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Archive for Saturday, September 1, 2007

Senior linebackers key for Chippewas

September 1, 2007

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Yeah, yeah. The talk of Central Michigan's football team usually revolves around its beyond-his-years quarterback, Dan LeFevour.

It's justified. LeFevour emerged from a red shirt to pick apart defenses last year, passing for 3,031 yards and 26 touchdowns for the Mid-America Conference champions.

Shootouts aren't a desired weekly ritual for the Chippewas, though, so CMU is turning to two heralded senior linebackers to rally the troops and make some stops.

"Obviously," CMU coach Butch Jones said, "the leaders of our football team are Red Keith and Ike Brown."

There you have it. While LeFevour, running back Ontario Sneed and receiver Bryan Anderson are moving chains on the offense, Keith and Brown are busy leading the team to victories on defense.

For Keith, it has been three years of nonstop Saturdays making tackles from middle linebacker - 326 in his career, more than any other active player in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly NCAA Division I-A).

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For Brown, it's a little more complicated.

Recruited as a running back, moved to free safety after one year and then to linebacker after one more, Brown was set for a big senior season LAST year.

But after an 11-tackle game to open the season against Boston College, Brown wrecked his knee returning a kickoff against Michigan in the second week. He received a medical hardship that allowed him to play one more year, starting with today's 6 p.m. game against Kansas University.

Besides their decorated pasts - Brown had back-to-back 73-tackle seasons, the first as a free safety - what might make the duo even more valuable is the fact that they're ripe. Both are 22, a rarity on Central Michigan's youth-laced depth chart.

"I chuckle when you say senior leadership," Jones said, "because on offense we start two seniors and on defense we start four."

Not unlike the Jayhawks, who have four on offense and one on defense.

The point is, fifth-year seniors like Keith and Brown are at a premium in today's game, which coupled with their past effectiveness makes them big factors in today's big season opener.

Brown, a 5-foot-11, 203-pounder, will start at weakside linebacker. Keith, 5-11 and 242, will be right next to him manning the middle.

"They bring a lot of things to our football team," Jones said. "They're great role models for our younger players. I'm excited that we have them ready to go."

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