English addresses concerns for EMU football at MAC media preview day

The Mid-American Conference hosted its annual football media preview Friday at Ford Field.

Head coaches and student-athletes from all 13 MAC schools had the opportunity to speak with a variety of different media outlets that cover the league.

Though EMU was ranked sixth in the MAC in preseason polls, coach Ron English said he doesn’t pay attention to the rankings, whether they are favorable or not.

“I don’t look at that,” he said. “I never have. I’ve been in programs that have won leagues when they were ranked low, and I’ve been on a team that was No. 4 in the country and ended up six and six.

“It does me no good to read any blog, it does me no good to read any paper. It does me no good, because it’s just a distraction.”

English did not give any specific number of games that he would like to win.

“I expect to win some games,” he said. “Winning games is important from this standpoint — the morale of the players… In my mind I can stay the course regardless because I don’t really look at the results. For me, I look at how the whole thing is developing.”

This upcoming season English and his staff will have three quarterback options: redshirt freshman Devontae Payne, sophomore Alex Gillett, who saw a lot of playing time last year after former quarterback Andy Smith’s season ended with an ACL injury at Michigan Stadium, and newly recruited freshman Tyler Benz from Park Ridge, Ill.

English said Devontae Payne and Alex Gillett are the most likely options.

“I am excited about both of them,” English said. “I think one has more experience than the other. I think one throws better than the other right now. I think one runs better than the other. Both of them bring different strengths. They’re both young but they’re both growing.”

Last season, the Eagles had a very difficult time defending the running game. The Eagles allowed 524 rushing attempts, they allowed opponents to gain an average of 276.8 rushing yards a game, and they allowed a season total of 36 rushing touchdowns.

When asked how he would deal with this situation, English said, “These guys aren’t going to be turned sideways, they’re going to be face up, they’re going to be square.”

A number of coaching changes were made on the defensive side of the ball.

“I did not like the attitude of the defense last year,” he said. “There was no attitude.”

Derrick Gragg, director of the Eastern Michigan Athletic Department, said he is simply looking for improvements from the football team, and he continued to express his support for English.

“Ron English is exactly the right man for the job,” he said.

Gragg also addressed concerns of whether EMU was in compliance with the NCAA requirement of 15,000 attendees per game for Division I FBS football.

“The university has been in compliance because the rule states they can have 15,000 in either actual or paid attendance, and we have been able to do it with paid attendance, so that makes it fine what the NCAA.”

On Aug. 9, the Eagles will be back on campus for their preseason training camp, and Sept. 4 they will open their season against the Army Black Knights at Rynearson Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

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