Eastern Michigan Eagles 2016 Preview and Prediction
COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2016 PRESEASON TOP 25
#124 Eastern Michigan Eagles
MAC West PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Chris Creighton, 3-21 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Kalen DeBoer | DEF. COORDINATOR: Neal Neathery
After winning just one game last season, there's only one direction for Eastern Michigan to go. The good news for Chris Creighton's team is that the schedule at least offers several opportunities to claim more than one victory. The bad news is to do that one of the nation's worst defenses in 2015 must get better (and quickly) for that to happen.
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Previewing Eastern Michigan’s Offense for 2016
As poor as Eastern Michigan’s season went in winning only one game in 2015, much of the blame can be pointed at the other side of the ball. The Eagles certainly had their deficiencies offensively, which included turning the ball over a total of 25 times, third-worst in the MAC. But overall, they sported a middle-of-the-pack offense that compiled some impressive performances while also often being tasked with trying to rally from deficits.
A big asset for EMU is that the offensive line should be on the same page from the outset, as five returning starters, all seniors, return to man their spots. They helped the Eagles to 380 yards and 25.4 points per game last year, not eye-popping totals but also numbers that should have been good enough for more than one victory.
Additionally, back in the fold is junior quarterback Brogan Roback, who arrived at EMU in 2013 as the highest-rated recruit in program history. He had a solid sophomore campaign, throwing for 2,304 yards and 16 TDs against 11 INTs. Roback’s upside suggests he has 3,000-yard potential.
Shaq Vann showed flashes of being a productive running back last season and will step into the starting role. The biggest key for the Eagles offensively will be the production they receive from a wide receiver corps that is chock-full of underclassmen.
Previewing Eastern Michigan’s Defense for 2016
The Eagles were nothing short of a disaster defensively a season ago, surrendering an average of 42.1 points and getting torched on the ground to the tune of 316.6 yards per game. Through the air, EMU was actually second in the MAC in yards allowed per game (202.8), but much of that was due to opposing teams holding leads and knowing they could churn out yards on the ground.
Injuries caused major issues, as 12 contributors missed part or all of the season, including leaders Pat O’Connor and Ike Spearman. As long as Eastern Michigan can remain relatively healthy, there is no reason why the Eagles can’t show significant improvement.
Also in place is a new defensive coordinator in Neal Neathery, who served in the same capacity at UTSA last season. He plans on implementing a 4-2-5 base defense, which is a welcome change from the odd-front scheme used the previous two seasons.
Eastern Michigan must figure out how to better stop the run under Neathery. If it does, significant strides should follow with the added talent and depth of a healthy roster.
Related: Athlon's 2016 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128
Previewing Eastern Michigan’s Specialists for 2016
The pint-sized Eddie Daugherty should provide a threat in the kick return game if he can find some openings. Blake Banham is the frontrunner to return punts for a second straight season after gaining 76 yards on eight returns a year ago, one of which he brought back 35 yards. Austin Barnes has been a steady punter for the green and white since 2013, booting it an average of 43.6 yards on 45 attempts last year. The placekicking job is up for grabs and figures to be a battle between senior kickoff specialist Brendan Renius and redshirt freshman Brian Alsobrooks.