Thursday, July 2, 2015

College Football Preview 2015: MAC

For the MAC to continue to elevate their conference profile in the Group of Five focus, job number one will be to improve their standing when it comes to winning bowl games. Last season, the MAC finished just 2-3 in the post season, with the losses coming at an average of just over 14 points per. Now to be fair, Northern Illinois carries a brunt of that burden as they lost to a pissed off Marshall club by 29 points in the Boca Bowl, so there is that to consider.
2015 brings a season of promise to the conference for several teams. Bowling Green has just begun to flourish under Dino Babers as coach, UMass should see more positivity under Mark Whipple and QB Blake Frohnapfel, and the West should be incredibly strong in their upper half. Here's a look at what to expect in 2015...

Projected Order of Finish

1. Bowling Green
2. UMass
3. Buffalo
4. Ohio
5. Akron
6. Kent State
7. Miami (Ohio)

1. Toledo
2. Northern Illinois
3. Western Michigan
4. Ball State
5. Central Michigan
6. Eastern Michigan 0-12

All Conference Team
QB Zach Terrell, Western Michigan
QB-Blake Frohnapfel, UMass
QB-Joe Licata, Buffalo
RB-Kareem Hunt, Toledo
RB-Anthone Taylor, Buffalo
RB-Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan
WR-Corey Davis, Western Michigan
WR-Tajae Sharpe, UMass
WR-Roger Lewis, Bowling Green
WR-Daniel Braverman, Western Michigan
TE-Rodney Mills, UMass
TE-Matt Weiser, Buffalo

DL-Pat O'Connor, Eastern Michigan
DL-Blake Serpa, Central Michigan
DL-Orion Jones, Toledo
DL-Trent Voss, Toledo
LB-Jatavis Brown, Akron
LB-Great Ibe, Eastern Michigan
LB-Jovan Santos-Knox, UMass
LB-Grant DePalma, Western Michigan
DB-Clint Stephens, Bowling Green
DB-Ronald Zamort, Western Michigan
DB-Randall Jette, UMass
DB-Paris Logan, Northern Illinois

PK-Andrew Haldeman, Western Michigan
P-Anthony Melchiori, Kent State
KR-Darius Phillips, Western Michigan
PR-Corey Jones, Toledo

2015 Team Previews

Bowling Green Falcons
2014 Record: 8-6
2015 Projected Record: 7-5
Head Coach: Dino Babers (8-6, 2nd season)

The Good News: The Falcons are loaded at QB, as they return Matt Johnson from injury, and James Knapke returns after starting most of last season in Johnson's place. There are questions still regarding both, but we'll save that for later. Any team that has two starting caliber QBs returning should count that as a blessing. Travis Greene is back at RB as well, so defenses should be kept honest by the Falcon's ability to balance run and pass. Three starters also return at WR in All League pick Roger Lewis, Ronnie Moore, and Ryan Burbrink. Chris Gallon also returns from injury, and the Falcons add Baylor transfer Robbie Rhoades. The Falcons should have one of the deepest passing units in the nation. The real stenght is in the fact that all five starting linemen return as well, making BGSU one of the most dangerous offensive units around.
A defense that was largely a mess last season does return a few decent pieces in DTs Gus Schwieterman and Taylor Royster, along with OLB James Sanford and CB Darrell Hunter.
Tyler Tate returns at PK after hitting 23 FGs last fall, and should be a nice weapon in reserve once again. Joseph Davidson also returns at Punter, where he has a cannon leg that could help out his messy defensive teammates.
The Bad News: Straight to that defense we go, as this will likely be an Achilles issue for the Falcons once again in 2015. This unit, which loses eight starters as well, ranked just 115th in the country in total defense, and frankly is a reason that I am unable to find more winnable games in the schedule than seven without a MAC title appearance or bowl. The Falcons could not stop the pass (291.4 yards per game), and gave up 33.5 points per game. With so many holes to fill, it's hard to see how the Falcons can improve on that this fall. Babers has tried to retool this unit through recruiting, with as many as five players in the top ten of the incoming class playing that side of the football. This is going to take time to fix.
The Overview: Nobody is going to question how good this offense can be. It will likely be the best in the conference, and can be one of the best in the nation. The question is how much will they have to score to cover their hole ridden at best defense. That defense is an anchor keeping the Falcons from truly flying in 2015. I see seven wins on the schedule, but that Tennessee game away from Neyland really intrigues me as an upset opportunity. Either way, the offense should be more than enough to win a very shallow Eastern Division this fall.
First Game: 9/5 Tennessee at Nashville

