What you need to know ...
The EMU defense has improved a little bit over the last
few seasons, but it hasn't been a rock and it'll have to go through
some big growing pains this season in the secondary losing three
starters. By design, this is a ridiculously undersized defense that
relies on speed and quickness to make plays, but it finished last in the
MAC in tackles for loss. There are All-MAC talents in the front seven to
work around in pass rushing terror Kevin Howe at end and rising
superstar Daniel Holtzclaw at middle linebacker. Overall, the D has to
be better against the run and stronger on third downs.
Mike Richardson, 102
Kevin Howe, 10.5
Interceptions: Daniel Holtzclaw, 5
Star of the defense: Sophomore LB Daniel Holtzclaw
Player that has to step up and become a star: Redshirt
freshman FS Chris Campa
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore SS Jacob Wyatt
Best pro prospect: Senior DE Kevin Howe
Top three all-star candidates: 1)
Holtzclaw, 2) Howe, 3) LB Michael Richardson
Strength of the defense: Linebacker
Weakness of the defense:
The line is experienced, fast, and very, very, small. That's a bit by
design hoping to use the quickness up front to generate pressure in the
backfield, but there wasn't enough big plays made to offset the lack of
size. Kevin Howe is a premier pass rusher who should be one of the MAC's
best ends. Tackles Jason Jones and Josh Hunt make the most with what
they have to work with, but they get pushed around way too much. There's no developed
depth whatsoever on the ends.
The key to the unit: Since the pass rushing duties of the defense
fall to the line, it has to get to the quarterback more. Backups need to
be developed to get a good rotation going for the small line.
Defensive Line Rating:
- DE Kevin Howe, Sr. - 55 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 16.5 TFL,
3 broken up passes, 3 forced fumbles
Howe went from being a situational pass rusher to a fantastic all-around
end. He's a quick 240 pounds who finished second in the league in sacks
and should be just as strong again. He was consistent and turned out to
be better than expected against the run.
- DT Jason Jones, Jr. - 47 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 12 TFL
Jones is an interesting prospect on the inside. He's a former tight end
who bulked up to 242 pounds to be an undersized, but extremely athletic,
tackle. While he'll have problems with the bigger, stronger linemen who
get a lock on him, he's too quick for most guards.
- DT Josh Hunt, Jr. - 37 tackles, 5.5 TFL
The 264-pound junior is one of the biggest players on the line and
showed good quickness throughout last season. The former Colorado
transfer has to be more consistent and has to start getting to the
- DE Corey Riley, Jr. - 4 tackles
A great athlete, the undersized 226-pound junior needs to use his speed
to get in the backfield on a regular basis and take advantage of all the
attention paid to Kevin Howe on the other side.
- DT Greg Egbuigu, Jr.
The line needs Egbuigu to fill the inside. He started out as a defensive
lineman, moved to the offensive line, moved back to the defensive line,
and now he has to be healthy to use his 312 pounds to help out the
- DT T.J. Lang, Soph. - 11 tackles
Lang is a physical, quick tackle who'll get every show at playing time
behind Josh Hunt. He can see time at either tackle position.
It's a typically undersized EMU linebacking
corps that'll once again be very productive. Daniel Holtzclaw was a
terror as a freshman and now should be an All-MAC rock in the middle.
Former JUCO transfer Michael Richardson was solid on the outside, and
Darran Matthews is able to hold up well on the strongside. There's even
a little bit of depth.
The key to the unit: Considering the corps is full of
safeties, it needs to use its overall range to make more big plays in
Linebacker Rating: 5.5
- Michael Richardson, Sr. - 102 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1
broken up pass, 1 interception
The top JUCO transfer paid off big-time in his first season leading the
team in tackles while also turning into a good pass defender. He's a
physical 214 pounds with excellent range, and now he has to make more
- Daniel Holtzclaw, Soph. - 91 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 5 interceptions
Holtzclaw is going to be an All-MAC star over the next three seasons
after earning freshman All-America honors and finishing third on the
team in tackles. He has the strength of a defensive lineman and the
range of a safety while playing like a veteran in the middle.
