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Notre Dame Football

Scouting Report | Central Michigan

September 13, 2023

Back in 2009, Central Michigan was at its peak as a football program.

Brian Kelly had built them into a conference champion with a 10 win season in 2006. Butch Jones then took over and took them to another MAC championship in 2009 and they won 12 games. Their only losses that season were to Power 5 programs, Arizona and Boston College. They ended up ranked 47th in F+ (combined FEI and SP+ rankings).

That was a different time in college football. UCONN was a winning program in the Big East. Utah was a winning program in the Mountain West. That was two conferences ago for Cincinnati. The Pac-12 didn’t exist yet. It was still the Pac-10.

Times have changed and Central Michigan isn’t close to the top of the MAC anymore. They looked like they were on their way back there with Jim McElwain, the former head coach at Florida and offensive coordinator Alabama, but they’ve fallen off in the last couple of seasons.

McElwain has been at Central Michigan since 2019 and his first team went 8-6. They were 9-4 in 2021 and had a lot of talent coming back for 2002, but they fell back to 4-8. They could end up with a similar record this season.

It’s been a mixed bag for CMU when they have played Power 5 programs under McElwain.

They got destroyed 61-0 against Wisconsin in 2019, but barely lost to Miami 17-12 that same season. They played Missouri tight and lost 34-24 in 2021 and also lost by four touchdowns to LSU. They were in a 58-44 shootout with Oklahoma State to start the 2022 season and were within 19 of Penn State.

Though they lost to Michigan State in this season’s opener, they were hanging with the Spartans in the first half before ultimately losing 31-7. It was 10-7 at half and they got stopped on 4th and goal.

They are coming off a shootout win against FCS New Hampshire. The programs were evenly matched with CMU needing a last second field goal to win.

They are 109th in F+. They are 11th in 247Sports’ team talent rankings in the MAC conference and that’s a pretty good indication of what kind of roster they have. Notre Dame is clearly a much more talented team than them and though they’ve learned to not take any opponent lightly, there is no reason why this game should end up being close for very long.


Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino is in his second season and he’s been at many stops over the years. He’s leaned into the personnel they have with plenty of play-action (40% on the season), RPOs, and the quarterback run game.

They went from only one deep pass attempt against Michigan State to 10 against New Hampshire. Notre Dame has to prepare for them to take plenty of shots down the field.

They are 121st in OF+ and 110th in returning production on offense. There’s a lot of new faces trying to establish themselves.

Expected Strengths

The quarterback run game is a legitimate threat. Both of the top two quarterbacks have had 100-yard rushing games in their career and starter Bert Emanuel Jr. is a tricky player to tackle.

He had an 87-yard run last season.

7 of their 12 10+ yard rushing attempts this season have come from quarterbacks.

Potential Weaknesses

The passing game was better against New Hampshire, but it was brutal against Michigan State. They averaged 3.3 yards per play against Michigan State with 96 yards passing 3.8 yards per attempt. They only had 19-yards after the catch in the game on six receptions.

They are going to be woefully overmatched up front. The guards gave up eight pressures vs MSU and they allowed pressure on 54.3% of drop backs. It might be a race to the QB off the edge too.

The offensive tackles are bad. They’ve given up eight sacks and have allowed 18 tackles for loss as well.

In their two games, the opposition has had a 21% Havoc rate.

Personnel notes

QB Bert Emanuel Jr.

- 6-3 220

- 5.1 YPA vs Sparty despite 64.7% completions

- Dual-threat, much more advanced as a runner

- Rushed for 293 vs Buffalo, seven rushing touchdowns in 2022

- 4.2 YPC on designed runs vs Sparty, forced 4 missed tackles

- low release point with throwing motion, tipped passed led to an INT vs MSU

- Improvise outside of the framework out of the play and creates a lot that way

- 66-yard run on called QB draw vs New Hampshire

QB Jase Bauer

- 6-3 220

- Played in six games, started one in ‘22

- Dual-threat with two 100-yard rushing games against BGSU and NIU, 2 for 27 vs MSU

- 2 of 8 1.1 YPA as a passer vs Sparty

- Good day vs BGSU as a passer last season (115th in DF+), horrible vs everyone else

