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What now for Central Michigan's football program?

Head coach Dan Enos stepped down Thursday to become offensive coordinator at Arkansas.

Now, Central athletic director Dave Heeke must find Enos' replacement … and in a hurry with the Feb. 4 signing day quickly approaching.

"Dan came in and talked to me just before eight this morning," Heeke said of his meeting with Enos who told him he was leaving for the position at the Southeastern Conference school. "I basically grabbed my coffee cup as I was nearly dropping it and started going in another direction.

"Over the last week there were discussions it (possible move to Arkansas) was floating around. We offered him an extension and enhancement to his package. We did what we could to keep him.

"It's an awkward time with signing day coming up. You always have an eye on certain people, but we'll bring in a search firm too to see who fits the right profile. We want to bring in the new coach as quick as possible, but I want someone who is passionate about Central Michigan football, is passionate about recruiting and understands how to develop talent because that's what you have to do in the Mid-American Conference."

Heeke said the assistant coaches are under contract. He also said Central plans to honor the scholarships to incoming recruits who have committed.

"We'll honor every one of those commitments," Heeke said. "We've talked to some and we're going to talk to others to explain the situation."

One of those commits is Detroit Western running back Romello Ross, who used his sub-4.5 speed to rush for 1,458 yards and 23 TDs.

"We'll have to see what they'll do, but we hope they hire from within," Detroit Western coach Andre Harlan said. "Wake Forest came in today to talk (with Ross) and Iowa came in yesterday. We'll see what happens."

Heeke said Enos talked to the current players at 10:30 a.m. and Heeke planned to talk to them Thursday evening.

"I had a great job, and obviously it would just take an unbelievable opportunity to leave something like that," Enos told the Associated Press. "And that's how my family and I view this, too good of an opportunity to not pursue and look at."

Enos signed a three-year contract with an annual salary of $550,000 with a $350,000 buyout if he leaves before Feb. 15, 2018. He reporedly made $350,000 last season.

Enos never lived up to expectations during his five years in Mount Pleasant, finishing 10 games under .500 (26-36) and losing three times to rival Western Michigan.

And, it tough for Enos to follow in the footsteps of Brian Kelly and Butch Jones.

Kelly, now the head coach at Notre Dame, guided Central to the MAC title in 2008 and Jones led the Chippewas to a 27-13 record and pair of conference championships in his three years. Jones is now at Tennessee.

Enos, 45, followed the school-record 12-win season in '09 with consecutive 3-9 seasons his first two years. The Chippewas were bowl eligible his last three years, finishing 7-6 in '12 with a Little Caesars Pizza Bowl win over Western Kentucky, 6-6 in '13 and 7-6 this past fall with a Popeyes Bahamas Bowl loss to Western Kentucky.

Now, Heeke must find Enos' replacement. One name sure to pop up is Ferris State coach Tony Annese, who has been a winner at every stop he's made during a 31-year coaching career.

When asked if he learned Enos stepped down, Annese replied: "No, I haven't."

Then, asked if he would be interested in the CMU head job, he replied: "I'm not going to comment on that."

Annese, 52, has done an incredible job the last 10 years, guiding Muskegon HIgh to three state titles (2004, '06, '08) in a five-year stretch. He then took over a sub.-500 program at Grand Rapids Community College in 2009 and won two NJCAA national championships in three years, finishing with a 30-4 record. He has a 26-8 record in his three years at Ferris, guiding the Bulldogs to their first GLIAC title since 1999 this past fall.

When asked to talk about a Division 1 job being in his future back in November, Annese talked at length.

"It's one of those things where you just focus on doing the job to the best of your ability," Annese said. "You never know what's going to happen in a career, but I've been blessed to have great players around me, supportive coaches and a great family that loves to be here on a Saturday afternoon."

The Chippewas open with Oklahoma State Thursday night of Labor Day weekend at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

david.goricki@detroitnews.com

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