UMass Minutemen
2014 Record: 3-9
2015 Projected Record: 7-5
Head Coach: Mark Whipple (52-35, 8th season total over two stints)

The Good News: There is finally a lot to like at UMass in 2015, and this is only proof that Mark Whipple has his thumb firmly on the pulse of what works at this particular school.
It all starts with QB Blake Frohnapfel, a legitimate NFL prospect. Despite missing the final two games of the year, he passed for an average of 334.5 yards per game, which led the MAC, and tossed 23 TDs. This is the first time in a long time that UMass has had a trigger man that has been able to step up and thrive in Amherst. Frohnapfel has two legitimate receiving threats in All Conference selections WR Tajae Sharpe and TE Rodney Mills. Mills worked at H-Back, but was productive enough to start at TE for any program in the league last fall. Sharpe scored seven times on 85 receptions last season, and should be a beast this fall as well. Once again, the key is on the offensive line, where all five starters return, and the Minutemen are as deep as they've been in decades there.
UMass has two major stars on defense in tackling machine ILB Jovan Santos-Knox and CB Randall Jette, a pass break up specialist. Nine total starters return on defense, but the unit must improve big time to succeed and pass Bowling Green, as they ranked 101st nationally in total defense. Look for a major improvement to come, as with so many starters returning, one would expect some serious off season development of this unit.
The Bad News: There is certainly little to pick apart about the offense, but the run game is an area of concern heading into 2015. Nobody stepped into that role and thrived last season, and to keep defenses honest against the pass, someone will have to step up big and take the reins here. UMass could see any from a group of five backs try to take control in fall camp, including Jamal Wilson, who lost a chunk of time to injury. An answer must be found early.
The defense, as talked about above, has to overcome some bad habits and prove that they can truly take an opportunity and overcome their past. The Minutemen gave up 33 points per game last fall, a trait that cannot continue.
What's more concerning is a kicking game, where three PKs could not lock down the job last fall, and a freshman may be the answer this fall. The Punting game was no better, and someone has to step in and step up to help out that defense.
The Overview: The Minutemen have an identity issue on defense and special teams. Luckily, most of the teams in the east have an identity crisis on defense, so that could be mitigated in conference play. What's good is that with so many starters returning on D, they should start to resolve the problems that plagued them. The offense is as potentially explosive as any other in the league, but they must find a run game to compliment what should be a top tier passing game. If the Minutemen can find some answers early, they could steal this division from the Falcons. Mark Whipple has done an amazing job at UMass, but that won't happen matters after 2015, as the school leaves the MAC to become an independent once more.
First Game: 9/12 at Colorado

Buffalo Bulls
2014 Record: 5-6
2015 Projected Record: 7-5
Head Coach: Lance Leipold (1st season)

