Eastern Michigan football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Eagles, best players and season prediction.
This hasn’t exactly worked out too well so far.
Eastern Michigan is going to be a process whether or not it’s Chris Creighton as the head coach, or Nick Saban, or the next Vince Lombardi, but it’s a tough go to change around a culture and a program that hasn’t been able to get out of the doldrums for a long, long time. Creighton can coach, but in two years he has lost one fewer game (21) than he did in six years at Drake and three fewer games than he lost in his 11 seasons at Ottawa and Wabash.
So is there any hope to do anything different? Can the Eagles take on an identity and start to come up with even the most basic of steps forward?
Last year EMU shocked Wyoming on the road, and lost by double-digits nine of the other 11 defeats. How sad has the program been? Going back to late 2012, 30 of the last 32 losses have been by double-digits – losing to Old Dominion by four and to Central Michigan by seven last year is actually a bit of an improvement.
But even in a 1-11 season, there were signs of life with the offense doing a far, far better job scoring 123 points more than it did in 2014. The defense might have been a nightmare, but the offense came up with its best season since 2008 and has the potential to do far more.
The quarterback situation is strong with Brogan Roback back, along with a young option in James Pensyl. Three starters are gone on the offense, but that’s not a problem in any way – the coaching staff can start to get more creative in its third season at the helm.
The D couldn’t stop anyone, but the experience is in place to be better, the special teams are promising, and finally, there really might be a few chances to start being more competitive and start coming up with a few wins here and there.
There’s no MAC program more ready to start seeing some success, and it could be coming relatively soon. This season could be a stepping-stone to bigger things – but EMU fans have heard that before. This time, it really might happen.
What You Need To Know About The Eastern Michigan Offense
It started to work a little bit last season. It wasn’t explosive, but at least the points started to come outside of three inexplicable duds against porous Ball State, Miami University and UMass defenses. The running game didn’t really work, but the passing game had its moments and should improve with two decent quarterback options to choose from and Brogan Roback the likely main man. The key is the O line that gets back all five starters – all seniors – for what needs to be the team’s strength. All the other skill players in place? 1,078-yard back Darius Jackson is gone, but Shaq Vann is a decent option. Leading pass catcher Dustin Creel is finished, but three of the top four receivers are back.
Biggest Key To The Eastern Michigan Offense
The passing game needs to be a bit more efficient. The ground game should be fine with mobile quarterback options working behind a senior-laden offensive line, but the QB situation has to be settled right away and the offense needs to be more explosive. The Eagles threw and threw some more to try to keep up the pace thanks to their porous defense, but overall the attack averaged just 10.7 yards per completion. There are weapons with Eddie Daugherty back along with a good tight end combination of Cody Tuttle and Sam Browning, but the third down plays have to keep drives going. The O has to do everything possible to keep the D off the field.
What You Need To Know About The Eastern Michigan Defense
The experience is there and the veterans are in place, but the production has to come. Losing LB Great Ibe is a problem, and corner Ray Tillman is done, but eight starters return along with all the key backups – and that doesn’t include getting back star lineman Pat O’Connor from a shoulder injury. Now there have to be a few stops after doing a miserable job at stopping the run, while not coming up with enough impact plays. The D allowed 35 points or more in eight games, didn’t force key turnovers, and were a disaster at coming up with a third down stop. With all the experience, though, there’s a chance to make a wee bit of an improvement.
Biggest Key To The Eastern Michigan Defense
Is there any hope of ever stopping the run? The Eagles were dead last in college football allowing over 316 yards per game. The second-worst run defense in America – Texas Tech – allowed 280 yards and outing. EMU wasn’t even close, giving up 44 rushing scores on the season giving up three touchdowns or more ten times. Worse yet, the 175 yards allowed against Central Michigan in the season finale was the only time the D gave up fewer than 200. After allowing 2,687 yards in 2014, the run D has to get back to being anything but totally miserable.
Eastern Michigan Will Be Far Better If …
It starts to win the turnover battle. It all tied in together. The run defense couldn’t stop anyone, opposing offense had easy third down chances, and the time of possession numbers were skewed in the opponents’ favor. That has to change, and so does the turnover margin after finishing an unacceptable -13 on the year, but that’s an improvement after going -18 in 2014. At least the Eagles were even over the last three games, but they’re not good enough to win games without being a +2 or better. It’s been 17 games since EMU has been able to do that.
Best Eastern Michigan Offensive Player
QB Brogan Roback, Jr. – With Reginald Bell leaving the program, Roback turns into the main man before getting hurt, adding some good mobility to the mix to go along with good enough passing skills to get by. Roback can move a little bit, but he’s the big passer the attack needs to keep pushing the ball down the field. He’s accurate and he has a good command of the offense, but he needs time to operate. He’ll get it behind the veteran line.
Best Eastern Michigan Defensive Player
S Jason Beck, Jr. – Lineman Pat O’Connor is the most talented defensive player coming back from an injury, but Beck is right there as one of the main men for the D. Granted, the EMU pass defense was good because everyone was too busy running the ball, but Beck and the secondary turned out to be a positive. Three starters are back – not including Rover Anthony Brown – and it’ll be Beck who likely becomes the star of the show coming off a terrific sophomore season. He might not do much when the ball is in the air, but he’s a big tackler who’s a great last line of defense in the open field. With the run defense such a problem, he gets a ton of work.
Key Player To A Successful Season
DT Mike Brown, Sr. – Someone has to start coming up with stops against the run. The 6-2, 274-pound tackle was active, making 52 stops last year and coming up with four tackles for loss, but it was hardly enough. He’s a good battler who does what he can, but can he become more of an anchor? Can he be a positive for the nation’s worst run defense? The Eagles need someone to be the main man up front.
The Eastern Michigan Season Will Be A Success If …
The Eagles can win four games. They won six in 2011, but there aren’t as many weak sisters on this year’s slate like there were then. They’ve won seven games total over the last four years, and now that has to trend up with winnable games against Mississippi Valley State, Charlotte, and Miami University to have a base of possible victories.
Sept. 24 vs. Wyoming – It was an all-timer of a stunner considering Eastern Michigan doesn’t beat anyone on the road by double digits. The Eagles rocked Wyoming 48-29 in mid-September last season, but that was it for the fun, losing the last ten games after. If EMU can beat Mississippi Valley State to start the season, and if they can get by Charlotte, a 3-1 start – it’ll lose to Missouri – would be phenomenal with another win over UW.
2015 Eastern Michigan Fun Stats
– Rushing Yards: Opponents 4,076 – Eastern Michigan 2,210
– Third Down Conversions: Opponents 86-for-168 yards – Eastern Michigan 63-for-166 yards
– Time of Possession: Opponents 33:06 – Eastern Michigan 26:54