QB Tony Poljan receiving first-team reps

Zach Libby, Chippewa Country Contributor
Chippewa Country

The name Tony Poljan was mentioned by both Central Michigan head coach John Bonamego and newly offensive coordinator Chris Ostrowsky on more than one occasion Thursday at the Indoor Athletic Complex.

It was the first time that football personnel were made available to the media during spring practice since CMU's annual Pro Day almost two weeks ago.

"You're always going to have growing pains early on when you're repping young players while making small adjustments to the system," Bonamego said. "It's good to get them out there, there's been a tremendous amount of energy and they have a lot of bounce in their step."

Poljan, who sat behind outgoing senior Cooper Rush at quarterback for all of last season, after committing to Central Michigan despite receiving offers from the likes of Michigan State and Nebraska, could get first crack among other candidates for the starting role.

Poljan originally committed to Minnesota in the summer before National Signing Day for the 2016 class. The Lansing Catholic alumnus was a three-star recruit by Rivals.com.

It's no secret that CMU has been fond of Poljan's potential at quarterback. The reason behind him turning down Power 5 offers was not wanting to change positions at the next level. The Spartans had plans of transforming him into a tight end.

According to Bonamego, the sophomore was with the first-team offense this week, while Tommy Lazzaro was taking snaps with the second-team. Michigan transfer Shane Morris was spotted at practice, but because he is due to graduate in May, he can't be on the field with the team.

Until Morris finishes his education requirements at Michigan and officially joins the Central Michigan roster, Bonamego is not allowed to discuss his addition at quarterback.

"I'm really pleased in their work ethic and their ability to just do the work and embrace the preparation," Ostrowsky said. "All of those guys are competing and doing really well."

Dan LeFevour, now with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, also made an appearance at Thursday's practice. The former Central Michigan standout left his role as quality control coach last month, but will help the team transition to the spread offense.

It's part of the philosophy brought by Ostrowsky since his arrival to Mount Pleasant, having left his head coaching stint of five years at Northern Michigan where he helped the Wildcats average more than 30.9 points a game. Ostrowsky began his coaching career at East Side High School in Newark, New Jersey in 1997.

Bonamego said there was more than one name in consideration for the position, after Gino Guidugli returned to his alma mater in Cincinnati to be its running backs coach. He expects to see his quarterbacks in the shotgun playing a high tempo style.

That's contrary to what was seen from Rush in his four years as a starter at CMU, where taking snaps under center was the norm.

"[Chris] has done a wonderful job," Bonamego said. "He's obviously very comfortable in his role. It also helps that we have Marcus Knight, who worked for Chris for the last five years, so he gives us another person in the offensive room that can better everyone else, including myself with the transition."

Deep Running Back Corp

Senior Devon Spalding admitted that it felt different to be one of the older players in the locker room. 2017 will be his final go-around at Central Michigan after three productive years, despite his sophomore campaign being cut short to injury.

The Westland, Michigan, native didn't have much to say after Thursday's spring practice concluded, but understood how large of a role he'll be taking on next season.

"I lead vocally and try to help the younger guys out as much as possible and direct the team in the way that I think is best," Spalding said. "I say what I need to say, but I also lead by example as well."

Spalding finished with 765 rushing yards in 2016 for a team-high, recording six touchdowns on 138 carries. In the Miami Beach Bowl against Tulsa, he tallied 26 yards.

The senior spent the last three years learning under now retired offensive coordinator Morris Watts, but with Ostrowsky beginning to implement his stature in practice, his personal relationship with the new play caller is getting stronger as the weeks progress.

"It’s just different," Spalding said about the new system. "There’s always going to be those wrinkly days where it takes some time to get used to it and learn our offense. I just want to win football games."

Bonamego said the running back spot is the deepest position for the Chippewas, especially with junior Romello Ross returning from ACL surgery.

Former NFL Kicker's New Position

It will be almost two months since Shayne Graham retired from the NFL after 15 years of climbing through the professional ranks. The 39-year-old had desires of pursuing special teams coaching jobs, and with the NFL being such a tight knit community, it didn't take long for him to land his first role.

When Central Michigan began an overhaul of coaching hires earlier this month, which included the introduction of Ostrowsky, along with former Indiana State running backs coach Jayden Everett for the same position, Graham was one of the five reported enlistees.

DeJon Gomes, a former safety with the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions, joined the team as a defensive backs graduate assistant coach, and Blake Serpa, who played at CMU for four years, is now a defensive line graduate assistant.

Graham fills the hole left by LeFevour as a quality control coach. He was not made available to the media.

Retiring as a Cincinnati Bengal, Graham holds the team record for most field goals in a season (31), most field goals in a game (7) and highest field goal percentage in a season (91.2). He was named to the first-team All-Pro list in 2005.

"We've always stayed in touch and heard that he was retiring and wanted to get into coaching," Bonamego said. "We talked about it for a while and he's a guy to have around. He's got a lot of experience as a players and learning his way around as a coach, but he'll bring a lot of perspective."

CMU’s spring game is scheduled for April 22.

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