This is a personnel-oriented look at the season's opponents. The game-week previews will be more matchup based. Last year's stats are presented with projected starters in bold and departed players in italics.
|Eastern Michigan Offense 2010|
|Yards Per Game||333.42||91|
|Points Per Game||19.00||108|
|Yards Per Play||5.05||89|
|Yards Per Pass||6.81||76|
|Yards Per Rush||4.07||72|
|Playcall Distribution||1.81 Rush:Pass|
Per expectations, Eastern was really bad on offense. Despite being below-average on a yards-per-rush basis, they pounded into the line almost twice as frequently as they passed (adjusted for sacks, they still ran 1.61 times for each pass attempt).
Where they were truly terrible, however, was the passing game. Their yards per pass attempt was slightly boosted by the rarity with which they actually threw it, but the efficiency number was amongst the worst in the nation.
Long story short, Eastern is bad at football (just you wait until we get to the defense).
Alex Gillett started every game for Eastern last year, but that's not to say he saw a whole lot of success: his completion percentage, yards per attempt, and interception percentage all range from mediocre to horrible. The one area that he did see success? The running game, where he led the Eagles on the ground.
Last year's backup, Devontae Payne, is no longer with the team, meaning that Gillett's backup will be a guy who has yet to play college football.
|Eastern Michigan QBs 2010|
|Eastern Michigan QBs Rushing 2010|
Grade: 2/5. Gillett was bad last year (except on the ground), and now there is nobody else on the roster who has seen any playing time in college football. Gillett's legs are actually pretty impressive - if you remove sacks, he was near 6 yards/carry - so I gave him a slight bump. Still, as a pure passer, he has a long way to go.
The primary reason Dwayne Priest didn't lead the Eagles in rushing as a senior was an injury absence of three games. That did, however, give a few returning players a chance to step up. Official White Guy Corey Welch got the most carries, but he was outshined by freshman Javonti Greene on a down-to-down basis. Expect Welch to get some carries, but Greene should be the featured back. Dominique Sherrer and Joe Fleming should also get a few carries, and Sherrer chould even see a large role if he stays healthy. Despite all that, Phil Steele projects true freshman Ryan Brumfield to start, but color me a skeptic on that take.
|Eastern Michigan RBs 2010|
|Eastern Michigan RBs Receiving 2009|
Grade: 2/5. There's a bit of potential here, with the general EMU-ness of things dragging down expectations a bit. Javonti Greene has shown that he's ready to perform if given the opportunity, and Sherrer has shown off a bit of speed on kickoff returns. Still, this is a results-based grading service, and the Eagles haven't managed to get it done on the ground yet.
Kinsman Thomas was Eastern's most-used wideout last year, but still managed to gain a very-respectable 18 yards per reception. The second-most deployed wideout, Donald Scott, wasn't far behind. Unfortunately for the Eagles, those two combined for fewer than 40 receptions on the year.
With Gillett's favorite target, tight end Ben Thayer, graduating, the wideouts should see an increase in receptions, but will probably a regress to the mean in yards per catch. Garrett Hoskins (whose also-lofty YPC average is boosted by a 73-yard trick play reception) will step into the starting lineup, but it's tough to say whether a second tight end or a new wide receiver will step up to grab the last spot. Expect either Trey Hunter or Kevin Wheeler - who took an injury redshirt last year - to get the nod.
|EMU Receivers 2010|
|Ben Thayer (TE)||30||386||12.87||3|
|Garrett Hoskins (TE)||8||217||27.125||2|
|Josh LeDuc (TE)||17||155||9.12||1|
|Kyle DeMaster (TE)||3||19||6.33||0|
|EMU WRs Rushing 2009|
|Ben Thayer (TE)||1||32||32.00||0|
Grade: 2/5. The Eastern receiving corps has actually proven to be explosive, despite (or in part due to) their lack of opportunities. With three of the top 6 gone, however, those who remain are going to have to step up and maintain their past performance while getting more attention from the defense. I'll believe that can happen when I see it.
Eastern returns three starters (at least part-time) from last year, but there will be some position shuffling going into this fall. Andrew Sorgatz, who has started at left guard for the past two years, switched to center this spring, and redshirt freshman Campbell Allison is expected to take over his old spot. Bridger Buche has started two years at tackle, and will likely reprise his role from last year. Redshirt junior Korey Neal was a part-time starter at right tackle last year, and is expected to start once more (replacing longtime starter Dan Demaster). There are a few options for right guard, with Josh Woods and Orlando McCord strong options.
