CFN Preview 2013 - Eastern Michigan Eagles
Eastern Michigan QB Tyler Benz
Eastern Michigan QB Tyler Benz
Posted Jun 10, 2013 2013 Preview - Eastern Michigan Eagles

Eastern Michigan Eagles

Preview 2013

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Ron English
5th year: 10-38
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 20, Def. 20, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best Eastern Michigan Players
1. RB Bronson Hill, Jr.
2. QB Tyler Benz, Jr.
3. OG/OT Campbell Allison, Sr.
4. WR Donald Scott, Sr.
5. OT Bobby McFadden, Sr.
6. DE Kalonji Kashama, Sr.
7. S Donald Coleman, Sr.
8. CB Kirkland Bryant, Soph.
9. TE Tyreese Russell, Jr.
10. S Mycal Swaim, Sr.
2013 Schedule
8/31 Howard
9/7 at Penn State
9/14 at Rutgers
9/21 Ball State
10/5 at Buffalo
10/12 at Army
10/19 Ohio
10/26 at Northern Illinois
11/2 at Toledo
11/9 Western Michigan
11/23 Bowling Green
11/29 at Central Michigan
1973 Pioneer Bowl Appearance. 1987 Mid-American Conference Champion. 1987 California Bowl Champion. That’s on just about every piece of written promotional piece from Eastern Michigan, showing just how long it has been since the program has enjoyed anything positive, much less any hope of any sustained success. That’s why 2012 was such a kick in the gut.

From out of nowhere, the Eagles looked like they were on the rise under head coach Ron English, going 6-6 in 2011 with an improving defense and an offense that wasn’t all that bad in MAC play. Granted, the record was a bit of a mirage with wins over Howard and Alabama State, but considering the last winning season was 1995, the only one in the last 24 years, it was a ray of sunshine.

And then Eastern Michigan became Eastern Michigan again, with no consistency on offense, the worst run defense in America, and a 2-10 record that included a 31-14 loss to Illinois State from the FCS ranks and losses to the two MAC championship combatants, Kent State and Northern Illinois, by a combined score of 90 to 21.

But it’s the MAC, and as Kent State showed last season and Akron, Miami University and Buffalo proved over the last several years, it’s possible to come from out of nowhere and become a conference power, at least for a little while. Just coming up with a winning season would be more than enough for now, but that could take a massive amount of work.

The offense does have some potential to change things around with a good group of speedy backs who could crank out big things if the line can just give them some space to move. The receiving corps didn’t do enough to get down the field, but almost everyone of note returns to give veteran quarterback Tyler Benz some good options to work with. This hasn’t been an offensive juggernaut over the years, but if the attack can find something it can do at a relatively high level, that could be enough to make up for the questionable defense.

The front seven loses all the starting linebackers and has to be far tougher after getting blown over by even the slightest of breezes last year. Three starters return to the line, but there have to be more plays in the backfield and more quarterback pressures to take the heat off a secondary that could be good, but won’t be dominant.

English is fighting the good fight at one of the toughest programs in the country to turn around. He’s going to have to catch lightning in a bottle and hope beyond hope that everything comes into place, but for now, he has to give the program hope. That only comes with wins.

What to watch for on offense: The running backs have the potential crank things up a notch. Bronson Hill came on to have a terrific second half of the season, while the return of Javonte Greene and Ryan Brumfield should help a ground game that was good, but got plenty of production from the quarterbacks. If the line can jell in a hurry and the passing game can do enough to take the heat off, the backs should combine for over 2,000 yards.

What to watch for on defense: The linebacking corps. It’s not like EMU stopped anyone’s running game, but it’s still not a positive to lose three of the top four tacklers in senior starters Bryan Pali, Blake Poole and Justin Cudworth. The hope is for young athletes like Hunter Matt and Ike Spearman to make up for the overall lack of experience, and with so many concerns and so many problems on the line, the linebackers have to come through.

The team will be far better if … the run defense could come up with a stop. Whether it was the power of Michigan State, the quickness of Army, or anyone else in between, Eastern Michigan’s run defense couldn’t stop anyone. Central Michigan and Western Michigan had the two worst days against the Eagle ground game, but that was partly because the respective passing games did whatever they wanted and the commitment to the run wasn’t there. There’s a reason everyone but CMU, WMU and Toledo – who threw for 401 yards – ran the ball 39 times or more. The defensive tackles have to start coming up with more stops against the stronger interior ground attacks while the pressure needs to begin to come from the outside.

The schedule: Where are the wins going to come from? The team should be better, but after starting out the season against Howard, it’s going to take a few upsets to have a decent season. Going on the road four times in five weeks and six times in eight should make it impossible to have any sort of success, and having Ball State and Ohio at home won’t be a help. Western Michigan and Bowling Green should be two of the MAC’s best teams, and closing out at Central Michigan will be tough. Getting two weeks to prepare for the Falcons should be a decent break, but will it help? If EMU finishes close to six wins, consider it a wildly successful season.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Bronson Hill. With a nice blend of moves, speed, quickness and hands, he can become a do-it-all back who handles most of the workload. He showed off a little of what he could do in a breakout 283-yard, four score game against Toledo, and while he didn’t get into the end zone over the final five games of the season, he was still the main part of the rushing attack even when nothing else seemed to work for the offense. He won’t have to do it all by himself this year, but he proved he can.

Best defensive player: Senior S Donald Coleman. While he wasn’t able to hold on to a starting spot for the entire year and moved in and out of a few spots, he was still one of the team’s better tacklers finishing third on the team with 87 stops despite missing a few games. While he didn’t do nearly enough against the pass, he proved he could be a strong and solid tackler as a last line of defense for the ground game. On a team painfully lacking in defensive star power, merely being productive should be enough.

Key player to a successful season: Junior DTs Travis Lisner and Cy Maugmer. They’ll get more help this season with others rotating in to help the cause, but any improvement on defense has to start with the interior with the two starting tackles. Maugmer started every game and Lisner worked his way into the starting role for most of the season, but they struggled as true sophomores. Now they’re experienced enough to start becoming positives.

The season will be a success if … Five wins. After so many problems last year, it’s asking way too much to even think about a winning season. There aren’t any certain wins after the opener against Howard – EMU will likely be the underdog the rest of the way – so as long as the team is more competitive and can sneak out with wins over teams like Buffalo, Army and maybe Central Michigan or Western Michigan, it’ll be a decent step forward.

Key game: Sept. 21 vs. Ball State. The Eagles will beat Howard in the opener and will lose at Penn State and Rutgers over the next two games. With a week off to come a few weeks later, beating Ball State in the MAC opener is a must to show that this really might be a different type of season. If EMU can beat the Cardinals and can use the week off to prepare, a win over Buffalo to follow would do wonders.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Rushing yards: Opponents 3,199 – Eastern Michigan 1,960
- Third Down Conversion Percentage: Opponents 81-of-170 (48%) – Eastern Michigan 53-of-164 (32%)
- Turnovers: Eastern Michigan 24 – Opponents 13
- 2013 Eastern Michigan Preview | 2013 Eastern Michigan Offense
- 2013 Eastern Michigan Defense | 2013 Eastern Michigan Depth Chart