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Chat with Drew Ellis of the Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun

August 30, 2007

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Months of anticipation come to a head Saturday, when KU kicks off its 2007 football season at Memorial Stadium against Central Michigan. To make sure you're as prepared as possible, join us at 2 p.m. Thursday when Drew Ellis, who covers the Chippewas for the <i>Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun</i>, will be here to answer your questions.

Moderator:

Hello everyone and welcome to another chat session here on KUSports.com. I'm online sports editor Ryan Greene, and I'll be moderating today's session with Central Michigan beat writer Drew Ellis of the Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun, who is getting ready to make what I would guess is his first trip to Lawrence. Drew, thanks for joining us. What's the football buzz up there like this year coming off of a successful 2006?

Drew Ellis:

Thanks Ryan. It will be my first trip, but I am looking forward to it.

The buzz this year for CMU is great around Michigan. Fans are very passionate about the team and are looking for another strong season. There are a lot of questions with a new staff, but there is also a lot of talent here. Things should be interesting in 2007.

Moderator:

All right, well the buzz here is pretty high, too. The amount of questions we've received shows just that, so lets get to it.

Drew Ellis:

sounds good

hawkdoctor:

1) What do you expect from the CMU offensive line when the center, right guard, and right tackle have never started a game?

2) Friend appears to be a very good player at defensive tackle. Droscha has started 6 games, but how big of a loss is Ekdahl?

3) Is defensive end depth as thin as it appears since a former tight end less than 220 pounds is starting?

Drew Ellis:

1. The CMU O-line is a big question heading into Saturday's game. The unit is likely without senior Eric Tunney and will have to start two redshirt freshmen. I expect CMU to gameplan around the line and look to move QB Dan LeFevour out of the pocket and set up a lot of screens and quick throws to allow the o-line to get familiar with the game. They still have some solid starters in Andrew Hartline and Mike Decker, so all is not lost.
2. Ekdahl is not a terrible loss. He has experience, but Droscha saw the majority of the time last season despite Ekdahl starting. Droscha has impressed the coaches a lot and I think the CMU DE's should be solid despite not having starting experience. Friend is a beast in the middle and will be a problem for any team.
3. TE J.J. Watt may be just 220, but he is a physical player and a gifted true freshman. CMU is very high on him and he looks to be a playmaker for sure. The CMU style of play is very physical, and I know Watt will be up to the challange.

jawk1:

Hey Drew, I follow all the Michigan Football teams as I did grow up in Pontiac.

You guys had a great run last year and put, I think, 4 guys in the NFL? Congratulations on a great season.

What is the expectation of the coaching change? From what I have read there may be some non-believers in the new coaching staff, but Jones is running a tough camp.

Also, It seems that the CMU camps have been WAY more closed to the public and the press than years gone by.

Any Comment?

Good luck this year in the MAC and Welcome to Lawrence(Memorial is pretty tough)!

Drew Ellis:

I think the expectations are still high this season. Jones is shying from the whole repeat champs idea, but is committed to building a top 25 program. To do so, one of the next steps will be to beat a BCS team like Kansas, Purdue, or Clemson, who CMU faces this season. The camp was very tough and all of the players feel they are in the best shape of their lives. CMU will play fast and look to wear down the defense of Kansas. As far as practice being closed, they did hold some open practices, but a lot of the practice has been closed off. I think as a team with a high profile in the conference, and with a new coach, you want to keep things a little closer to home.

Moderator:

Drew, enlighten our readers on what to expect from Dan LeFevour. Obviously most KU fans have heard the name, but he sounds like the real deal, especially paired up with Sneed, who also finished last year pretty strong.

Drew Ellis:

LeFevour seems to be the real deal. He is a calm, collected, and humble kid that really took his chance last season and ran with it. He filled in for Brian Brunner, who was hurt in the opening drive of the 2006 season opener with Boston College, and LeFevour stepped in, and the rest is history. Dan was recruited by Butch Jones and is a big fan of the new coach. LeFevour has worked hard in the offseason and is now taking the leader role very seriously. I think the CMU offense will look to run the ball more than it did last season, but you can't ignore LeFevour's arm. Dan will be backed up by four solid running backs to help the passing game, but if CMU needs to air it out, LeFevour will be more than capable. He needs time from his O-Line, but he has shown he can put up big numbers. He threw for a school record 3,031 yards in his freshman year. He also can run the ball. He is not fast, not graceful, but he still ran for 521 yards. The big question for LeFevour this year will be can he perform to the level he did last year when everyone knows who he is this season, and the spotlight is clearly on him?

perryn07:

Is WR Bryan Anderson expected to play this saturday?

