2014 EMU Preview: What You Need To Know
Eastern Michigan RB Bronson Hill
Eastern Michigan RB Bronson Hill
Posted Jul 6, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Eastern Michigan (Getty Images)

2014 Eastern Michigan Preview

What You Need To Know...

- 2014 Eastern Michigan Preview 
2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer

What You Need To Know About The Offense: Can the new coaching staff find an offense that can hang around long enough to make games interesting against the better MAC teams? New offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer has to get creative and has to find ways to get the chains moving for an O that couldn’t buy a first down at times, but there are a few decent playmakers to develop. Last year’s attack averaged a paltry 336 yards and 18.8 points per game and couldn’t keep up when the defense was failing. This year, the line should be good early on with four starters returning to pave the way for RB Bronson Hill. Can the passing attack start to find more of a spark? The receiving corps has to help out QB Brogan Roback, but TE Tyreese Russell is one of the best in the MAC.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: After a horrendous year all the way around – doing nothing against the pass and less against anyone who tried to run the ball – the defense needs an overhaul. New head coach Chris Creighton knows how to put together a defense after doing a great job of it at Drake, but he has to start over with a group that couldn’t seem to force a timely turnover and got beaten up way too early. It all starts with a veteran linebacking corps that should benefit from the pass rushing Great Ibe and the big hitting Ike Spearman. The secondary could be a pleasant surprise with more pressure into the backfield, but this year the focus has to be on run defense, run defense, run defense, and that’s where DT Pat O’Conner has to be a star inside.

Players You Need To Know

1. TE Tyreese Russell, Sr.
The tight end was supposed to be a major part of the attack, and it was as Russell broke out with a team-leading 594 yards with three touchdowns on 44 catches. The 6-3, 242-pound senior used to be more like a big wide receiver, and then he bulked up and looks more like a true tight end. He cranked out 17 catches in two games against Penn State and Rutgers, and he was steady with around four catches a game throughout the year. He has good enough speed to stretch the field and be the featured target on key plays.

2. RB Bronson Hill, Sr.
The 5-10, 208-pound senior missed a little time dinged up, but when he was on, he was the team's most dangerous weapon by far, tearing off 257 yards and a score on 23 carries against Ohio, finishing the season with 1,101 yards and six scores averaging 5.6 yards per pop. A decent receiver, he finished fourth on the team with 16 grabs for 175 yards and a touchdown, but he's not going to be a regular target. Not just a between-the-tackles runner, he has good speed and and hit the home run. With his physical style and good hands, he can do it all.

3. OT Lincoln Hansen, Sr.
The Eagles needed help at right tackle, and they got it with a great year from the 6-6, 301-pound senior locked down the job for the entire season. He needed to be more physical for the ground game, and he was, doing a better job of getting to the second level and providing a good pop. He could be a left tackle if needed, but he's at his best when he locks on to his man.

4. WR Dustin Creel, Jr.
A ten-catch, 109-yard, one score day to close out the regular season against Central Michigan was his breakout performance, but he still finished as the team's leading receiver with 46 catches for 593 yards and five scores. At 6-2 and 205 pounds he has nice size to go along with just enough speed to get deep from time to time. A Z receiver, he can handle himself on the inside and can make the tough catch.

5. LB Ike Spearman, Jr.
While he might not be all that big at 6-1 and 220 pounds, he's big enough to work on the strongside, but he spent most of last year on the weakside finishing with a team-leading 82 yackles with 3.5 tackles for loss and two picks. While he was steady, he cmae into his own with back-to-back ten tackle games against Army and Ohio, and 13 stops in the win over Western Michigan. Active and quick, he'll be one of the team's leading tacklers once again.

6. LB Great Ibe, Jr.
A former transfer from Concordia University, he led the NAIA with 32.5 tackles for loss. A defensive end, he became a strongside linebacker making 62 tackles with three tackles for loss. While the 6-1, 225-pounder is still working out the kinks, he's physical and can mix it up. The Eagles need him to be more of a pass rusher.

7. QB Brogan Roback, Soph.
By far the best recruit of the 2013 class, he was a coup for the program with 6-3, 190-pound size and an excellent arm. He got his feet wet early on over the first part of the season, and then got the full-time gig to himself to try turning the season around. He struggled a bit with his accuracy, completing just 42% of his passes, but he showed glimpses of potential greatness throwing for 209 yards and two touchdowns against Toledo and threw well in the season finale against Central Michigan. However, he was a true freshman, and it showed connecting on 1-of-12 passes for four yards with a pick against Bowling Green's nasty D. If he can hold off transfer Rob Bolden, he should put up decent numbers.

8. OT Andrew Wylie, Soph.
One of the nice surprises of the 2013 season, the 6-6, 310-pound Wylie became a regular rock at left tackle. While he might not be an elite pass protector, he has a great frame and excellent bulk. His feet are just good enough to stay at left tackle - he's a decent athlete for his size.

9. DT Pat O'Conner, Jr.
A great pass rusher early on, he came up with three sacks and four tackles for loss in the first three games, and while his production into the backfield tailed off, he made plenty of plays against the run finishing with 44 tackles. Able to play tackle or a big end, the 6-4, 272-pounder is an ideal-sized 3-4 end with a decent first step.

10. CB Willie Creear, Sr.
The good: He's a great tackler. The bad: He had lots of chances to make stops. At 5-10 and 193 pounds, he has decent size and is physical, but the former JUCO transfer battles when dealing with speed receivers. Great in run support, he made 28 stop sover the final four games and ended up with 56 on the year to go along with a team-leading five broken up passes.

- 2014 Eastern Michigan Preview