More than any other 2009 opponent, Eastern Michigan might be super-difficult to preview. This is due to a variety of reasons: a new coaching staff, poor resources about the Eagles, various position switches in the past couple years. As always, this super-early preview is to give a first glimpse of Eastern, but also for readers to help me get the correct information for more in-depth previews later this year. If you know anything about EMU’s team this upcoming year, please comment and help me out! Highlighted players return in ’09.
Eastern Michigan Offense
Andy Schmitt seems like he’s been around forever, probably because he’ll be entering his 4th year as a starter for the Eagles (he split with Tyler Jones his first couple years, though Jones was a wideout last year). Kyle McMahon will be Schmitt’s main backup. Williams was granted a medical redshirt last year, though he played in 3 games.
|Eastern Michigan QBs Passing 2008|
|Eastern Michigan QBs Rushing 2008|
Despite his vast experience, Schmitt isn’t particularly successful at the QB position. He’ll probably retain his position by virtue of that experience, but it seems that, as McMahon and Williams gain some experience, they might be better QBs in the future for the Eagles. Early in 2009, however, it’ll probably be Schmitt once more.
Terrence Blevins returns to Eastern Michigan for his senior season, and he brings all of his backups from last year with him. Priest and Welch will probably get slightly fewer carries than they did last year, as Dominique Sherer, who missed all but the first game last year with an injury, returns to the crowded EMU backfield.
|Eastern Michigan RBs 2008|
|Eastern Michigan RBs Receiving 2008|
Blevins is something of a bruiser, running 6-1+ and more than 240 pounds. Priest and Welch are more of scatback-types, around 5-9 and 180 pounds each. The coaching staff will probably figure out ways to utilize their differing talents, and Blevins will get the majority of the up-the-middle beating. Of course, Michigan’s DL amnd LBs are somewhat raw, so there may be yards available in the middle of the field.
Finally, we find a position at which the Eagles lost seom talent from 2008. Jacory Stone, the team’s leading receiver, is back, but the next two receiving options, converted QB Tyler Jones and TE Jeff DeLuc, are both gone. Marvon Sanders will continue to play a slot role for the Eagles, and Dontayo Gage will man the other outside starting position in his senior year.
|Eastern Michigan Receiving 2008|
|Jeff DeLuc (TE)||32||446||4||13.94|
|DeAnthony White (DB)||15||156||1||10.40|
|Ben Thayer (TE)||6||113||0||18.83|
|John Bonner (TE)||7||109||0||15.57|
|Spenser Smith (DB)||1||4||0||4.00|
|Eastern Michigan Receivers Rushing 2008|
|DeAnthony White (DB)||4||53||0||13.25|
|Ryan Downard (DB)||1||3||0||3.00|
|John Bonner (TE)||1||-3||0||-3.00|
The Eagles aren’t particularly deep at the wide receiver position, as they lost 2 of their top 3 performers from last year. However, there is plenty of room for new contributors to step up. Lots of players got at least a bit of playing time last year, and they’ll play bigger roles in ’09. The Eagles don’t have prototypical size on the outside (Stone and Gage are under 6-0), and so they probably will focus more on getting players in space than trying to go deep.
TJ Lang was the only important starter to graduate, though fellow seniors Chris Larkins and Ross Peterson also got a bit of playing time. Peterson will be back for his 5th year, and hopes to move into a more prominent role after playing in only one game last year. Sophomores Bridger Bouche and Derek Gotham are returning starters as juniors, and now-senior Eric Davis will be a returning starter as well. Darrell Davis-Budanauro and Dan DeMaster will also try to move into the starting rotation.
The Eagles lose only one important contributor in TJ Lang, though he was a 4th-round pick (something that is very rare for a program like Eastern). The rest of the linemen return, except for spot contributor Larkins and another player who didn’t get any playing time. The Eagles had middle-of-the-pack rushing offense and sacks allowed last year, though each of those might take a small step back without the rare NFL draftee on the line in Ypsilanti.