The Good News: The Bulls made a splashy move in grabbing the ultra successful Leipold from a D3 school where losing wasn't an option (109-6 during his tenure at Wisconsin-Whitewater). Leipold made Mount Union look like a whipping boy during his stay at the school, something nobody prior had ever been able to do. This hire was outside the box, bold, and refreshing.
Leipold isn't walking into a terrible situation, despite what the pundits may believe. He inherits three all league selections on offense, including four year starter Joe Licata at QB. Licata may quietly be one of the best QBs in college football, and has broken several school records at UB during his tenure. Senior RB Anthone Taylor also returns after rushing for over 1400 yards in his first season as starter last fall, and the Bulls have depth with Devin Campbell and Jordan Johnson. TE Matt Weiser returns as well, and should have a break out season for the Bulls. Collin Lisa, a UAB transfer, will add depth at TE as well. Ron Willoughby is back at WR, and there is enough experience to go around behind him.
Tyler Grassman averaged just under 41 yards per punt last season, and will be back. Campbell will also return kicks, and is close to school records in the return game.
The Bad News: It's officially a theme, but the defense could be a disaster this fall. Only three starters return, and one of them, OLB Okezie Alozie, was playing Safety last fall. OLB James Franklin returns, but only had 49 tackles last fall, hardly a juggernaut. Boise Ross is the only other returning starter at CB. The entire line must be replaced on defense, and the tackles used to be ends.
On offense, the issue will come on the line, where the entire interior line must be replaced, and starting LT Robert Blodgett used to play RG.
The Bulls lose PK Patrick Clark, which is a big blow. Adam Mitcheson, a freshman, will get the first opportunity to replace him.
The Overview: The Bulls, like most others in this division, are a mess on defense, and that could be a major problem in Leipold's first season as a division one head coach. The offense has enough talent (minus the questions on the line) to compete, but they are certainly the next tier in the division after UMass and Bowling Green. Will Leipold be able to upgrade this program, and move past his D3 roots to succeed here? I believe that he can, but right now he is certainly an upgrade over Jeff Quinn and Alex Wood at this point.
First Game: 9/5 Albany

Ohio Bobcats
2014 Record: 6-6
2015 Projected Record: 6-6
Head Coach: Frank Solich (72-56, 11th season)

The Good News: QB Derrius Vick should be healthy this fall, and will likely give the Bobcats a much needed boost on offense this season after the Cats struggled to score just 20.5 points per game last season (111th nationally). Look for the Bobcats one back attack to take off with Vick at full strength when he pulls up and runs. His passing numbers could use a boost, but the Bobcats rely on a read option run game to make their offense fly. If Vick fall, JD Sprague returns. That run game will be bolstered by the return of five starters on a deep offensive line that should be a key to the success to this unit. Sophomore RB AJ Ouelette is back after a thrilling freshman campaign last fall, and he should break the 1000 yard mark as the key guy from day one this season. Daz Patterson and Papi White will add depth and change of pace behind Ouellette.
Ohio was particularly nasty on defense against the run last fall, ranking 25th nationally in that area. Terrell Basham and Casey Sails both will start at DE this fall, so they should be able to close off the edge. LB is loaded with the return of all three starters in Jovon Johnson, Qunetin Poling, and Blair Brown. CB should be an area of strength as well, with Ian Wells and Brett Layton starting, and Devin Bass coming in off the bench.
Josiah Yazdani returns to give Ohio some stability at PK.
The Bad News: Despite the strengths in the run game, the passing game struggles at times because they cannot find a top flight WR in the group that is present. Sabastion Smith and Brandon Cope both return at WR, and Jordan Reid is a hoped for answer, but someone needs to step up and be a big time threat.
Defensively, as good as they were against the run, the Bobcats were equally bad against the pass, giving up 261.4 yards per game through the air in 2014. The middle of the line must be replaced as well, and both safety jobs are up for grabs heading into the fall.
Punter Mitch Bonstetter returns, but his average was just that, average.
The Overview: The Bobcats seem stuck in a rut, and they will struggle to find their way out this fall. If the passing game can find an uptick, and the questions are answered in the pass defense, Ohio could surprise, as there is enough talent on hand to do so. At this point, however, talent must be overcome with execution for the Cats to break out of the middle of the pack.
That being said, there is one more issue to consider. For the first time in Athens, Solich is starting to fell some heat from a fan base that isn't happy with being stuck in the middle. He isn't a young guy, so retirement is likely close anyway, but Solich has got to get this going to be able to walk out on his own terms.
First Game: 9/3 Idaho

Akron Zips
2014 Record: 5-7
2015 Projected Record: 5-7
Head Coach: Terry Bowden (11-25, 4th season)