Drew Ellis:

Anderson is expected to play and will line up as the No. 1 receiver on the outside, where last season he played a lot of slot receiver. Justin Gardner, the senior leader, is not expected to play and is listed as questionable with a leg injury.

Moderator:

Has Anderson said anything to the local media about being lined up against Aqib Talib, who is a preseason All-American in just about everyone's book?

Drew Ellis:

I know Anderson knows he is in for a big challange. Everyone on CMU is well aware of Talib and will know where he is at all times. LeFevour has not been known to shy away from a DB, but we will see how he attacks Talib. Anderson is a big boy at 6-5 and has bulked up a little bit to help his run blocking, which is something the CMU coaching staff really preaches. They way their WR to be able to be great blockers for the running game, so Anderson is prepared to be physical in the running and passing game if need be.

topekahawk:

How will the Chippewas handle long-snapping duties with their long-snapper injured?

Drew Ellis:

Well, that was the question all week. CMU was dealing with needing to find a long snapper and held open tryouts. In the end, it looks like they are going with Chris Starkey, a freshman tight end who comes in at 6-4, 246 lbs.

thabergman:

What does the average Central Michigan fan likely know about KU's team this year, and what do they expect the outcome of Saturday's game to be?

Drew Ellis:

I would say the average fan knows of the top players like Talib and McClinton, but I think a lot of them are just excited for CMU to be back on the field. I think a lot of them wanted a team like Kansas in the Motor City Bowl instead of MTSU. They wanted a BCS conference team to see how good CMU was at the end of the year. I think a lot of them expect CMU to be in the game late, but they also know that the team has some key injuries and is thin on the O-Line right now. For the diehard fans, I am sure they expect a win, but for the fans that sit and really break down the game, they see it as a great test for this team.

Moderator:

All right, we've got three more questions lined up...

pburgstu:

Which QB for Kansas would CMU of liked to see Todd Ressing or Kerry Meier

Drew Ellis:

I don't think there is one they would prefer. The CMU defense is very determined this season to be a top 25 defense. Some feel slighted by all of the attention the offense got for last season. I would think the idea of Reesing being a scrambler may excite the linebackers, because they like to hit and hit hard. They also have great speed. Either way, the defense knows they need to step up this season and help the offense through the transition of a new coaching staff. Meier or Reesing is going to be challanged Saturday.

rollemeaway:

can the Chips stop KU's running game? A Big12 team will likely run right over a MAC team with a smallish D Line.

Drew Ellis:

Well, you may think that, but it seems like Kansas has questions at the O-Line themselves and Cornish is gone too. Steven Friend is not going to be pushed around by anyone and the DE's have been able to go up against Joe Staley, a first round draft pick for the last few years. CMU may be small, but they are fast, and the linebacker support will play a factor. Red Keith and Ike Brown are two very explosive and very talented LB's. I think Kansas will need to run the ball to help Reesing, but it is not a given that they will be able to run it down CMU's throat.

gutter:

How do you feel about Sports Ill. ranking CMU at 103? No respect!

Drew Ellis:

I think that is laughable. Sports Illustrated is a great publication, but I think they mailed that one in. CMU has far too many tools to be 103 in the country. Some have put CMU in the top 50, some have them in the 100s. It is a guessing game, but I can confidently say they will not be 103 in the nation. I will say that SI has helped motivate these guys and driven them to proove SI wrong, so maybe CMU should be thanking SI in the same respect.

Moderator:

I'm gonna agree with you there. In no way should the reigning MAC champ - which is pretty much a BCS conference by now - be ranked that low when returning as much as they do...

Well, Drew, on behalf of our readers and myself, thank you so much for taking the time today to talk KU-CMU. Have yourself a safe trip to Lawrence. It should be a good one.

Drew Ellis:

Thanks Ryan, and thanks for your questions KU fans. Best of luck this season.

Moderator:

Yes, thank you to our readers, and we'll see you all soon for another KUSports.com live chat session.

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