The linebacker position has been an area of strength for Central Michigan during Kyle Nystrom's first four seasons on the coaching staff.
For the past two seasons, Shamari Benton and Justin Cherocci have been one of the top pair of linebackers in the Mid-American Conference.
The duo were both named to the All-MAC third team in 2013 as Cherocci led the conference in total tackles with 120 while Benton was sixth with 111. In tackles per game, Cherocci ranked 16th nationally (10.0) while Benton was 32nd (9.3).
In 2012, Cherocci led CMU and ranked fifth in the MAC and 19th nationally with 132 total tackles. He was also the nation's leader in assisted tackles with 89. He recorded double digit stops in seven games and was the Chippewas' leading tackler in six, earning CMU Co-Defensive Player of the Year recognition.
Benton ranked second on the team, No. 7 in the MAC, and 24th nationally with 126 total tackles and topped CMU in solo stops (54) and fumble recoveries. He tallied five double-digit tackle games and led the CMU defense in tackles in seven games. Benton received Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Lineman of the Game honors after leading CMU with nine tackles in the 24-21 win over Western Kentucky.
Seven different linebackers started at least one game for the Chippewas in 2011, with four individuals recording at least 50 tackles: Armond Staten (67), Mike Petrucci (62), Shamari Benton (58) and Cody Lopez (58). Lopez started five games and played in 10 contests as a true freshman in 2011.
Petrucci was honored twice by his teammates during his senior season. He was elected as one of four co-captains prior to the start of the 2011 season, then was named the recipient of the Kurt Dobronski Award by his teammates following the season.
Nystrom mentored a pair of All-Mid-American Conference first team linebackers in his first season at CMU.
Matt Berning and Nick Bellore both were all-conference first team selections after finishing with 102 and 90 tackles, respectively. Berning led the Chippewas in total tackles, tackles for loss (13) and sacks (four). Bellore, meanwhile, was named to the All-MAC first team for the third straight season and finished third on CMU's career tackles list (472). Bellore currently is a key special teams player and backup linebacker for the NFL's New York Jets.
Nystrom has more than 20 years of experience coaching on the defensive side of the ball. He was the defensive coordinator at Fort Hays State in 2009 after spending the 2006-08 seasons as the assistant head coach at North Dakota State.
Nystrom coached the linebackers during his time at North Dakota State, including 2007 All-American and 2008 NFL Draft pick Joe Mays. During his first two seasons at NDSU, the Bison posted an overall record of 20-2 and allowed an average of just 96.9 rushing yards per game.
Nystrom was the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at DePauw in 2005 after coaching linebackers at TCU from 2002-04. In his first season with the Horned Frogs, Nystrom coached All-America linebacker LaMarcus McDonald.
Prior to TCU, Nystrom spent 13 seasons (1989-2001) at Western Michigan. He was the special teams coordinator and inside linebackers coach in his final six seasons at Western Michigan, helping lead the Broncos to the Mid-American Conference Championship Game in 1999 and 2000.
Nystrom's coaching career began as a student assistant at Michigan State under head coach George Perles in 1983. He spent the 1988 season as a graduate assistant at Northern Michigan before moving on to Western Michigan. Nystrom is a 1988 graduate of Michigan State with a bachelor's degree in political science/criminal justice.
Nystrom and his wife, Cherise, are parents of a son, Logan, and two daughters, Tellena and Eva.
|The Nystrom File|
|1988||Northern Michigan University||Graduate Assistant/Wide Receivers|
|1989||Western Michigan University||Graduate Assistant/Defense|
|1990||Western Michigan University||Outside Linebackers/Punters|
|1991-1995||Western Michigan University||Outside Linebackers|
|1996-2001||Western Michigan University||Special Teams Coordinator/Inside Linebackers|
|2002-2004||Texas Christian University||Linebackers|
|2005||Depauw University||Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/Secondary|
|2006-2008||North Dakota State University||Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Running Game Coordinator/Linebackers|
|2009||Fort Hays State University||Defensive Coordinator/Secondary|
|2010-Present||Central Michigan University||Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator/Linebackers|