The Good News: The RB position could be a major strength, as the Zips have more depth than they have had in a while. Of course, right now, it's all in paper, as Donnell Alexander (Colorado State transfer), and Conor Hundley have yet to establish themselves. Manny Morgan and Hakeem Lawrence also provide some depth. Three starters return on the line, and that could help this unit show some improvement this fall.
All league pick Jatavis Brown returns at LB this fall, and should be the anchor on a decent defense. Se'Von Pittman returns at DE, and will be the guy nobody wants to run into on the edge. Cody Grice returns at NT as well, giving the Zips a solid up front unit. Rodney Coe and Jamal Marcus transfer into the program to add additional depth. One more transfer, Darryl Monroe, will enter the fray at LB. The Zips should have some depth at CB as well, with DeAndre Scott, Kris Givens, and Miami transfer Larry Hope all providing some strength.
The kicking game is solid, with Robert Stein (13/16) back at PK, and Zach Paul (42.5) back at Punter.
The Bad News: The Zips need to find answers at RB and WR to survive in 2015, and the QB situation is hardly stable, even with Kyle Pohl coming back. Pohl was more a mess than not in 2014, and is being pushed in fall camp. The Zips averaged just 22.6 points per game last season, and that will not win many games.
There is plenty of potential coming back on defense, but it is just that, potential. The Zips need to find solid answers at both Safety spots, and must also find answers at two LB spots as well.
The Overview: The Zips largely couldn't get out of their own way in 2014, and therefore lost their way to a bowl bid. Terry Bowden has never failed at any job he's ever had, but this situation isn't great. More bad news, Akron finished dead last in attendance per game nationally last fall, and that's not what I call job security. The Zips really need a break, but it may not come this fall.
First Game: 9/5 at Oklahoma

Kent State Golden Flashes
2014 Record: 2-9
2015 Projected Record: 2-10
Head Coach: Paul Haynes (6-17, 3rd season)

The Good News: The blocks are there for a decent run game in 2015, but only if power back Traion Durham can stay healthy, and Nick Holley shows continued development. The WR spot should be a strength as well, with Kris White and Ernest Calhoun returning as starters, and an expected breakout by James Brooks. That should help out QB Colin Reardon, who has largely struggled in his two years as starter. The left side of the line is set with the return of Reno Reda (LT), and Wayne Scott (LG), while Center Alex Nielson also returns.
The secondary should be set in 2015, and the team was solid against the pass last season, ranking 45th nationally. Najee Murray is back at CB, while SS Jordan Italiano and FS Nate Holley both return. Elcee Refuge and Matt Dellinger will both be back at LB, and should be able to cover until the open OLB spot gets filled permanently. The middle of the line should be decent, as Nate Terhune and Jon Cunningham both return at the tackle spots.
Anthony Melchiori is back at both Punter and PK, but Punting is his strength. He is an all conference selection at Punter, averaging 44.3 yards per punt last fall. The Flashes would be wise to find another PK this season, as he only hit for 10 of 18 FGs.
The Bad News: The Flashes were more like sputtering fumes last fall, having just scored 16 points per game. The passing game could use some work, but the run game needs health, as they only rushed for 81.8 yards per game, which ranked only 122nd in the nation. In total, the offense was in the tank, ranking just 116th in the nation in total offense. Maybe a reboot is necessary at this point.
On defense, some of that returning talent has to develop in the middle, as the Flashes gave up 214 yards per game rushing. Otherwise, the unit wasn't entirely terrible, but Kent State has to find answers in so many areas, it's hard to know where to start.
The Overview: Paul Haynes took over from Darrell Hazell at a high point in program history. Ever since he's taken over, the program has been in a steep decent into the ground. There has been little in the way of consistency in any area, and that is why they have failed. If Haynes fails to find a way to overcome expectations in 2015, the heat may be too much to bear. In short, Kent State will be hard pressed to find a way to break through even to mediocrity this season.
First Game: 9/4 at Illinois

Miami (Ohio) Red Hawks
2014 Record: 2-10
2015 Projected Record: 2-10
Head Coach: Chuck Martin (2-10, 2nd season)

