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2011 Eastern Michigan Preview – Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 22, 2011


CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Eastern Michigan Eagle Offense



Eastern Michigan Eagles

Preview 2011 - Offense

- 2011 Eastern Michigan Preview | 2011 Eastern Michigan Offense
- 2011 Eastern Michigan Defense | 2011 Eastern Michigan Depth Chart


What You Need To Know: The idea will be for offensive coordinator Ken Karchner to get more out of the passing game after a disastrous year throwing the ball, and the parts are there to do it in the receiving corps. EMU has a slew of young, speedy targets who can stretch the field, but QB Alex Gillett has to push the ball deep. More of a runner than a thrower, Gillett led the team in rushing, but was wildly inefficient. He has to get the ball out of his hands quicker and do more with his receivers, but his worth is making plays on the move. The offensive line is loaded with veterans and could be the team’s strength, and it’ll have to be with an untested trio of running backs trying to add more pop to the ground game.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Alex Gillett
127-229, 1,633 yds, 13 TD, 13 INT
Rushing: Alex Gillett
179 carries, 766 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Kinsman Thomas
26 catches, 473 yds, 4 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Alex Gillett
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior WR Kinsman Thomas
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman OT/OG Campbell Allison
Best pro prospect: Senior OG Bridger Buche
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Gillett, 2) Buche, 3) OT Korey Neal
Strength of the offense: Offensive Line, Receiver Speed
Weakness of the offense: Running Backs, Passing Game

Quarterbacks

State of the Unit: The Eagles haven’t gotten much out of the passing game over the last few years and haven’t been efficient, but that has to change now that junior Alex Gillett is in his third year and with so much experience under his belt. The EMU offense needs more firepower, and Gillett has to start making everyone around him better.

Gillett showed excellent promise stepping in late in his true freshman season, and then he did a little of everything for the offense last year with a team-leading 766 rushing yards and five scores, and completing 56% of his passes for 1,633 yards and 13 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. The 6-1, 210-pounder struggled down the stretch hand had too many problems with interceptions, but he had his moments throwing for three scores in the win over Ball State. Now he has to start trusting his receivers a bit more and get the ball out of his hands quicker. While he doesn’t have a big arm, it’s good enough, and his mobility is his main asset.

With Devontae Payne no longer a part of the program, it’ll be up to 6-3, 215-pound redshirt freshman Tyler Benz and 6-2, 215-pound true freshman Mark Iannotti . Both run the ball well enough to come in and scramble if absolutely needed, but it’s going to take some time for each to get their feet wet. Benz has good upside and a nice arm, while Iannotti has decent accuracy and is a strong runner with 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns as a high school senior.

Watch Out For … A battle for the No. 2 job. There will be time for grooming with a few blowouts sure to come, and considering the way Gillett plays and with as many shots as he takes, Benz and Ianatti have to be ready.
Strength: Gillett. He might not be the best passer around, but he’s a baller who has the ability to make things happen from time to time when things break down. He hasn’t had a strong supporting cast around him, but he has still been able to put up decent numbers.
Weakness: Passing. The Eagles have to get far, far better at moving the chains and making things happen through the air. Considering the defense was among the worst in America and EMU had to do something to try to stay in games, it’s mystifying that the offense only averaged 160 passing yards per outing.
Outlook: Gillett isn’t all that big and he’s a marginal overall athlete, but the potential is there for him to come up with a solid season now that he knows what he’s doing. The key will be staying on the field in one piece behind a shaky line. Benz and Iannotti aren’t ready for prime time.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Running Backs

State of the Unit: Dwayne Priest is gone after finishing up his decent career with 2,003 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was the running game for the Eagles, at least when QB Alex Gillett wasn’t scrambling, and he was a decent enough veteran to rely on. Now it’ll be more of a running back by committee approach.