Grade: 1/5. Though the Eagles didn't give up a lot of sacks last year, a big reason for that is their heavy, heavy slant toward the run over the pass. Seeing as how they were unable to move the ball on the ground despite that emphasis, I'd say this unit was very weak. Losing two starters isn't going to help much, and I think they'll have to pass more (meaning more sacks) and not see much improvement in the ground game.
|Notre Dame Defense 2009|
|Yards Per Game||454.08||113|
|Points Per Game||43.92||118|
|Yards Per Play||7.26||120|
|Pass Yards Per Game||223.50||66|
|Yards Per Pass||9.00||118|
|Sacks Per Game||0.83||118|
|Rush Yards Per Game||230.58||118|
|Yards Per Rush||6.11||120|
Ladies and gentlemen, defensive guru Ron English!
The only thing Eastern wasn't absolutely terrible at was... having other teams feel bad for them, I guess. They faced the third-fewest defensive plays in the nation (the country's best defense, TCU, saw the fewest, with Minnesota right on their heels), but each of those defensive plays was practically a guaranteed success for the opposing offense.
The pass yards per game look alright... until you realize that teams simply didn't have to pass the ball, because they could get more than six yards every time they handed it off. All told, Eastern was in the bottom three of every metric that matters.
Terrible, horrible defensive team as they have been every year under Ron English, and every year before that.
As you might expect, the defensive line didn't exactly cover themselves in glory last year. At least three starters return alongin addition to a key backup. A pair of seniors "anchor" the middle in Brandon Slater and Jabar Westerman, with their classmate Javon Reese returning on one side. Junior Andy Mulumba will like come off the edge on the other end of the line, with Devon Davis and Brad Ohrman also in the defensive end rotation.
Undersized Kalonji Kashama (whose name you may recognize - he's the younger brother of former Wolverine Alain) can play either inside or outside, but since EMU needs more help on the interior, will probably do most of his damage there. Phil Steele is also high on incoming JuCo Devin Henderson, also an inside/outside guy.
|EMU Defensive Line 2010|
Grade: 2/5. Nobody had more than 30 tackles for the Eagles last year (for comparison, Notre Dame's scheme - which only plays 3 linemen and doesn't expect them to make plays - had 4 guys over 30 tackles, and one over 60), and just about everyone struggled to get penetration. With another year of experience - and not that many key contributors from last year's roster departing - they should improve a bit, but to expect their progression to get anywhere better than "bad" is wishful thinking.
When your team was horrible at defending both the run and the pass last year and you lose your top two tacklers, both of whom were linebacker, you're in serious trouble. Marcus English, a multi-year contributor, seems like the only sure starter. So of course, Phil Steele predicts he'll be displaced by incoming JuCo Sean Kurtz. I think it's more likely that those two will combine at inside and strongside linebacker on the starting unit, leaving the weakside position to Steve Brown. Phil Steele also projects starting spots for a pair of JuCos (meaning his starting linebacker unit for Eastern is composed of 3 junior college players and no returners) Justin Cudworth and Blake Poole. If none of the JuCos can earn starting spots, it'll probably be Matt Boyd on the strongside as well.
|EMU Linebackers 2010|
Grade: 1/5. Jeeeeeeeesus this has a great chance to be a terrible defense, unless Ron English is some miracle-worker who has been sandbagging for the past two years. The returning ilnebackers bring very little to the table, as the two best players are out the door (without so much as a sniff from the NFL). Barring unprecedented individual improvement, or the junior college players stepping in as uber-sleepers, this unit should not expect much success.
Like linebacker, a bad unit lost a couple of its best players. Corner Marcell Rose and safety Martavius Cardwell both return, but the Eagles will have to replace the other two members of their secondary. Willie Williams, a strong safety/LB type, is expected to start at SS, and UCLA transfer Marlon Pollard will probably lock down the other corner spot. There's experience mixed in among the backups, much moreso than at any other position, especially since a number of JuCo players will be added to the mix.
|EMU Defensive Backs 2010|
|Marcell Rose (CB)||56||1||1|
|Martavius Cardwell (FS)||46||4||0|
|Willie Williams (SS)||35||4||0|
Grade: 1/5. Eastern Michigan's pass defense, despite losses, has to be better than last year's, if only because there's nowhere to go but up (the whole team had 2 picks last year!). Adding a player who was good enough to sign with UCLA out of high school should be a boost to a team starved for talent, but there's a long way to go to reach "bad," much less "mediocre."
Both EMU specialists from last year return. Jay Karutz will handle the punting (rugby-style, yo), and Sean Graham will reprise his role as the Eagles' field goal kicker.
|Eastern Michigan Kicking 2010|
|EMU Punting 2010|
Grade: 3/5. Neither Eastern Michigan specialist was particularly good last year, but at the same time, neither was a serious liability (and that's a big deal for a team where seemingly everyone else was a liability). With a year of game experience under each of their belts, it's reasonable to expect a bit of improvement.