With spring practice wrapped up and the Central Michigan football program headed into summer workouts, the Chippewas are looking forward to another strong defensive performance in 2021.
CMU will come into next fall with one of the deepest rotations at defensive line in the Mid-American Conference, and one of the best defensive lines the team has seen in quite some time. The Chippewas are coming off a pandemic-shortened season in 2020 in which they ranked third in the conference with 18 sacks behind only Buffalo (20) and Western Michigan (19). This year they will return every notable player who started or played significant time on the line last year.
The two big names coming back for one final campaign are seniors Robi Stuart and Troy Hairston. Both players are eligible to return after the NCAA ruled players would be granted an extra year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hairston, who led the MAC in sacks last season, was named the co-defensive player of the year. He will look to again be a force off the edge while Stuart will help clog the middle.
LaQuan Johnson will look to get back this season after suffering a season-ending injury in week one last winter. Johnson made a splash in 2018 as a freshman making 3 starts while seeing action in 4 games. Next to him will be true sophomore Jacques Bristol, who also made a splash as a freshman with a big road performance against Miami (FL.). Bristol and Johnson form a big time duo for the Chippewas. Both have experience while having multiple years of eligibility left, leaving fans hoping for continued success in the future. At 6’1″, 300 pounds Bristol is the perfect run-stopper in the middle while Johnson (6’3″, 260) is more a versatile player that can move around on the line.
Junior Amir Siddiq is another name to watch for this fall in the trenches. Siddiq is another edge specialist who appeared in all 6 games last season including one start. Fred Stokes is another player who saw some action on the field last year and could be a part of the rotation.
However, the real X-factor for the CMU defensive line in 2021 could come in the form of sophomore Tico Brown. The 6-foot, 2-inch 285-pound tackle started all six games last year and was named Third Team All-MAC by Pro Football Focus. In 2019 Brown played in all 14 games including making two tackles and forcing a fumble at Wisconsin. Brown brings that extra element of experience and big playmaking ability to the front line for the Chippewas.
If they can stay healthy, this group has a chance to be the most talented on the team, and should yield some strong results for the defensive unit as a whole. With another year of experience in the secondary that should help take some pressure off of the group up front. But don’t tell them that. Expect the Chippewas’ defensive line to be hunting quarterbacks all fall.