RB Marion Lukes

- 5-9 200

- 6.3 YPC in ‘22

- Went for 160 vs Akron

- Half of his missed tackles forced happened in that game

- 0 MTFs vs MSU

- Kick return touchdown vs New Hampshire

RB Myles Bailey

- 5-10 225

- RB1

- 5.5 YPC in ‘22

- No running room vs MSU, but ran hard. 4.6 yards after contact

- Forced 11 missed tackles against New Hampshire, 21 for 108

RB BJ Harris

- 5-9 205

- Missouri transfer

- Had seven SEC offers out of high school

- Fumbled vs New Hampshire

WR Chris Parker

- 6-3 195

- Only 4 for 33 in ‘22

- Had their lone TD vs MSU

- 3 for 124 vs New Hampshire, three of his four targets were deep

WR Tyson Davis

- 5-10 180

- Missed over half of last season with an injury, 3 for 54 in 5 games

- Slot receiver, six career catches

- four deep targets vs New Hampshire

WR Jalen McGaugy

- 6-4 225

- Ball State transfer

- 15.7 per reception in ‘22

- 6 for 126 against Okie St, 14 catches and 45.1% catch rate the rest of the season

- Hurt by change at QB last year, hasn’t done much this season

WR Stephan Bracy

- 5-10 190

- Transfer from Wisconsin, mostly a kick returner there

- Led the team in targets vs Sparty, only 1 catch for 5 yards

- Two catches on the season, but they have targeted him deep

- 91-yard kick return for TD vs Nebraska

TE Mitchell Collier

- 6-3 240

- Starter with three catches against MSU

- First significant action, was solid in the run game

TE Decorion Temple

- 6-5 240

- One career catch, 22 snaps vs MSU was a career high

RT Brayden Swartout

- 6-7 300

- Returning starter

- committed 9 penalties last season

- gave up a sack vs MSU, gave up seven in true pass sets last season

- a match up Notre Dame should dominate

LT Davis Heinzen

- 6-5 300

- Returning starter

- 26 pressures allowed in true pass sets in ‘22

- Allowed 16 pressures vs BGSU, 11 vs Penn State

RG Deiyantei Powell-Woods

- 6-5 300

- Preseason All-MAC

- Missed both games this season

- 28 career starts

- Was a turnstile in pass pro in 2021, but improved

C Dominic Serapiglia III

- 6-1 325

- Transfer from SE Louisiana, was a starter there

- Handled himself well vs MSU

LG Cade Klimczak

- 6-1 285

- Gave up four pressures vs MSU, played three different positions

- First time starter at guard

RG Keegan Smith

- 6-3 295

- Started games at RG in 2021

- Started in place of Powell-Woods vs MSU

- Could switch to the left side

RG Martin Kovisito

- 6-7 310

- First action of his career vs MSU, 25 snaps

- Overwhelmed in pass protection, 15.9 PFF grade

Key for Notre Dame

Dominate like they should up front

There is no reason why the Irish defensive line rotation shouldn’t win the battle up front decisively. If that happens, CMU is going to struggle to do anything on offense and will have to rely on Emanuel playing the role of Superman to produce anything.


Robb Akey has been the defensive coordinator at CMU since 2019 when he arrived with McElwain. They play a 4-3 base and have played quite a bit of man coverage outside.

In the seven games they have played Power 5 competition under Akey, they’ve given up 6.3 YPP.

They are 93rd in DF+ despite being 8th in returning production and are 128th in YPP through their first two games. I don’t like their odds of holding Notre Dame to anything close to a low number in YPP or points.

Expected Strengths

They did have seven tackles for loss against Michigan State and have finished with over 100 TFLs in each of Akey’s three full seasons (they only played a six game MAC schedule in 2020).

They’ve had Havoc rates of 19.1%, 19.8%, and 19.9% in those seasons. They have been super aggressive and the results have been pretty good for them when it comes to creating negative plays. They very well could put Notre Dame behind the sticks a few times and force them to execute in unfavorable down and distance situations.

They’ve consistently been good with their 3rd down package as well. They finished in the top-25 in 3rd down defense three of the last four seasons. It hasn’t been great for them so far this fall, but it is something to monitor.

Potential Weaknesses

They lost their best pass rusher from last season and struggled to get pressure on MSU with only a 27.3% pressure rate.

They also gave up seven explosives vs MSU, with five plays of 30+ yards. They’ve allowed 16 explosives in two games and 13 of them have come in the passing game.

The corners have been beaten with double moves and the linebackers got absolutely cooked trying to cover New Hampshire RB Dylan Laube who had an incredible 12 catches for 295 yards. To be fair, he might be Danny Woodhead Jr. and is a really talented player who is better than the level he plays at.

