Tyler Conklin getting acclimated in new offense

Zach Libby, Chippewa Country Contributor
Chippewa Country

From the eyes of Central Michigan coach John Bonamego, senior Tyler Conklin can do everything well that he's been asked of as a tight end, which makes him a valuable asset in the new offensive look for the 2017 season.

With first-year offensive coordinator Chris Ostrowsky implementing the spread, a distinct look from years past when Morris Watts held the reigns from 2014-16, Conklin and the rest of the tight end corp can be utilized as glorified wide receivers.

CMU isn't afraid to throw the ball, as outgoing senior Cooper Rush threw for over 3,000 yards his last three seasons, but with the quarterbacks now distancing themselves from under center to the shotgun, more empathize will be put on the passing game.

"I think Tyler loves it, I think all of those guys love it," Bonamego said when asked if the tight ends are accustomed to the offseason transition.

If the concern of finding a trustworthy replacement for Rush next season becomes a reality, the Chippewasc can fall back on their strength and depth at running back. Along with senior Devon Spalding, senior Minnesota transfer Berkley Edwards and a healthy redshirt sophomore Romello Ross enter the fold.

Ross, who scored four touchdowns in the final regular season game in 2015, missed all of last seaosn with a torn ACL.

"It’s probably one of the deepest positions on our team," Bonamego said last Thursday. "We talk about getting the ball into the hands of our playmakers and that includes the running back group."

Conklin, coming off his Offensive Newcomer of the Year campaign, made 11 starts and finished third on the team in receptions (42) and receiving yards (560) in 2016. His six touchdown catches were the second most behind receiver Corey Willis.

"You can split [Conklin] out wide to try to create mismatches," Bonamego said Tuesday at the Indoor Athletic Complex. "He's an excellent route runner and does a great job catching the football and make plays. He'll continue to be a weapon for us."

Conklin, the former Northwood University basketball player, was among the list of top 16 tight ends in the country, according to Bleacher Report this past January. He's expected to be a favorable target for whoever wins the starting job at quarterback.

Tony Poljan has taken reps with the first-team in practice this spring, with Tommy Lazzaro responsible for the backup duties. Shane Morris, the transfer from Michigan, won't report to the team until he graduates in May.

"Right now, I'd say Tony has really separated himself," Bonamego said. "So the battle really now is going to be who will take the reps at the two's."

Former CMU QB Returns

Dan LeFevour has seen his professional football career take him across the United States-Canadian border on three separate occasions.

He last stint in the NFL was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2016 offseason, before starting three games for the Toronto Argonauts and later signing with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in February.

But before the former Central Michigan standout reports to camp, he's embraced the life as a part-time and low paid quality-control coach.

LeFevour, a sixth round selectee in the 2010 NFL Draft, was present at the two practices that football personnel were made available to the media. His role is to help out the team during its switch to the spread, a formation that CMU hasn't utilized since 2009.

That's the year LeFevour led the Chippewas to a 23rd ranking in the final Associated Press poll under former coach Butch Jones, finishing undefeated in the Mid-American Conference and 11-2 overall.

"We knew from the onset that it was going to be just a temporary assignment," Bonamego said on LeFevour's role. "Knowing also that we're going to shift to a different style of offense, Dan has seen a lot of things as a player, so to have him in the room just to contribute to discussions, I think that's always valuable."

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