Chippewas have pick of playmakers on offense

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Mount Pleasant — Well, it’s the post-Cooper Rush era at Central Michigan and fans will get their chance to get a glimpse of strong-armed sophomore Tony Poljan who will be his replacement.

And, make no mistake Poljan will be entering camp this summer as the No. 1 quarterback even if former Michigan quarterback Shane Morris enters the mix.

Yes, that’s how impressed third-year head coach John Bonamego has been with the 6-foot-7, 240-pound Poljan during spring camp which concludes with CMU’s Spring Game Saturday at 1 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

Bonamego hired former Northern Michigan head coach Chris Ostrowsky as offensive coordinator after Morris Watts’ retirement and the Chippewas are now going with the spread offense after using the pro-style attack in past years with Rush (12,894 passing yards, 90 TDs) operating the offense.

The Chips took a step back last season, finishing 6-7 (3-5 MAC), including a 55-10 Miami Beach Bowl loss to Tulsa.

“It’s a great fit for him because he’s such a talented guy,” said Bonamego of Poljan who had offers from multiple Big Ten schools to play tight end, including Michigan State, but opted for CMU to play quarterback. “He’s a big, strong, athletic player, very smart with a very high ceiling. He’s a strong-arm guy who can throw the ball, sling it around and he can run it a little bit too, just a perfect fit for him.”

Poljan, like Rush before him, played his high school ball at Lansing Catholic Central.

Bonamego talked of his decision to bring in Ostrowsky.

“We wanted somebody who had been in that system and I’ve known Chris for a while and we had a chance to visit and it was a good fit for what we wanted to do,” said Bonamego. “It’s been a good fit, the players have embraced it. We actually hired Marcus Knight, the wide receivers coach before we hired Chris so it was good to actually have two people on the staff to help with the transition.”

Knight, who played receiver for Michigan on its national championship team in 1997 and later in the NFL for the Raiders, worked under Ostrowsky at Northern Michigan.

Bonamego feels the spread offense is suited well for Poljan, as well as senior receiver Corey Willis who had 72 receptions for 1,091 yards and nine TDs, including the TD as time expired in the upset win at Oklahoma State.

“Corey’s a playmaker and we feel like we have a lot of playmakers on offense and this is a system where you get a chance to feature a lot of different people,” said Bonamego, mentioning tight end Tyler Conklin, receiver Mark Chapman and running back Devon Spalding to name a few of those playmakers. “The good thing is the space that the offense creates and the running lanes, it’s just a good fit for us. We have all of the offensive line back, aside from Kenny Rogers who is the only guy that graduates (from that unit).”

Willis is looking forward to playing in the spread during his final year.

“I always felt like I was more of a spread guy so now coming into this offense I definitely feel more comfortable,” Willis said. “It’s just about getting used to the terminology and certain stuff like that, but everything else just feels right. I love Coach O (Ostrowsky). We’ve had a short time to get to know each other, but from what I can see I think that we click very well and we’re very compatible. For me, I think it’s not just one person, I think us as a group, we’re going to be very prolific and very exciting. This offense is going to be moving fast and everybody is going to have a chance, an opportunity to make plays.”

And, of Poljan, Willis said: “I love the way Tony attacks the deep ball. Coming into this offense, the main thing that we’re trying to do is stretch the defense and the main thing that we have to do is go vertical, and Tony fits that perfect. Everything that he’s shown in this spring is that he’s comfortable with it. I love the way he throws the deep ball and the way he commands the team in the huddle.”

Ostrowsky feels Poljan will perform well in the spread.

“He’s a winner,” said Ostrowsky of Poljan. “He’s a hard worker, a wonderful kid, has a great personality and is a leader. He’s a big, strong kid and he’ll continue to grow and get better, and the more muscle-memory he can capture in regards to what we’re asking him to do the better he’ll become. These 15 practices have been so valuable for all the guys, extraordinary really, just learning the verbage, because it’s a different language.”

So, what does Bonamego want to see in the Spring Game?

“I want to see a crisp game, go out and execute in all phases, not have a lot of penalties and come out healthy,” Bonamego said.


Central Michigan spring game

When: 1 Saturday

Where: Kelly/Shorts Stadium, Mount Pleasant

Outlook: The Chippewas will be looking for a new quarterback, after the graduation of star Cooper Rush.

Kids’ clinic: 10 a.m., with t-shirt and poster giveaways.

Admission: Free