2011 Eastern Michigan Preview
Eastern Michigan QB Alex Gillett
Eastern Michigan QB Alex Gillett
Posted Jul 22, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Eastern Michigan Eagles

Eastern Michigan Eagles

Preview 2011

- 2011 Eastern Michigan Preview | 2011 Eastern Michigan Offense
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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Ron English
3rd year: 2-22
Returning Lettermen: 46
Off: 18, Dc. 24, ST 4 Lettermen Lost: 15
Ten Best Eastern Michigan Players
1. QB Alex Gillett, Jr.
2. CB Marlon Pollard, Soph.
3. CB Marcell Rose, Jr.
4. OG Bridger Buche, Sr.
5. DE Devin Henderson, Jr.
6. OT Corey Neal, Jr.
7. DT Jabar Westerman, Sr.
8. WR Kinsman Thomas, Jr.
9. C Andrew Sorgatz, Jr.
10. LB Marcus English, Sr.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 3 Howard
Sep. 10 Alabama St
Sep. 17 at Michigan
Sep. 24 at Penn State
Oct. 1 Akron
Oct. 8 at Toledo
Oct. 15 at Central Michigan
Oct. 22 Western Michigan
Nov. 5 Ball State
Nov. 12 Buffalo
Nov. 19 at Kent State
Nov. 25 at Northern Illinois
Nov. 26 NIU

Eastern Michigan, it's time to find something you can do right.

The last winning season was 1995, there have only been five wins over the last three seasons, and there hasn't been any real production on either side of the ball to get excited about.

The offense has been bad, the defense has been worse, and there haven't been many rays of light over the years. The end of the 2008 season, and the end of the Jeff Genyk era, was fun, with the offense bombing away with record setting numbers putting up 52 points against Temple and 56 against Central Michigan, but that was a mere blip on the radar. Eastern Michigan football hasn't been a whole bunch of fun ever since.

it's possible that Ron English is a good head football coach, but he's fighting an uphill battle trying to buck the decades-long trend of losing. It's possible to turn things around in the MAC – just ask Temple and Buffalo – but something has to start going right.

Maybe the team starts coming up with a few more takeaway, which would be nice after coming up with just two interceptions last year. Maybe the offense starts to crank out more rushing yards; a possibility with a running quarterback in Alex Gillett. Maybe a pass rush starts to kick in like there was at Kent State; which would be nice after the line was among the most anemic in America when it came to getting into the backfield.

There has to be something to rely on.

This year's team has the potential to be decent, and at the very least it should be the best in the three years with English at the helm. That might not be saying much, but this could and should be the year that the woeful program starts to take a step forward.

Most of the key parts to the offensive line are back, and a new starter, redshirt freshman Campbell Allison, should be the best of the bunch in a little bit of time. Protection is a must with promising junior quarterback Alex Gillett back, and if he can be a consistent, steady baller, the offense has a chance to improve in a big way. There's more speed this year in the backfield, and the receiving corps returns most of the better players.

The defense that hasn't done a thing to stop anyone in several years is full of veterans, and it has some real, live, hope with UCLA transfer Marlon Pollard potential shut down corner on the other side of veteran Marcell Rose, and with JUCO transfer Sean Kurtz a possible leading tackler at middle linebacker. All four starters are back up front, there's depth, and for the first time under English, there are decent options to play around with.

The schedule is better – it helps to start a season with Howard and Alabama State – and nine teams on the slate didn't go to a bowl game last year. The team is better. The coaching staff is better. Now the program has to be better. After so many years of futility, Eastern Michigan deserves a good break or three.

What to watch for on offense: More from the wide receivers. The Eagle running game was decent because quarterback Alex Gillett ran for his life and took off when needed, but the passing attack was mediocre averaging just 160 yards per game and finishing 96th in the nation in efficiency. Gillett knows what he's doing now, he has a decent arm to push the ball down the field, and the receivers should shine. Safety valve tight end Ben Thayer is gone, but junior Kinsman Thomas is a big field stretcher who averaged 18.2 yards per catch. Donald Scott averaged 16.6 yards per play, and tight end Garrett Hoskins, Thayer's replacement, averaged 27.1 yards per play on his eight catches. It's not exactly going to be bombs away, but the attempt will be there to start to get vertical.