CMU has had traditionally bad red zone defense under Akey. In seven red zone possessions they’ve given up a touchdown every time.

Personnel notes

DT Robi Stuart

- 6-3 300

- 7.5 havoc plays in ‘22

- Can be disruptive, one of the better DTs in the MAC

DT Jacques Bristol

- 6-1 295

- 2 TFLs vs MSU, 2 pressures, 7 tackles

- Good interior pass rusher with 21.7% win rate vs true pass sets in ‘22

- 4.5 havoc plays in ‘22

- Short, but quick lateral movement

- Six pressures against New Hampshire, their best DL

- Top graded FBS DT for PFF to start the season

DT Jason Williams

- 6-2 305

- Solid vs the run

Edge Michael Heldman

- 6-4 260

- 4 pressures vs MSU

- 17.1% vs true pass sets in ‘22

- Rotation player who flashed vs Power 5 opponents, 6 pressures

- 7.5 TFLs and a forced fumble last season

Edge Maurice White

- 6-5 275

- 4 games last season, 45 snaps in the opener

- Transfer from Memphis, 4.5 TFLs in 2021

- Previously at a JUCO

LB Kyle Moretti

- 6-2 245

- Led CMU in tackles in ‘22, 10 Havoc plays

- Gave up 3 receptions in coverage vs RBs for 40 yards vs Sparty

- Added 15 pounds since last season

- Not a great space player

- 19 tackles vs New Hampshire

LB Justin Whiteside

- 6-0 220

- 8 havoc plays in ‘22

- Effective blitzer who adds to the pass rush

- Missed two or more tackles in four games last season

- Exposed in coverage against New Hampshire

LB Fernando Sanchez

- Blocked a punt last season

LB Dakota Cochran

- 6-2 225

- Blocked two punts last season

- 6.5 havoc plays in ‘22 on only 162 snaps

S Trey Jones

- 6-2 215

- 6.5 TFLs in ‘22

- Very active near the line of scrimmage, missed 19 tackles last season

S Caleb Spann

- 6-0 195

- 7 havoc plays in ‘22

- More of a box safety

S Jayden Davis

- 6-0 205

- Was bad against Penn State and Oklahoma State last season

- Played 477 snaps last season, 0 vs MSU S/nickel

De’Javion Stepney

- 6-0 182

- Played a bit on offense as well in ‘22

- 9 starts last season, 9 havoc plays including 8 PBUs

CB Donte Kent

- 5-11 190

- Preseason All-MAC

- 15 PBUs and blocked kick in ‘22

- Gave up three explosive plays vs Sparty, including a 72-yarder

- Blocked a field goal last season

- Only gave up four TDs last season. Gave up 3 vs MSU

- 20 tackles vs New Hampshire

CB Jarvarius Sims

- 6-0 190

- Only 3 snaps vs MSU, 243 last season

- 1.5 havoc plays during his freshman season

CB Lavario Wiley

- 6-1 185

- 129 snaps last season

- Led the team in snaps vs MSU

- Gave up two receptions for 20+ yards on 7 targets

- Beat on double move for big play on one of those

Key for Notre Dame

Make them prove they can cover Notre Dame’s running backs

They were hopeless trying to cover Laube and this just in that Notre Dame has some backs who can make plays in space. JD Price and Gi’Bran Payne had big plays on check downs against Tennessee State and all of the backs might be able to eat in the passing game against these linebackers and safeties.

Special Teams

P Jake Walrath had nine punts and averaged 41.8 per punt last season. He transferred from Tarleton State and only averaged 40.9 while he was there. He’s averaged 42.5 per punt this season.

K Tristan Matson was a kickoff specialist at Arkansas State, but had under 50% touchbacks. His only career field goal attempt was his 47-yard game winner against New Hampshire and he’s had six of his nine kickoffs as touchbacks this season.

Lukes took a kick back to the house against New Hampshire so that has to be on the radar of Marty Biagi. Bracey is the punt returner. I mentioned above that he returned a kick for a touchdown at Wisconsin.

They had seven blocked kicks last season. It’s amazing that they blocked that many kicks and were a four win team. It’s been zero blocked kicks this season so far, but players who blocked kicks last season are still on the roster. Men's Colosseum Gray Notre Dame Fighting Irish Silberman Color Block Full-Zip Jacket

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