August 23, 2009

CMU linebacker Nick Bellore discusses upcoming season

The Central Michigan defense is expecting big improvements this year as they battled inconsistency and injuries in the 2008 season. One reason to think the defense will be improved lies with the returning starters, including All-MAC middle linebacker Nick Bellore. The 6-foot-1 and 243 pound junior has started since he stepped foot on campus and his experience has allowed him to become an important leader.

"Every year my role has kind of progressively grow. I had guys in front of me when I was a freshman and last year was my year to step in and start building my leadership skills," said Bellore. "I'm just going to continue to become a better leader".

Becoming a better leader is just one of many things Bellore has improved since his days as a freshman.

"Every year you learn new things about the game that help you along the way. You know, how to prepare and what teams do. Along the way you just gather more information and I think I've just added more knowledge to my game and that translates to the field".

Bellore came to CMU via Whitefish Bay (WI) and the transition to Michigan has been eased by the similarities between the two states. That's not to say there aren't any differences.

"I'd say people are probably more (Green Bay) Packer crazed in Wisconsin than people are (Detroit) Lion crazed in Michigan," said a laughing Bellore. "I'm not hating on the Lions at all, I'm not even a big cheesehead myself. Really, there's not too big of a difference between the two states, at least not as much has some people think".

Joining Bellore in the linebacker core are plenty of players who also have starting experience, including Matt Berning and Tim Brazzel. The linebacker position will also see an infusion of depth in the form of a four deep recruiting class that saw Shamari Benton, Adam Fenton, Kyle Zelinsky and Alex Smith added as further depth and playmakers. All in all, linebacker looks to be a strength this season.

"I've been really impressed with the linebackers so far," Bellore said. "We still have to work at our SAM position, and we have a lot of competition there. Matt Berning and Mike Petrucci have done a good job at MIKE linebacker and the freshman have done a great job, I think they have real promising futures".

As the leading tackler in the MAC, Bellore has had plenty of experience laying the lumber to opponents. Unfortunately for CMU, the offense also has the practice against him. That said, the Chippewas offense has plenty of talent and Bellore was asked what Chippewa is the hardest to bring down.

"I'm probably going to have to say Tim Phillips. He's got a lot of shake, he's tough to tackle man. But we have a lot of guys like that though, you could really pick any of them. With Tim though, he just catches you off guard and he's new, so we're not used to tackling him yet".

Sticking with the offensive theme, some other offensive newcomers have stood out to Bellore besides the aforementioned Tim Phillips.

"Eric Fisher, he's a big dude. You just don't see guys that big and you know they can get a lot bigger to, so that's impressive. All of our running backs, Malek Redd is extremely fast, Zurlon Tipton is a real physical and fast guy. They make it challenging for us on a daily basis trying to tackle those guys".

As many Chippewa fans know by now, CMU opens up the 2009 season at Arizona on September 5th. Bellore and the defense know they are going to have their hands full with a talented Wildcat squad.

"There a great team and we're just starting to get into the whole fine tuning and preparation for Arizona. I know they have a great tight end in Rob Gronkowski[db] and they have a lot of great running backs and good skilled players. I'm sure they'll bring a big physical offensive line as well".

For now, Arizona is the sole focus, but Bellore also has some other goals he looks to achieve in 2009.

"I just want to play really good defense, and obviously a MAC Championship and going to a bowl game is always a goal for us. Winning all of our games at Kelly/Shorts has always been a team goal and something I personally strive for".

The Chippewa defense looks to be in good hands with Bellore at the helm. Aiding Bellore will be a mix of returning veterans and talented incoming freshman. The defense is looking to be known as a physical defense that fly's around the ball and makes big hits. Which brings us to the question, who is the hardest hitter on the Chippewas defense?

"I'd have to go with myself on that one," said a smiling Bellore. "[db]Frank Zombo can hit, Berning is another guy who hits hard, but I have to go with myself on that one".

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