The Good News: There isn't much to go on with the offensive side of the football. Jared Murphy (WR), Trevan Brown (LG), and Collin Buchanan (RT) are the only returning starters on an offense that largely was a mess last fall.
There's much more to go on when it comes to defense, where every returning starter is back up front on the line (J'Terius Jones and Bryson Albright at DE, Mitchell Winters and Jimmy Rousher at DT), and two of three LBs also return in Kent Kern and Joe Dolan. The open LAB spot is likely a battle between TJ Williams and freshman Brad Koening. Both corners are locked down as well in Heath Harding and Marshall Taylor.
Kaleb Patterson is back at PK after hitting 9 of 13 FGs last season. Christian Koch is back at Punter, and averaged 40.1 yards per punt.
The Bad News: There is no answer at QB, and the battle heads into the fall. RB is going to be dominated by freshmen in the fall battle, and they need to isolate someone who can step up and be a primary. The WR spot is overloaded with guys who have not stepped up, and so there are major questions there as well. The line needs three new starters as well.
On defense, the only major issue is at Safety, where two new starters must be found.
The Overview: The Hawks will be limited and grounded by an offense that will struggle to find bodies and talent this fall. There are so many questions and battles going on, that I would be surprised if all the battles were solved by the opener. Miami will be young, and winning is still some ways off.
First Game: 9/5 Presbyterian

Toledo Rockets
2014 Record: 9-4
2015 Projected Record 9-3
Head Coach: Matt Campbell (26-13, 4th season)

The Good News: Phillip Ely and Logan Woodside both return at QB, and either could start at any given point. Both, however, are coming off of injury, so health will be a key factor. The biggest weapon on the team will be RB Kareem Hunt, and All-America type back who returns after a 1600 yard season, and 250 yard bowl game performance. Hunt will be one of the hardest backs in the nation to stop. Alonzo Russell and Corey James both return at receiver as well to bolster the passing game.
The defensive line is built and stocked, with every starter coming back. Allen Covington and all league selection Trent Voss are back at the DEs, while Treyvon Hester and Orion Jones are back at Tackle. The secondary is almost as solid, with three starters coming back in CB Jordan Martin, and Safeties Chaz Whittaker and DeJuan Rogers. Chris Dukes started last fall as well, but sits behind senior Cheatham Norris on the depth chart heading into fall camp. Both will play plenty.
The Bad News: There is a situation on the O line, which needs to be entirely rebuilt across the board. It is the only major question, other than health at QB, but the line is a huge question heading into the season, and it may take some time for the unit to come together.
On defense, the entire LB unit must be replaced as well, and that could make the line work just a little harder, and those safeties as well, until they figure things out.
The kicking game also could be troublesome. The Rockets need to find a new PK (Sam Vucevich has the inside track), and the Punting game with Nick Ellis, struggled a great deal as Ellis averaged just a shade over 37 yards per punt last fall.
The Overview: Matt Campbell is one of the best young coaches in America today, so with a line problem on offense, and a LB problem on defense, it's hard for me to bet against the Rockets in 2015. Toledo still has enough in the tank to win the West, but it's not a sure thing. Even so, odds favor Toledo to make it back to the MAC title game this fall.
First Game: 9/3 Stony Brook

Northern Illinois Huskies
2014 Record: 11-3
2015 Projected Record: 8-4
Head Coach: Rod Carey (23-6, 3rd season)

