Eastern Michigan Eagles
Preview 2009 -
2009 EMU Offense
2009 EMU Defense
2009 EMU Depth
2008 EMU Preview
2007 EMU Preview
What you need to know:
Defensive coordinator Eric Lewis has
to find something the defense can do well. It was designed
originally to be fast and athletic, which was fine, but there
wasn't any production in the backfield and there weren't enough
big plays made. The line has the potential to be the strength
with the addition of JUCO transfers Ryan Leonard and Delano
Johnson to provide some bulk, and Brad Ohrman a productive
veteran to do a little bit of everything. The linebacking corps
will desperately miss tackling-machine Daniel Holtzclaw and will
need to play much bigger than the safety-sized group it is.
While there's speed and experience in the secondary, someone has
to help out Ryan Downard and come up with an interception here
Star of the defense:
Sophomore DE/DT Brad Ohrman
Jermaine Jenkins, 64
Brad Ohrman, 6
Interceptions: Ryan Downard, Jermaine Jenkins, 2
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore LB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Javon Reese
Best pro prospect: Junior DT Ryan Leonard
Top three all-star candidates: 1)
Ohrman, 2) SS Ryan Downard, 3) Leonard
Strength of the defense:
Weakness of the defense:
The defense desperately needs to find some
semblance of a pass rush, and it needs senior Brandon
Downs to do more. The 6-1, 246-pounder is smallish, looking more
like a linebacker, but he has to use his speed and quickness to
do something in the backfield. He was good against the run,
making 30 tackles, but he only came up with 2.5 tackles for loss
and no sacks.
Working partly as an end and partly as a
tackle is Brad Ohrman, a 6-4, 244-pound sophomore who might be
woefully undersized on the inside, but he'll be a part of a
rotation trying to become an interior pass rusher. He was the
team's most productive player in the backfield by far, making
six sacks with 11 tackles for loss to go along with 42 tackles,
and he'll be moved around where needed. He was one of the team's
top recruits a few years ago and will always be part of the mix.
6-4, 265-pound junior Tyler Palsrok is one of the team's
bigger prospect for the inside, but he has to get healthy and he
has to be better after starting the first two games of the
season and barely seeing the light of day the rest of the way.
He made four tackles with a sack, and while has a little bit of
experience, he'll have to battle to see regular playing time.
Sophomore Javon Reese is a promising prospect with good
quickness and the burst to potentially be a closer when he gets
a bead on a quarterback. At 6-2 and 230 pounds he's not all that
big, but he should make up for it with his range after making 14
tackles with a sack in limited time last year
Projected Top Reserves:
Expected to make an instant
impact providing size and pass rushing ability is Delano
Johnson, a 6-4, 275-pound JUCO transfer who made ten tackles for
loss and 65 tackles for College of the Sequoias JC. He's big,
quick, and good enough to be a starter right away.
Bringing desperately needed size inside will be JUCO transfer
Ryan Leonard, a 6-0, 290-pound junior who should serve as an
anchor. He, like Johnson, was from College of the Sequoias
making 65 tackles with eight sacks last year. He was a JUCO
all-star who will be counted on to shine right away.
Watch Out For ... the JUCO transfers. Leonard and
Johnson have to be starters, or at least key contributors, to
bring size to the equation. If Leonard is great, that would
allow Ohrman to move to a more natural spot on the outside.
Strength: Young prospects. EMU paid special
attention to the defensive line in the last few recruiting
classes, and it should pay off with several promising players
ready to shine. That was the strength going into last year, and
it still applies. The athleticism has to translate into
Weakness: Proven production and size. This is a woefully
undersized line that will get shoved around by any O line that's
seen a weight room. Considering all the athleticism and all the
quickness, there's no excuse for EMU to be 104th in the nation
in tackles for loss and 100th in sacks again.
Outlook: The pass rushers have to come through
after a nightmare of a season. The run defense didn't do
anything, allowing close to 200 yards per game, and it didn't do
anything to get into the backfield. There are several decent
prospects, and some ready-made JUCO players joining the mix. Now
the line has to improve by leaps and bounds for the team to have
any real shot at improving.
Step one will be to replace
tackling-machine Daniel Holtzclaw in the middle. Sophomore
Marcus English will get the first look, and while he's not
nearly as big as Holtzclaw, he's a lot faster. While he's more
like a safety than a linebacker, but he's a big hitter who
should be great now that he'll make a ton of plays now that he's
the main man in the middle after making just three tackles.
Senior Andre Hatchett was a question mark going into last
year after spending the offseason working on his studies, but he
ended up being solid on the strongside making 51 tackles with
2.5 tackles for loss. Only 5-11 and 221 pounds, he has quickness
and range, but he didn't do nearly enough to get into the
backfield. He has to use his wheels to be a threat as a pass
rusher and he as to do something against the pass now that he's
working on the weakside.
Taking over on the strongside
will be junior Tim Fort, a 6-0, 214-pounder who started the
final three games of last year and ended up with 22 tackles.
He's always working and has a great motor, and now he's going to
have to prove he can hold up against the run on a full-time
basis and he'll have to make plenty of plays on sheer want-to.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Jermaine Jenkins
will likely end up back at a starting spot sooner than later
after getting working all of last year on the weakside and
finishing third on the team with 64 tackles with two sacks and
seven tackles for loss. He's only 6-2 and 207
pounds and would be better as a strong safety, but he'll work in
a rotation on the strongside.