- Darran Matthews, Jr. - 64 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 1
The former running back turned into a nice strongside defender using his
speed to make plays against the run. At 211 pounds, he has to be a
bigger factor in pass defense to make up for his lack of size against
stronger running teams.
- Korey Jackson, Soph. - 10 tackles
Jackson was projected to be the starter on the weakside until Michael
Richardson emerged. Jackson is 219 pounds without nearly the same
quickness or athleticism of Richardson. Now he has to return after he
was dinged up for half of last season.
- Spenser Smith, Soph. - 9 tackles, 1 TFL
Smith needs to be a big part of the linebacker mix in a big hurry. He's
very quick and very athletic, and most importantly, big. At 230 pounds,
he's by far the team's biggest linebacker. He'll start out backing up
Darran Matthews on the strongside.
This will be a problem. The secondary wasn't
bad last season, but now it loses three starters including all-star
safety Rontrell Woodruff. To make matters worse, the only returning
starter, Duan Bracey, is banged up. There's almost no experience
returning anywhere needing very green safeties, Chris Campa and Jacob
Wyatt to play like veterans right off the bat. Forget about any reliable
The key to the unit: Duan Bracey has to be healthy
and be a number one coverman while the safeties have to make up for
their inevitable mistakes with big plays.
Secondary Rating: 4
- CB Lyle Garrison, Soph. - 8 tackles
Garrison is very quick and very small at only 5-6 and 160 pounds. He'll
have to step in for Steven Lewis at one of the corner spots and he'll
have to get used to getting picked on early.
- FS Chris Campa, RFr.
Campa is a converted linebacker who'll get the first shot at free safety
replacing Corey Parker, who finished fourth on the team with 93 tackles.
At 6-1 and 188 pounds, Campa is a good-sized defensive back who'll have
to play like a veteran right away.
- SS Jacob Wyatt, Soph. - 12 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 interception
Wyatt is a physical player who needs to replace top tackler and All-MAC
star Rontrell Woodruff. He showed good potential in the little time he
saw last year coming up with a big interception against Miami
- CB Duan Bracey, Jr. - 51 tackles, 2 broken up passes, 1
Bracey started his EMU career at wide receiver and even saw a little
time at quarterback before being moved to defensive back. He got hurt at
the end of last year, but he's expected to return and be the leader of
the secondary as the only returning starter. He can play any of the
defensive back spots but is most needed at corner.
- CB Corey Reid, Soph.
Reid will get a long look at field corner until Duan Bracey returns
healthy. The former Colorado Buffalo has the speed to eventually hold
down a starting spot somewhere.
- SS Blake Smith, Jr. - 33 tackles, 1 interception, 6 broken up
passes, 3 fumble recoveries
Originally looked at as a cornerback to start last season, Smith appears
better suited for safety. He's a great athlete who can play anywhere in
the secondary and provides one of the team's few experienced defensive
Andrew Wellock is one of the nation's best placekickers, but
he's a mediocre punter and needs to get his average around 40 yards per
kick. The return games needs a big boost after finishing 103rd in the
nation in punt returns with Trumaine Riley averaging 6.1 yards per try.
He's a better kickoff returner. The coverage unit was great against
kickoff returns but needs more against punts.
The key to the unit: Better production is needed on
kick returns and Andrew Wellock has to be half as good at punting as he
is as a field goal kicker.
Special Teams Rating: 6
- P/PK Andrew Wellock, Sr. - 18-25 FGs, 22-24 extra
points, 57 punts, 2,183 yds, 38.3 yards per punt
One of the nation's best kickers, Wellock has nailed 52 career field
goals with fantastic range and consistency. While he's an All-America
placekicker, he's a mediocre punter needing to use his big leg to get
more blast on his kicks.