5-9, 202-pound senior Dominique Sherrer is a bowling ball of a runner who got a little bit of work last year running 20 times for 47 yards and catching a pass for six yards, but he hasn’t been counted on for any real work. Very quick, he could be another Priest when it comes to getting through the hole, and he brings a little bit more power.

The Eagles will rely on a pair of young backs to add a bit more flash to the equation. Sophomore Javonti Greene got plenty of work running for 155 yards and two scores in the blowout loss to Virginia and getting garbage-time carries against Ohio State and Vanderbilt. Now he’ll bring his good speed and nice hands in a role getting the ball at least ten times a game. True freshman Ryan Brumfield has No. 1 back talent and could end up taking the offense by storm. He ran for 8,595 career yards in high school and is a smart, tough blazer who makes up for his 5-9, 172-pound size with home run hitting wheels.

Watch Out For … The young guys. While Sherrer has waited his turn and will get the first look at the most playing time, the hope is that Brumfield is as good as advertised and gives the EMU backfield the shot in the arm it’s been waiting for.
Strength: Quickness. Sherrer, Green, and Brumfield are small backs who can duck in and out of holes in a hurry and have the zip to crank out big plays with just a little bit of room.
Weakness: Power. There isn’t any. Sherrer is a compact runner who can pack a little bit of punch, but Greene and Brumfield aren’t going to hit anyone. Considering the line isn’t strong enough to open up big holes, the runners will have to get by on their quickness.
Outlook: If all goes according to play, the three backs will combine for over 1,500 yards and Alex Gillett won’t have to handle most of the rushing duties again. In reality, Gillett will still be the team’s main runner, and the more the backs can do to take the load off, the better. For any improvement in overall production, Brumfield will have to be terrific.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Receivers

State of the Unit: The receivers have GOT to be better. Granted, Alex Gillett isn’t exactly Peyton Manning, and that’s the bigger problem. With a better passing quarterback and a different focus in the offense, the receiving corps could be something decent with several solid young players waiting to be used, but if the offense revolves around the ground game and Gillett running the ball, the targets will be accessories.

Junior Kinsmon Thomas started out last year as a key reserve and ended up starting at the outside X. Now the 6-2, 205-pounder will work mostly on the Z after finishing second on the team with 26 catches for 473 yards and a team-leading four scores. All the tools are in place to be a No. 1 target and a big-play performer, but he needs to be more consistent and he needs the ball to come his way more often. In the mix for the position will be senior Trey Hunter, a 6-0, 196-pound veteran who has mostly been a special teamer but is one of the team’s fastest players. He caught eight passes for 100 yards.

With Thomas moving, 6-0, 186-pound sophomore Donald Scott will get a long look at the X after making 12 catches for 199 yards and two scores with most of his production coming early in the season. He’s a speedster with the ability to come up with the big play, while 6-4, 198-pound redshirt freshman Julius Shelby brings more size to the outside along with good athleticism.

Sophomore Kevin Wheeler didn’t make a catch last year, but now he’ll take over for Tyrone Burke at the H. Burke was third on the team in receiving, but he only made a very replaceable 19 catches averaging 9.6 yards per grab. The 6-0, 180-pound Wheeler has the ability to do far more, while 5-8, 171-pound sophomore Chaz Mitchell is a scooter who got a little bit of work catching three passes for 29 yards and a score in a limited role.

Gone is the team’s leading receiver, tight end Ben Thayer, who caught 30 passes for 386 yards and three touchdowns, and now it’ll be up to 6-2, 233-pound junior Garrett Hoskins to be the go-to outlet receiver in key situations. Originally considered a running back, he has decent quickness and nice hands making eight catches for 217 yards and two scores highlighted by a 73-yard touchdown play against Ball State. 6-1, 230-pound junior Kyle DeMaster is built like more of a fullback and will be in for two-tight end sets and is more of a blocker than a pure receiver.

