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You can read the entire Eastern Michigan preview in Athlon Sports' 2013 National magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
#120 Eastern Michigan
MAC West PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Ron English, 10-38 (4 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Stan Parrish | DEF. COORDINATOR: Phil Snow
Bronson Hill headlines a talented backfield that could present a dangerous combination of speed and power. Hill, who rushed for 905 yards (on a 6.5-yard average) and six touchdowns as a sophomore, has the ability to break tackles and pick up big yards after contact. Sophomore Darius Jackson had only 12 yards on three carries last year but will factor into the mix, as will junior Ryan Brumfield, who gives the Eagles that elusive back with the capability of breaking off long runs. Senior Javonti Greene has demonstrated the ability to make things happen off the edge.
Tyler Benz unseated veteran starting quarterback Alex Gillett early last season and went on to throw 14 touchdowns against eight interceptions. “He looks like a quarterback now,” coach Ron English says. Benz has a better grasp of how to succeed at the position with nine starts under his belt.
New offensive coordinator Stan Parrish, a former head coach at Kansas State and Ball State, will add some new wrinkles to an offense that will be looking for some weapons to emerge in the passing game. Donald Scott, a senior, is the leading returning receiver with 19 catches for 255 yards. Tight end Tyreese Russell averaged 15.3 yards on his 12 catches.
The offensive line, which lost three starters, also is a concern.
The Eagles must replace the bulk of their defensive playmakers, including three of their four leading tacklers. Making stops will be imperative for a defense that was one of the nation’s worst, allowing 479.8 yards per game last year. Eastern Michigan was especially bad against the run, ranking last in the nation by allowing 267.0 yards per game. English, the head coach, also serves as the defensive coordinator.
Free safety Donald Coleman, the team’s leading returning tackler, helps anchor a secondary that brings back a lot of experience. Safety Mycal Swaim, who started five games in his first year after transferring from junior college, is poised for a big senior season. The staff has high hopes for cornerback Willie Creear, a junior college transfer.
The real uncertainty lies at linebacker, where the Eagles lost all three starters. Sophomore Hunter Matt shows some promise at middle linebacker, and fellow sophomore Ike Spearman has the potential to be a playmaker on the weak side.
Kalonji Kashama and Omar McFarlane bookend a defensive line that has a decent amount of experience. Junior college transfer Cy Maughmer had a solid first season on the interior and is a returning starter. Redshirt freshman Pat O’Connor will factor into the rotation at end.
Placekicker Dylan Mulder connected on 10-of-11 field goal attempts last season. The Eagles must find a new punter to replace Jay Karutz, who averaged 42.7 yards in 2012. Junior Owen Dubiel is next in line, but he has yet to punt the ball in his three years in the program.
After going 6–6 overall and 4–4 in the MAC in 2011, Eastern Michigan appeared to be on the verge of a breakthrough last fall. Didn’t happen. The Eagles slumped to 2–10 in 2012 and won only one game in the league.
With some chemistry issues that hurt last year’s team apparently solved, there is plenty of desire to right the ship in 2013. Desire is one thing. Talent is another. There are some bright spots — the running game should be strong and the secondary has a chance to be solid — but there are too many hurdles for this team to climb. The Eagles will have a tough time finishing out of the basement in the always tough MAC West.