The Good News: Drew Hare returns at QB, and had a nice 2014 campaign. He is a passer, and not a great runner, so the Husky offense has changed dynamics. With Hare back, he has a decent WR corps that will include Juwan Bresacin and Tommylee Lewis, who returns after missing most of last season due to injury. The group is deep and talented, so the passing game should be on track.
The middle of the D Line should be a solid rotation, with starters William Lee and Corey Thomas returning, and senior Ben Compton rotating in at tackle. Perez Ford also returns at DE, giving the Huskies a solid foundation up front. There is strength at LB as well, as both Rasheen Lemon and Boomer Mays return. Sean Folliard should win the open spot at LB, with Cameron Clinton-Earl the leading candidate to win the open spot at DE. The secondary should be solid as well, with three starters returning, including CBs Anthony Brooks and Paris Logan, and Safety Marlon Moore. Logan is the Huskies' lone all league selection heading into 2015.
The Bad News: The O line returns just two starters in 2015, which could make the passing game struggle a bit to get going due to protection issues. Making matters worse is that the Huskies really don't have an A option at RB, and may be forced to go to a committee four deep.
On special teams, the PK job is headed back to Christian Hogan, who took over during the season last fall, but he needs to find a bit more consistency and experience. Peter Deppe is the leader to take over at Punter, but he is just a RS freshman.
The Overview: Rod Carey has done an amazing job since taking over for Dave Doeren, but something feels a little off about this club. Hare is a decent QB, but him not having a real run option in his game is kind of going away from what the Huskies do best. The RB by committee approach also falls short of what we have come to expect. If the line doesn't come together, there could be issues. The defense looks good enough to hold things together until answers are found on offense, and the Huskies have the coaches, and mostly the talent, to give Toledo a run this fall.
First Game: 9/5 UNLV

Western Michigan Broncos
2014 Record: 8-5
2015 Projected Record: 8-4
Head Coach: PJ Fleck (9-16, 3rd season)

The Good News: Zach Terrell is back at QB after passing for 3443 yards and completing 69.1% of his passes on the season. The All-League pick should have plenty of opportunities to get the ball slung about, as all three of his starting WRs return this fall, including fellow all league picks Daniel Braverman (86 receptions) and Corey Davis (78). Kendrick Roberts is back as well to round out the group, and depth is decent behind them as well, including freshman Kadeem Goulborne. All League RB Jarvion Franklin is back as well after rushing for 1551 yards and 24 scores. The Broncos should be explosive at both running and passing the football. Three starters return on the line as well, giving WMU a decent corps up front.
Defensively, WMU is loaded up front. Jarrell McKinney and Nathan Braster both return at DE, while Cleveland Smith is back at DT. All conference pick Grant DePalma is back at LB, and will anchor the middle of the unit. Robert Spillane returns as well. David Curle will have the inside track at the open DT spot, while junior Austin Lewis should step in at LB. Ronald Zamort joins a deep cast of all league picks for the Broncos and will be back at CB. Rontavious Atkins is also back at SS.
Andrew Haldeman returns after hitting 14 of 17 FGs last season, and is yet another all league pick heading into 2015. J. Schroeder returns at Punter as well, and has plenty to offer after averaging 42.8 yards per punt last fall.
The Bad News: There isn't much bad news for PJ Fleck and crew heading into the season. The one area of concern is a very difficult September schedule that includes Michigan State at home, and road trips to Georgia Southern and Ohio State. That's brutal.
The Overview: If you are looking for a dark horse to win the MAC, WMU is the longshot bet that has a chance to pay off. PJ Fleck has done a remarkable job on the turn around with the Broncos, and he has them on a fast rise. The offense should be explosive, and the defense is relatively loaded. If they can get out of September in one piece, it could be quite a special season.
First Game: 9/4 Michigan State

Ball State Cardinals
2014 Record: 5-7
2015 Projected Record: 4-8
Head Coach: Pete Lembo (30-20, 5th season)