What to watch for on defense: The new guys. Experience is nice, and Eastern Michigan has that all up and down the defense, but talent is better. The coaching staff worked to upgrade the all-around ability of the defense in the latest class, and it should pay off. Marlon Pollard is big and quick, and he's ready to make a big impact after sitting out last year, while JUCO transfers Sean Kurtz, Blake Poole, and Justin Cudworth will be among the team's leading tacklers right away. Freshman Sean Cotton and JUCO transfer Tyrone Taylor will certainly see time in the secondary to add depth to an already decent group. All the jobs are there for the taking and there will be plenty of playing around with the lineup to find the right mix.

The team will be far better if … the defense can start taking the ball away. Two. Eastern Michigan picked off a pass in the second game of the year against Miami University, and came up with another pick against Ohio, and that was it with no interceptions over the final seven games of the year. The 11 fumble recoveries were nice, but they weren't enough to keep the Eagles from being among the worst teams in the nation in turnover margin. The offense needs as much help as it can get, and it needs as many breaks as it can get. The D has to start providing them.

The schedule: There's no reason Eastern Michigan should finish the year with anything fewer than four wins with this slate. Starting out with Howard and Alabama State should ensure a 2-0 start before the payday games against Michigan and Penn State, and there's hope for at least two more wins with home games against Akron, Ball State, and Buffalo; the Eagles have to win at least two of the three. Forget about beating Toledo, Western Michigan, or Northern Illinois from the West, but coming up with a road win over Kent State or Central Michigan wouldn't be a shocker.

Best offensive player: Junior QB Alex Gillett. He's not all that big at 6-1 and 210 pounds, and he's not all that fast, and he's not consistent, at least so far, but he's a player to work the offense around. He led the team with 766 rushing yards and was one of the team's only real weapons at times last season. While he threw too many picks, he should make more big plays with an improved receiving corps to work with and with more time to work – hopefully – behind a more experienced line.

Best defensive player: Sophomore CB Marlon Pollard and/or Junior CB Marcell Rose. Could EMU have the best corner tandem in the MAC? That's a stretch, but Rose is one of the league's best tackling corners and has a nice knack for being around the ball making a team-leading six picks. Pollard, a transfer from UCLA, was a star recruit for the Bruins but didn't fit and didn't pan out. He's a talent, though, and he'll bring his good size and tremendous quickness to the Eagles as possibly the team's No. 1 corner right away.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DT Jabar Westerman. Eastern Michigan has GOT to come up with more stops against the run and it has to come up with more tough plays on the line. That means Westerman, a 6-2, 285-pound veteran, has to hold up and be an anchor. There are other veteran options to see time on the inside, but he's the one the line will work around. If he's great, the D will improve by leaps and bounds.

The season will be a success if … the Eagles win five games. Last year the season would've been a success up the team had won three games. The schedule was hard and there was a ton of turnover on both sides of the ball. EMU finished 2-10. This year, with two layups to start the season against Howard and Alabama State, coming up with the two MAC wins like the Eagles got last year is a must, while improving by one more game isn't asking a lot for a team with this much experience.

Key game: Oct. 1 vs. Akron. Don't dismiss what a confidence boost it would be to start out the season 3-2. Assuming wins in the opening two weeks, and losses against Michigan and Penn State, beating Akron would mean the first 3-2 start since 2005. While that team finished 4-7, this year's schedule after the first five games is far easier.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Passes Intercepted: Opponents 14 – Eastern Michigan 2
- First Quarter Scoring: Opponents 125 – Eastern Michigan 38
- Time of Possession: Eastern Michigan 32:34 – Opponents 27:08

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