Watch Out For … The wide receivers to finally start getting more work. There’s too much speed and athleticism to not push the ball deep more often, and with the offense focusing on going more to a pro-style attack, there should be more opportunities.
Strength: Speed. There might not be much in the way of experienced playmakers, but there’s speed and quickness to burn with several options to be used in a variety of ways. Scott can work inside or out, and Thomas is an X receiver who has the potential to make some big plays.
Weakness: A true No. 1 target. Thomas has the potential to be a main man, but for a team that only completed 150 passes and spread them out among 15 different players, there might not be a lot of athleticism and plenty of upside, but someone has to become a dangerous factor.
Outlook: The corps will only be as good as the quarterback. If Alex Gillett gets time to throw and if he can be a bit more accurate, the production will come. There’s a chance the receiving corps could be one of the team’s biggest improvement areas, but it’ll need help.
Unit Rating: 4.5

Offensive Line

State of the Unit: The offensive line was a problem in 2009 and turned things around to have a decent 2010 with the mobility of QB Alex Gillett helping the cause a bit. This isn’t going to be a rock of a line in pass protection, but it didn’t allow a ton of sacks and was decent for a running game that finished second in the MAC averaging 173 yards per game. Now, the line should be a strength with four starters returning and decent backups to rely on.

One of the biggest keys to last season’s success up front was the return of Bridger Buche at left tackle. The 6-4, 305-pound senior missed all of 2009 with a hip injury before coming back to be the team’s most versatile blocker. The former star prospect for the defensive line started out at right tackle, played left tackle last year, and will start out this season at what could be a more natural right guard position. With Buche moving over, 6-2, 296-pound junior Korey Neal will get the first shot at left tackle after starting every game last season at right tackle. He’s a strong, athletic blocker who started out as a guard before showing enough athleticism to be moved to the outside.

Moving in for Neal at right tackle will be Campbell Allison, a promising 6-5, 315-pound redshirt freshman with the frame and the feet to grow into a strong pass protector. He’ll combine with 6-5, 303-pound fellow redshirt freshman, Lincoln Hansen, to see who can handle the workload. Either one can switch to the left side if needed.

6-5, 280-pound junior Andrew Sorgatz started every game last year, working mostly at left guard, but now he’ll move inside to center after putting on 14 pounds. He was thrown to the wolves as a true freshman and has been a mainstay at guard, but he’s a good athlete and knows what he’s doing to lead the front five with veteran Eric Davis gone. With Sorgatz moving over, 6-4, 303-pound redshirt freshman Josh Woods will step in bringing bigger size to the spot. He’ll be more of a mauler of a run blocker.

At 6-8 and 290 pounds, sophomore Scott McLeod is a very tall, very versatile backup who can play either tackle position or can even see time at center, even at his height. He’ll most likely get the early call as a backup at left guard, while 6-2, 294-pound junior Corey Watman is a short but experienced option at center or guard. His best fit is at center and started seven times last year moving where needed at right guard and in the middle.

Watch Out For … The line to be the strength of the team. With four returning starters from a group that wasn’t all that bad last year, there’s a chance this becomes a good all-around unit once all the puzzle pieces are put into place.
Strength: Experience. With Neal, Sorgatz, Buche and even Watman old enough to know what they’re doing. Throw in big, promising new starters in Woods and Allison, and the potential is there for the line to be terrific.
Weakness: Blasting away for the ground game. The overall numbers for the running game were fine, but that’s mostly because the runners were able to quick their way to yards. When the hard yards were needed, the O line was subpar.
Outlook: There won’t be too much of an excuse for the skill players this year with the line certain to be better than it’s been in the last few years. There’s experience, size, and youth in a nice blend of players that should keep Alex Gillett upright and should keep the mistakes to a minimum.
Unit Rating: 5

- 2011 Eastern Michigan Preview | 2011 Eastern Michigan Offense
- 2011 Eastern Michigan Defense | 2011 Eastern Michigan Depth Chart