ANN ARBOR -- Michigan opens its 2013 season at home against Central Michigan on Saturday, and despite being heavy favorites, Chippewas senior running back Zurlon Tipton has the Wolverine defense on full alert.
And he should.
Tipton had a breakout season a year ago, rushing for 1,497 yards and 19 touchdowns. At 6-foot-1, 219-pounds, it was his first year he stayed healthy throughout and ended the season with seven 100-yard rushing performances and he tended not to shy away from contact.
“A great cutback runner. He is very physical back,” said Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. “He earns a reputation when you watch him, he’s running on the sideline and a lot of guys would step out of bounds, he turns back in to try to hit somebody.”
While the Wolverine defense is young and talented, they are certainly up for the challenge of facing a physical runner like Tipton.
“I consider myself a physical player already,” said junior defensive end Frank Clark. “It really doesn’t bother me knowing he’s a physical running back. It just makes me want to embrace the challenge a little bit more.”
But there is still no denying what Tipton brings to table offensively.
“I believe he is a great player. He runs low. He gets those extra yards. He doesn’t run out of bounds,” Clark said.
Mattison continued his praise of Tipton, saying he’s one the better running backs in the country.
“I’m talking about a very good running back -- in the country,” Mattison said. “Compared to other good running backs, not a good running back compared to the Big Ten. He’s a very good running back.”
If Michigan is going to stop Tipton, they will need its young defense to step up to the physical style of play that CMU presents.
“Well, it’s going to give you a really big test because of the youth,” Mattison said. “First games there is always times in those games where that game can go either way. It is always the way it is forever. And when you have a young team, you know there is going to be times where this young defense will have to step up.”
And for Michigan’s defense to do that – they’ll have to stop Tipton.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Hoke on CMU
Central Michigan coach Dan Enos finished last season with his first winning record (7-6) in his three years in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. He led his team to four straight wins, capping it off with a win over Western Kentucky in the 2012 Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit.
However, he lost No. 1 draft pick and starting left tackle Eric Fisher to the Kansas City Chiefs. A huge loss, no doubt. But still returns a team that Michigan coach Brady Hoke thinks can give them fits.
“They won three to put themselves into a bowl game. Won the bowl game. I think that’s significant in how they have developed,” Hoke said. “And how Dan has developed his football team. They have a veteran group of coaches and some spots have been around and do a nice job. Will have our work cut out for us.
“We got to play our best football game.”
While Fisher is in the NFL, Mattision says his replacement in senior Jake Olson, who stands at 6-foot-8, 305-pounds, can be just as good.
“They’ve got an offensive tackle by the name of Olson that didn’t play at all last year, that a lot of people said he was in the same boat as the young man (Eric) Fisher who got No. 1 pick,” Mattison said. “And they’re a very well coached offense. Very well coached offensive line.”
-Michigan is 20-1 all-time vs. the MAC conference and 3-0 vs. CMU.
-The most recent game between the two squads came in 2006,when U-M notched a 41-17 victory over CMU.
-Michigan is 109-21-3 all-time in 133 season openers.
-The Wolverines have a 110-18-2 record all-time in home openers(did not have a home game in 1879-81), including a 17-3 record at the “Big House” in the last 20 games.
-The last time U-M opened against a MAC foe was in 2011,when Michigan defeated Western Michigan, 34-10, on Sept. 3,at Michigan Stadium.
-WR Jeremy Gallon has posted a reception in 26-straight games.
- QB Devin Gardner has recorded at least two touchdowns in five consecutive games.
- K Brendan Gibbons has made 13 consecutive field goals dating back to the Purdue game on Oct. 6, 2012. Gibbons’ streak ranks second in U-M history behind Remy Hamilton, who converted
14-straight field goals in 1996.
- Gibbons has also converted 97-straight PATs, which ranks second in program history behind J.D. Carlson (126, 1988-91).
-Michigan is 14-0 at Michigan Stadium under head coach Brady Hoke
- U-M has won 17 consecutive games at Michigan Stadium in
the month of September.
All Game Notes are courtesy of the University of Michigan athletic department.