himself up as the best quarterback product to leave Mt. Pleasant since Dan LeFevour in 2009. Rush is currently second in career touchdown passes (67) and third in career passing yards (9,354), passes completed over career (744) and passing attempts over career (1,183).

Looking at those numbers, it's crazy to think that 2016 will finally be his breakout season, but that's the situation that Rush finds himself in. Rush will be in his fourth year as a starter under Mo Watt's offense, and Rush has shown himself to be a great executor of the gameplan, using a deft touch and football IQ to make the plays the team needs.

Rush will certainly have attention drawn his way; he has been named to multiple preseason award watch lists, including the prestigious Maxwell Award and the Davey O'Brien Award lists, and was pegged as a top quarterback prospect in Mel Kiper's 2017 Big Board during the offseason.

Rush will have to bring a veteran presence to an offensive side of the ball that returns a lot of role players promoted to prime slots and youth or lack of depth at key skill positions. The lack of real punch from CMU's rushing offense in 2015 will also mean that teams will gameplan around Rush's arm, so it'll be up to him to motivate the Chippewas and get them to play as a unit.

Coach Bono has adopted the motto "Show Me!" for the upcoming season, and Rush will have to show the world that he belongs in the conversation of "best college quarterback" on the field of play. If the last three years have been any indication, Rush is certainly up to the task.