February 17, 2009

Offensive Coordinator Talks About New Commits

Once all of the letters of intent were faxed in, few people were happier that Central Michigan offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian. Chippewacountry was able to sit down with him and touch base on how the various offensive players will fit in along the offensive side of the ball.

The first position group Coach Bajakian touched on was the offensive line. While the offensive line has been a position of strength for the Chippewas over the last few years, depth has been an issue and this past season, CMU continually had to fill holes along the line. Signing five players for those positions should help alleviate some of those depth concerns.

"I think we definitely addressed some of our needs. Number one being getting some depth at the offensive line positions. Establishing a solid class this year along with numbers we got last year bodes well for the future of the position."

Additionally, Central Michigan fans have all seen what Antonio Brown can do in space. Coach Bajakian was very excited about the additional speedy playmakers that had been added to the Chippewa program. Coach Bajakian looks for at least one of them to serve as a complement to Brown on the opposite side slot.

"We also addressed the need for speed. You look at guys like Ronnie Kennedy and Malek Redd, you have to very fast slot receivers to go with Cody Wilson who is very quick in and out of his breaks and the list goes on."

Central Michigan also added two players who will be primarily runningbacks. Both players are seen as being able to come in and compete for carries right away. Tim Phillips played for four consecutive state championship teams and ran for 1,082 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior. Zurlon Tipton ranks in the top 20 in Michigan state history in eight categories including single-season rushing yards (1,607) and rushing touchdowns (25) and career rushing yards (5,115) and rushing touchdowns (76).

"Tim Phillips gives us some depth at the runningback position and Zurlon Tipton gives us some size at that spot too. Again, those guys are establishing some good depth and giving us some good ability to compete right away."

While Coach Bajakian was more than happy with all of the slot receivers and runningbacks, he was quick to point out the Chippewas also took care of business at the outside receiver position. In addition to Deja Alexander, who caught 14 touchdown passes as a senior, Mount Pleasant's Conor Odykirk and Clare's Jordan McConnell turned down several Division 2 offers to come play for the Chippewas. Odykirk plays a very similar style to Bryan Anderson and is also considered athletic enough to be a force on the defense if called upon.

"On the outside, Deja Alexander gives us some size and strength at that position. He also comes from a great program down in Florida and will hopefully come in and compete right away."

Another player who had gives Coach Bajakian a world of possibilities is Bobby James, a tight end from Hobart, Indiana. James was a four-starter for Indiana state powerhouse. As a senior, James had 44 receptions for 776 yards and 12 touchdowns. Defensively, he added 27 tackles, two interceptions and three defensive touchdowns. He is also averaging over 20 points per game for his basketball team and was athletic enough to play punt returner for his team. A variety of BCS schools tried to get involved with him towards to the end but James stuck firm to his commitment.

"Bobby James is an athletic pass catching tight end. He gives us the ability to stretch the field and flex him around to a bunch of different spots. He can be a real threat for us."

Finally, Coach Bajakian was more than happy to talk about the player who he would be coaching directly for the next four to five years, A.J. Westendorp. While Westendorp was not heavily recruited, he put up eye-popping numbers as a senior and brings a ton of great intangibles to the table. Coach Bajakian also felt he was a great fit for the CMU system because of his ability to both run and pass.

"At the quarterback position, A.J. Westendorp threw for over 3,600 yards and ran for over 1,200 yards. You look at his numbers, with 45 touchdown passes and 25 touchdown runs; he obviously fits our system very well. He's just a great kid. He's a 4.0 student. He's well rounded, has a strong faith and comes from a great family. He's a guy that we got on kind of late in the recruiting process but we are very glad we did. He brings a ton of talent and character to our program."

Stick with Chippewacountry as we continue to bring you all of the latest news on Central Michigan athletics.

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