Brown will find a spot somewhere on the field. The true
sophomore made three tackles in his little time of work, but the
former star high school safety, who made 181 tackles in two
years while leading his team to a Virginia state high school
title, has excellent range and good toughness for the weakside.
Watch Out For ...
a lot of rotating. Write the depth chart in
pencil because the coaching staff will try to find the three
best players and stick them on the field. They're all relatively
interchangeable for the various spots.
Strength: Quickness. By design, the linebacking
corps is full of safety-sized players who can all move and can
all hit. This is a group of strong safeties playing linebacker.
Weakness: Size. This wasn't that big a deal because there was a
big backer in the middle to hold up against things funneled his
way. Now that Holtzclaw is gone, this becomes a way-too-small
The line needs to do its job of this group
is going to get killed. This is a very quick, very active
linebacking corps that's going to have a hard time holding up
against anyone. It'll be vital to start making more plays behind
the line and creating more turnovers to make up for the lack of
In the attempt to replace
second-leading tackler, Jacob Wyatt, free safety Ryan
Downard will move to strong safety after making 28
tackles and two interceptions in eight games. The 6-1, 201-pound
junior is a ball-hawker, he led the team two years ago with six
picks, and was a favorite of the former coaching staff. He'll be
a key piece to the puzzle in the secondary.
moving, sophomore Marty Cardwell will get a
long look at the free safety spot. The 5-10, 198-pounder didn't
see any time last year but has impressive range and excellent
speed. He'll likely spend most of his time as a nickel or dime
back, but he has the inside track on the starting job going into
5-10, 170-pound junior Arrington Hicks
started eight times last year making 17 tackles with a
team-leading seven broken up passes. One of the team's fastest
players, he needs to show better range and tougher tackling
ability. He also has to stay healthy. However, when he's on the
field, the former Florida high school track star, who was one of
the state's best hurdlers, he'll have no problem staying with
Working on the other side will be
Mark Mitchell, a long-time reserve who spent most of
his time on special teams making two tackles. The 5-11,
179-pound junior has the speed and he'll be a willing tackler,
but he'll have to hold up when teams pick on him. Most passing
games will try to stay away from Hicks.
Projected Top Reserves:
Junior Kevin Long spent
most of last year at corner, starting ten times, making 25
tackles with an interception and three broken up passes. At 6-1
and 196 pounds he has excellent size and good enough speed to
get by, but he didn't do enough to make big plays and he wasn't
nearly consistent enough.
Senior Chris May
was a solid backup in every game making 25 tackles with
a sack and three tackles for loss. However, he didn't have any
interceptions and he didn't break up any passes. The 5-10,
200-pounder tackles like an extra linebacker at free safety, but
he has to
5-11, 182-pound junior Derrick Hunter
is a speedster who has been a key part of the secondary
in the past, making 49 tackles two years ago, but he didn't do
enough against the pass. He's a speedster and he has decent
tackling ability, but he has to come back healthy after missing
all of last year.
Watch Out For ...
Downard to become a bigger playmaker. He
had a decent year as a strong safety when he was healthy, and
now he should be all over the field as a free safety and he
should lead the team in picks.
Strength: A combination of skills. There's good
speed and nice size all across the secondary with the experience
to go along with it. With the right coaching, this group should
be able to do far more.
Weakness: Interceptions. This has been a big problem for the
last few years. Last season, the secondary came up just five
picks, the linebackers came up with the other three, and there
were only 27 broken up passes as a team.
Outlook: The secondary had an awful year with no
consistency and too many big passes allowed. The pass efficiency
defense was last in the MAC and 116th in the nation. There's
plenty of speed and plenty of potential, but someone has to step
up and become a defender to be worried about.
Senior Zach Johnson was a fantastic
punter two years ago averaging 42.1 yards per kick, but he was hurt last
season and ended up averaging just 36.2 yards per try while splitting
duties. He's healthy again and will be more than fine. He also turned
into a nice placekicker two seasons ago, but he gave up the duties and
will just be a punter.
Junior Joe Carithers hit 10-of-14 field
goals but didn't show much range topping out at 43 yards. Johnson has a
bigger leg and could handle the longer kicks, but Carithers will be the
man for everything 40 yards and in.
Sophomore RB Corey Welch will handle the
kickoff return duties after averaging 21.6 yards per try while splitting
time. He'll be the main man, while receiver Marvon Sanders will take
over the punt return job full-time after averaging 9.2 yards per try on
his four attempts.
Watch Out For ... Johnson to be back to form. The leg
injuries should be all healed up and he should be in the mix to be among
the MAC's best punters if he can get some help from the coverage teams.
Strength: Experience. Everyone is back, and now
there should be more production from the return game with Welch and
Sanders getting more work.
Weakness: Coverage teams. The kickoff coverage was bad, allowing
22.4 yards per try, but the punt coverage team was worse giving up 13.9
yards per attempt.
Outlook: Experience alone should make the special
teams better after a down year, but there has to be more consistency to
the punting game, more pop on field goals, and far, far better coverage