The Good News: The key is the O line, which returns completely intact from last fall, and should help some offensive skill players with their evolution. That unit is led by three seniors in QG Jeremiah Harvey, C Jacob Richard, and SG Jalen Schlachter. The Cardinals return some decent depth at RB, and QB, but must find someone to step up and lead in both spots. Jordan Williams and KeVonn Mabon are both back at WR, and Dylan Curry and Sam Brunner both return at TE as well, giving the Cardinals decent receiving options.
On defense, the Cardinals are in good shape on the line, returning three starters in RE Michael Ayers, and DTs Darnell Smith and Keenan Noel. All three starters are back at LB as well, with Aaron Taylor, Zack Ryan, and Ben Ingle all coming back for another go.
Kyle Schmidt is back at Punter after averaging a solid 41.5 yards per punt.
The Bad News: Jack Milas and Ozzie Mann both played last fall, but someone really needs to win the job this fall. The RB situation has plenty of candidates, but nobody who has produced to any great degree, and so again, someone needs to step up and take control.
In short, the Cardinals could use some improvement almost everywhere, including at PK, where freshman Morgan Hagee has the inside track at starting.
Pete Lembo is a solid coach, but he has to start getting this team on the right track fairly soon. He's in his fifth season, and this team is sinking rather than rising. The talent level is way off from the rest of the league, and so there isn't any real hope of this team going bowling right now.
First Game: 9/3 VMI

Central Michigan Chippewas
2014 Record: 7-6
2015 Projected Record: 4-8
Head Coach: John Bonamego (1st season)

The Good News: Cooper Rush is back at QB, and that is big news for CMU, as he passed for 3157 yards last season, including 27 TDs, which included seven in the bowl game. Jesse Kroll returns for his senior season, and Corey Willis is back as well, giving Rush at least two go to guys in the passing game.Three starters return on the line, which is a decent foundation to build on with LT Ramadan Ahmeti, C Nick Beamish, and RG Kenny Rogers all returning.
On defense, the strength will be up front on the line, as DE Blaker Serpa, DE Joe Ostman, and DT Jabari Dean all return. Brandon Greer returns at CB, and S Tony Annese both return as well.
Brian Eavey did a solid job last fall at PK in limited opportunities, hitting 8 of 9 FGs on the season.
The Bad News: The receivers, despite Kroll and Willis returning, are not a deep group, especially when it comes to experience. Talent is one thing, game experience is quite another. There is no clear answer at RB, and a deep battle is expected to go into fall camp. Once again, there is very little in productivity there.
Defensively, the entire LB unit needs to be replaced in the starting lineup, and that will need to be fixed in short order, as right now there is a gaping hole in the middle of the field.
Ron Coluzzi is back at Punter, but averaged just 37 yards per punt after returning from injury.
The coaching situation is another issue, as Bonamego is an unknown quantity after coming over from his job as Special Teams Coach of the Detroit Lions. He also is fighting a cancer diagnosis, which he should recover from, but he could be distracted just a bit.
The Overview: Nobody knows much about Bonamego, but what we do know is that whatever is going on, it could be an improvement on Dan Enos, who left without care for an OC job at Arkansas. Enos always seemed like a bad fit, so they couldn't be much worse for wear on that front, despite making a bowl game last fall.
There really seems to be very little in the way of enough talent to viably compete this season, so look for some road bumps early on. It's going to be an interesting ride.
First Game: 9/3 Oklahoma State

Eastern Michigan Eagles
2014 Record: 2-10
2015 Projected Record: 0-12
Head Coach: Chris Creighton (2-10, 2nd season)

The Good News: Reginald Ball is a key playmaker at QB, as he has shown some flashes of playmaking ability in his one season at QB. Now he has to find consistency and some playmakers to rally around him to get this thing going in the right direction. Dustin Kreel and Kris Strange both return at WR, and that will be a start, especially Kreel, who may blow up this season.
Five starters return in the front seven, including all league pick Patrick O'Connor and Mike Brown at DT, and a group of LBs including Hunter Matt, all league pick Great Ibe, and Anthony Zappone.
The Bad News: EMU has been a mess for decades. and that's not stopping anytime soon. The line is in rebuild mode, with one returning starter only. There is no depth at WR, and the RB position is just as bad.
The defense ranked 118th in total defense, 122nd in scoring, 113th in rushing, and 116th against the pass. The Eagles should show some improvement, but you will have to look for those improvements, as they may not be entirely obvious at first.
The Overview: Creighton is recruiting to build something at EMU, however, this is a massive job, and it is going to take a good long while to put something, anything, together.
First Game: 9/5 Old Dominion

Next: Mountain West

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