CMU Secondary Improved

MOUNT PLEASANT - If Brian Kelly had to pick a unit that would be considered the most improved this fall, it just might be the secondary.

"This group has made significant progress through the first two weeks of camp, especially at cornerback," said Central Michigan University's first-year head coach. "It's crucial for us to be solid at cornerback because we like to play man-to-man in our defensive scheme."

A pair of veterans have established themselves as the starters at the corners in senior Richard Kiel and junior Marlin Maxwell. Kiel, who started the final seven games of 2003, and Maxwell, who started 11-of-12 games, tied for the team lead in interceptions with two.

"They're stronger and so much better technically," Kelly explained. "We're counting on them to continue making progress and be key components of an improved defense."

Junior Rashon Brooks, a transfer from Long Beach CC, and junior Lance Gailliard, a converted tailback, are two backups at cornerback who are pushing for playing time.

The Chippewas are not as veteran at safety where a pair of sophomores are ticketed for starting roles -- converted tailback Isaac Brown and Tyrone Kelly.

"Both have continued to make progress and I like where they're at," Kelly said.

Senior Mike Thomas, a starter in 10 games a year ago, has provided great leadership in the secondary and will see plenty of action as will junior Pacino Horne, a transfer from Grand Rapids CC, and redshirt freshman Curtis Cutts who has worked his way into the mix with a good fall.

"The thing I like about this group is its athleticism," Kelly said. "If the safeties continue to tackle like they have been, I feel good about this position."

The Chippewas are slated to open the 2004 campaign with a pair of road games at Indiana (Sept. 4) and Michigan State (Sept. 11). The first home game is set for Sept. 18 against Southeast Missouri.

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