Thursday, July 6, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Eastern Michigan Eagles
Eastern Michigan Eagles
The EMU Eagles turned a major corner under Chris Creighton in 2016, and won a bowl game for the first time in nearly 30 years. The major challenge will be doing it once again in 2017, and now they have a target on them as a team to beat in the MAC. Creighton has now been given a contract extension as head coach until 2022, but is it possible to maintain winning and heading to bowls at a school where the student body and some faculty wanted the program cut just a year ago? Has the attitude on campus changed enough to warrant a long term future for the program?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Brogan Roback became a star at QB, even if he did not fully start until mid-season last fall. He managed to pass for 2694 yards and 18 TDs to just seven picks last fall, and will not have the pressure of losing the job this season. He will drive the train moving forward, and may be one of the best QBs in the conference as we head into fall camp.
Ian Erickson rushed for 771 yards and scored nine times at RB last season, and the expectation is tha he will grow even more this fall. He is not an explosive back, but he will provide consistency and keep defenses honest. Shaq Vann will be back from injury last season, and he is much more explosive than Erickson. If healthy, he may provide a major boost to this offense in 2017.
Sergio Bailey II is back at WR after finishing with 60 receptions for 868 yards last season. He will be a candidate for All-MAC in 2017. Eddie Daugherty also returns at WR after catching 31 passes, and Johnnie Niupalau is also back to round out the starting WR spots. Dan Buschman also returns at TE, and caught two TD passes last fall.
Paul Fricano had a solid freshman effort at PK last season, and hit 19 of 24 FG attempts. He may be even better this fall with a year behind him.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Ka'John Armstrong and Jimmy Leatiota are the only returning starters on the line this fall. With three new starters needed in fall camp, this should be the most focused upon area on this side of the football. This will also be a situation that could hinder the development of the offense across the board.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Both LBs return in the 4-2-5 defense this fall. Kyle Rachwal returns after finishing the season with 109 tackles last fall, and is a prime All-MAC contender. He started just ten games last fall. Ike Spearman looked healthy after two lost seasons last fall, and finished with 44 tackles. He should be more than ready to go in camp.
Four of five starters return in the secondary this fall. Jason Beck finished second on the team with 104 tackles last season, and finished with seven TFLs. Ikie Calderon is also back on the field after finishing with 63 tackles and two forced fumbles. Vince Calhoun is back at CB after finishing his freshman season with nine PBUs. Kevin McGill started six games as a freshman, and finished with 35 tackles and three PBUs.
Austin Barnes was one of the best Punters in the nation last fall, and returns after averaging well ovr 43 yards per punt.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
Only two of four starters return on the line in Jeremiah Harris and Luke MacLean. Harris finished with nine TFLs last season, and ranked fifth in blocked kicks nationally. MacLean finished with just 10 tackles and two TFLs.
The Eagles allowed over 265 yards passing per game, and another 167 yards rushing per game. If those numbers are to improve in 2017, the new starters on the line will have to be keyed up from the first snap this fall.
2017 Schedule: 91 Charlotte, 9/9 at Rutgers, 9/23 Ohio. 9/30 at Kentucky, 10/7 Toledo, 10/14 at Army, 10/21 Western Michigan, 10/26 at Northern Illinois, 11/2 Ball State, 11/8 at Central Michigan, 11/15 at Miami (Ohio), 11/21 Bowling Green
With the strides that the Eagles made after last season, and the extension given to Creighton, it would appear that the future looks brighter than the long and dark past of the last few decades, but with a loaded schedule this fall, it is going to be a serious challenge for the Eagles to repeat the success of last season. I am not saying that it cannot happen, but it will be much more challenging for this team with a tough early conference schedule, and also for the fact that they will not be sneaking up on anyone this go around. If some chips fall into place, EMU may be going back to a bowl, but there is no margin for error this time.