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You made this too easy for me Eastern Michigan. The Eagles have been struggling to “break out” for the entirety of my life, and the majority of my dad’s. They have exactly one conference championship and two bowl appearances in school history. The conference championship and the last bowl appearance, which fortunately was a victory, occurred in 1987. Prior to that, their only bowl appearance was in 1971. Yikes! Eastern Michigan will eventually make another bowl game, but it’s unlikely to happen this year.
Reginald Bell, Jr. will almost certainly be the starter for Eastern Michigan, given that he was the starter last year, but with Brogan Roback backing him up the Eagles out to at least have reasonable talent at the quarterback position. Roback is more of a pocket passer, so Bell’s dual-threat capabilities give him a leg up when playing behind a, shall we say, “shaky” O-Line. Bell also showed some brief flashes of brilliance last year logging both a 400-yard passing game and a 200-yard rushing game.
As far as playmakers beyond the quarterback position, the cupboard is pretty bare. Darius Jackson is the only returning non-QB with any rushing stats to speak of, so he will likely be the starter, but he could be challenged by redshirt freshman Shaq Vann and true freshman Breck Turner. Dustin Creel is at least a reasonable option at wideout. The biggest potential playmaker though is Indiana transfer Kevin Davis. Davis is one of the better athletes on the team, so if he and Bell can form a connection it could lead to significant improvement in the passing game.
The defense was atrocious last season. There’s virtually no way to sugarcoat it without stretching the truth like saltwater taffy. There are two primary sources of optimism though. The first is the return of defensive lineman Pat O’Connor and Buck linebacker Great Ibe (great name I know). A second source of optimism is the basic fact that for the first time in three years they have the same defensive scheme, so they won’t have to waste most of the offseason learning a new system.
O’Connor was a well deserving All-MAC selection last season and his 14 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks were way more than the rest of the Eagle D-Line put together. Ibe was a 2nd team All-MAC selection himself, and while he only registered half a sack, his 100 tackles and 11 tackles for loss are evidence enough of his run stopping capabilities.
The Eagles have long been one of the nation’s worst FBS programs, and it takes more than one season to reap the benefits of a culture change. However, Coach Chris Creighton is working hard to turn this program around. It won’t happen overnight, but if the powers that be keep him around and he remains dedicated to the team brighter days should be on their way. At the end of the day, I believe Eastern Michigan only manages one win this season, but they manage to keep several games closer than they have the past few seasons.
Credit Cover Photo: Joseph Tobianski/AnnArbor.com