The Eagles are pretty experienced on offense, returning the entire backfield from last year, and some important contributors on the line and in the receiving corps. Considering that Eastern was actually in the top-25 in the nation in total offense last year, they should be able to continue improving this year. Of course, that ranking last year was achieved playing a MAC schedule, along with nearly 650 yards against 1-AA Indiana State. Still, the Eagle offense is nothing to sleep on, especially with most offensive linemen returning.
Eastern Michigan Defense
Brad Ohrman was the star of the Eastern Michigan defensive line last year as a redshirt freshman, and will look to continue rushing the passer in his sophomore season. Javon Reese, the other defensive end for Eastern, had some success last year and will likely keep his starting job. Redshirt Sophomore Brandon Slater will continue his starting role as a defensive tackle, and Ryan Kuhlman may step into the other starting spot, if Tyler Palsrok can’t do it.
|Eastern Michigan Defensive Line 2008|
The Eagles have a decent amount of experience on defensive line, despite losing starter Josh Hunt. The one thing that they don’t have is size. If you’re starting a 6-5, 265-pound defensive tackle, and defensive ends who are probably better suited to be linebackers, you might have trouble stopping the run. Fortunately for the Wolverines, with an experienced offensive line and Brandon Minor, there is reason to expect to good power running game . The lighter D-Ends may be better at chasing down Tate Forcier on the QB keepers that he’s likely to run, but pounding up the middle with Minor should be a fairly effective gameplan.
4-year-starter and star Daniel Holtzclaw, who was the heart of the EMU defense for what seem like forever, is gone. Fortunately for Eastern, they return just about everyone else of note, and will have players slide over to cover the gap he leaves. Senior Andre Hatchett will be the anchor of the unit, and he’ll be joined by fellow senior Brandon Downs (unless his spring move to defensive end is permanent) and one of Tim Fort and Herb Waits. If Downs is now a defensive lineman, expect both of those two to start.
|Eastern Michigan Linebackers 2008|
The loss of Holtzclaw is big, but the fact that the Eagles return everyone of note, and perhaps are strong enough at linebacker to be moving players down to the defensive line, means that this unit shouldn’t be hurting too badly. Fort is a little-ish linebacker, with more of safety size. Of course, that means Waits, at 5-10 and 180 pounds, is more like corner-sized. Like DL, this unit should be susceptible to Michigan’s power run game.
The Eagles lose 3 of their top 4 defensive backs, so they’ll be filling some major needs here with unproven players. Taking into account that the lone returning starter, Jermaine Jenkins, may be moving to linebacker, and Eastern is likely looking at a pretty tough year in the defensive secondary. Ryan Downard will man one safety spot, and Kevin Long will probably be the other. Nate Wilson will probably be a starting corner, along with senior Chris May.
|Eastern Michigan Defensive Backs 2008|
|Tyrone Burke (WR)||1||0||0||0|
|Sonny Paluch (TE)||1||0||0||0|
As Mentioned above, the Eagles have few proven players, and should struggle in the secondary this year. The one thing they have going is that most of their interceptions from last year came from returning players. Of course, interceptions are somewhat random, but there is a playmaking aspect to the secondary.
The EMU defense wasn’t good last year (this should be obvious, considering the top-25 offense and 3-9 season). They were bad against the rush and awful against the pass. Considering the personnel uncertainties at this point in the year, they should be in for another tough year. Michigan should mostly grind this one out on the ground, but take advantage of opportunities through the air and in the short passing game.
Placekicker Joe Carithers, a JuCo transfer last year, will return to kick in ’09. Zach Johnson and Patrick Treppa split punting duties last year. Johnson will be back for his 5th year, and Treppa will be a junior this fall. Lots of kicking options for the Eagles.
|Eastern Michigan Kicking 2008|
|Eastern Michigan Punting 2008|
The kicking game and punting game were both around average last year, with the punts not being quite as good. Returning all three kicking specialists, the Eagles should be able to improve in all respects this year.
Eastern was pretty good on offense last year, and awful on defense. That trend should continue this year, as they return most key offensive contributors, and lose some important pieces on defense. Eastern should be one of the weaker oponents all around that Michigan plays this fall.