2010 Eastern Michigan Preview
Eastern Michigan RB Dwayne Priest
Eastern Michigan RB Dwayne Priest
Posted May 6, 2010

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Ron English
2nd year: 0-12
Returning Lettermen: 45
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best Eastern Michigan Players
1. LB Marcus English, Jr.
2. FS Martavius Cardwell, Jr.
3. SS Ryan Downard, Sr.
4. LB Tim Fort, Sr.
5. QB Alex Gillett, Soph.
6. RB Dwayne Priest, Sr.
7. DE Javon Reese, Jr.
8. FS Latarrius Thomas, Sr.
9. OT Bridger Buche, Jr.
10. C Eric Davis, Sr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 Army
Sept. 11 at Miami Univ.
Sept. 18 Central Mich
Sept. 25 at Ohio St
Oct. 2 Ohio
Oct. 9 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 16 at Ball St
Oct. 23 at Virginia
Oct. 30 Toledo
Nov. 13 at Western Mich
Nov. 20 at Buffalo
Nov. 26 NIU

Eastern Michigan, there's always Temple to look to.

Temple was disastrous for years and years and years, and then head coach Al Golden went young, really young, let his recruits develop, and now is reaping the rewards. Eastern Michigan's Ron English isn't putting the fence around Michigan like Golden has around Philadelphia, but he went with several true freshman last year and now hopes there can be a few steps taken forward.

11 true sophomores or redshirt freshmen are expected to either start, see starting time at some point, or play key roles for the 2010 Eagles, and a few true freshmen and transfers are also expected to be in the mix. Since the overall talent level isn't all that great, the plan is to rotate players at several key spots, keep everyone fresh, keep everyone aggressive, and hope that at some point the cream rises to the top. However, there's a long way to go before EMU is any sort of a player in the MAC race.

The Eagles weren't just bad, they were next-level bad. They were only in three games all season long, were blown out by an average of 38.25 to 16.42, and scored more than 21 points just three times on the way to a winless season. Call it a learning process and call it English trying to build up (not rebuild) from scratch to try to make something happen at a program that hasn't had a winning season since 1995 and has just one winning campaign since 1989. English should get some time to try to make something happen.

English's Eagles need an identity, and that might be to be more aggressive and to try to make more big things happen. There are going to be a ton of mistakes by a team so young, but the offensive line is full of veterans, the defensive line is deep, and the secondary has speed on the outside and three of the team's better players (Ryan Downard, Martavius Cardwell, and Louisville transfer Latarrius Thomas) at safety. The receiving corps isn't that bad, Alex Gillett is a decent-looking running quarterback, and there's enough speed and athleticism across the board to be far better. Now it's up to the coaching staff to try to put all the pieces together.

Success at Eastern Michigan will be measured in baby steps considering the team hasn't won more than four games since the 6-5 winning campaign of 1995, so if English's team can start getting in more games and can get into some semblance of a rhythm, that could be the start of some positive momentum. What does that mean? It means not getting blown out in the first quarter and having to abandon the running game. It's about not being outscored 295 to 100 in the first half and never being in the game. It's about actually being able to run the offense, do what English would like to do on defense, and not have to scramble. That comes with time and more talent, and this year's EMU team has both. What to watch for on offense: The emergence of Alex Gillett. The 6-1, 203-pound sophomore wasn't much of a passer in his little bit of time as a true freshman, but he ran for 100 yards in two of the final three games of the season and is the team's most dangerous weapon out of the backfield. But for EMU to be better, Gillett has to start using the receiving corps more and has to show he can air it out a bit.

What to watch for on defense: The rotation on the front seven. The secondary will have a little bit of movement, but it should be relatively set. The front seven will be a work in progress after doing next to nothing last year against the run and not generating nearly enough pressure on the quarterback. At times, EMU will go to a 4-2-5 alignment, but that can't happen unless the nation's worst run defense is far better.

The team will be far better if … the defense could get off the field. EMU was 108th in the nation in third down conversion percentage defense allowing teams to keep the chains moving 45.4% of the time. The interesting aspect of the futility was how few third down chances there actually were: 141. That means teams were able to pound away with the running game with so much ease, and were able to keep the offense moving with so little sweat, that the EMU defense had problems getting into a position to get create a stop, and then didn't take advantage of the opportunities.

The schedule: There are only four games (Central Michigan, at Ohio State, Ohio, and Northern Illinois) against teams that went bowling last year, and three of those games, all in MAC play, are at home. The non-conference schedule, outside of a trip to Columbus, is hardly a killer facing Army, at Vanderbilt, and at Virginia, but the slate doesn't work out well overall. There aren't two home games in a row, there are only five home games total, and there is only one home date from October 9 to the season finally against NIU meaning there are five road games in six and one home game in seven weeks before the finale. Facing Buffalo, Miami, and Ohio from the East isn't that bad.

Best offensive player: Sophomore QB Alex Gillett. At least he's the one who has to make the offense go. Thrown to the wolves as a true freshman, he completed fewer than half of his passes and threw seven interceptions to just three touchdown passes, but he also finished second on the team with 484 rushing yards. He's never going to be a bomber, but he needs to be far more efficient.

Best defensive player: Junior LB Marcus English. He was hurt throughout last season and only played in six games, but he made the most of his work with 41 tackles. He needs to do more to get into the backfield and he could stand to be a more disruptive force, but if he's 100%, everything will funnel into him and he'll chase down everything going away.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DT Ryan Leonard. Brandon Slater is a big body for the middle of the defensive line, and he'll do his job, but the Eagles need more help in the middle against teams that are going to keep hammering away on the inside. Leonard is a sparkplug at 6-0 and 287 pounds and he has to be effective.

The season will be a success if … EMU wins three games. There aren't any true layups on the slate, considering almost everyone will see EMU as a gimme, but there are several winnable games against teams like Ball State, Miami University, and Buffalo. Anything more than three wins would be a miracle.

Key game: Sept. 4 vs. Army. The English era and the 2009 EMU season started off with a 27-14 loss to the Knights at home. A year later, EMU has to win this game if to only get the monkey off the program's back after going winless last year. There's no telling just how big a little positive momentum could be for a young team.

2009 Fun Stats:
- First quarter scoring: Opponents 136 – Eastern Michigan 36
- Average yards per carry: Opponents 6.3 – Eastern Michigan 3.6
- Rushing touchdowns: Opponents 39 – Eastern Michigan 15

- 2010 Eastern Michigan Preview | 2010 Eastern Michigan Offense
- 2010 Eastern Michigan Defense | 2010 Eastern Michigan Depth Chart
- Eastern Michigan Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006