Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys is a big man. Even in a large crowd, Claeys is the guy who stands out. It was ironic that Claeys stood virtually by himself at the Quick Lane Bowl Media Day held at the Detroit Lions practice facility in Allen Park, Michigan. The Golden Gophers (5-7) were supposed to be the host team as representatives of the Big Ten in the introduction to Quick Lane Bowl festivities. However, it was Central Michigan head coach who found himself swarmed by microphones and cameras, something that gave Claeys a puzzled look.
Bonamego was introduced by Lions' head coach Jim Caldwell as the proverbial lost son who had returned home a success. The throng of media attending Cladwell's earlier weekly press conference remained in place almost mesmerized by Bonamego. The guy has an ability to charm the camera. He did not disappoint by recounting his close relationship with the Lions-Bonamego and his wife, Pauline, have decided to forever remain Lions-and how Cladwell, his former mentor, had been one of the first people he consulted after he was originally diagnosed with cancer in his tonsils. Bonamego has successfully rung the proverbial bell and is now cancer free after an arduous treatment regimen that elevated him to super hero status in many circles. His team finished the season 7-5 and MAC West co-champions.
The limelight may have been showing love to Bonamego, but Claeys became composed when asked about his team. First, the Golden Gophers are an academically accomplished bunch. They arrived at Ford Field as a result of a high score on something called the Academic Perfomance Index, or API. Claeys likes his quarterback, junior Mitch Leidner running his offense. Speaking of the Gophers offense, Claeys indicated that his offense is slower paced and controls the ball rather than the uptempo style offense that is currently favored by most college football head coaches. MAC fans familiar with the NIU Huskies offense will recognize Claeys' preferred offense.
The Gophers run a 4-3 defense with heavy emphasis on linebacker play according to Claeys. Senior Jack Lynn anchors the linebacking corps for Minnesota. There are some bonafides in the Minnesota secondary who should be a real concern to Chippewa quarterback Cooper Rush. Rush needs to especially be on the lookout for Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who is an NFL type prospect.
Cooper Rush has done the unthinkable in his junior year at CMU. He eclipsed all-time Chippewa legend Dan LeFevour as the single season passing yardage leader. What made Rush's accomplishment more unthinkable was that he did it with a very young group of receivers. Sophomore Mark Chapman came out of nowhere to be a gifted and skilled route runner and safety valve for Rush's uptempo style offense. CMU does have Jesse Kroll and the guy affectionately dubbed Big Ben McCord by the Kelly/Shorts Stadium announcer to provide some senior leadership at receiver.
CMU's defense is led by a pair of seniors. Blake Serpa has been nursing an injury, but should be ready for Detroit. Kavon Frazier is the defensive back to be watched in the secondary by Minnesota's Leidner.
A note about CMU's X-factor: Freshman Romello Ross had his redshirt removed due to a number of injuries sustained by CMU running backs. Ross may be the most exciting and productive runner CMU has seen in a very long time. It will be interesting to see how many reps he gets in Detroit.
If you travel to Detroit, you may want to hit some of these gems while you are there.
Toast. 23144 Woodward Avenue in fashionable Ferndale. A breakfast lover's dream.
Polish Village Cafe. 2990 Yemans Street, Hamtramck (a city within a city). Pierogi, golabki smaczne!
The London Chop House. 155 W Congress, Detroit. The best there is in the D.
Ford Piquette Avenue Plant. 461 Piquette Avenue, Detroit. See where the original Model T was created by hand.