The Eastern Michigan University football program signed 20 recruits for the 2011 season, but will also count on returning players to get the struggling team on a winning path.
At the most important position on the field – the quarterback – the Eagles will once again rely on the arm and legs of Alex Gillett. He led the Eagles in rushing (766) and passing (1633) yards in 2010.
At halfback, the Eagles will miss the offensive production of Dwayne Priest, who was second in yards (716) and scored a team-high eight rushing touchdowns.
To fill that void, Coach Ron English is looking to some familiar and some not-so-familiar faces.
“I don’t know if we have a clear-cut yet,” English said about the starting halfback spot. “You saw Javonti Greene today and a little bit of Snoop. Those two will have to battle it out for the position along with some other junior college transfers.”
At wide receiver, the Eagles will have 6-foot-2 Kinsman Thomas returning after leading the team in receiving yards (478) and touchdown catches last season with four, but they lost one of their most reliable receiving threats in tight end Ben Thayer.
Defensively, the Eagles definitely want to be better than last year when they gave up an average of 43.9 points per game, ranking the team 118 nationally. But, they do have a few things to be excited about.
Marcell Rose is returning for his senior year after a solid junior season when he started all 12 games at cornerback and was fourth in total tackles with 56.
The Eagles also are getting some much-needed experience in senior defensive back Latarrius Thomas and senior linebacker Nate Paopao, who both recently received medical hardship waivers for the 2010 season they missed due to injury.
“Our focus this offseason has been our foundation,” senior defensive lineman Javon Reese said.
Even with 20 recruits coming to EMU and a fair amount of experience for the upcoming season, it’s
probably safe to say expectations for the 2011 Eastern Michigan University football team aren’t too high.
Nonetheless, I think the Eagles will have a better record at the end of 2011 than they did at the end of 2010.
The Eagles will likely win the first two games of the season against Howard and Alabama State, matching their win total during the last two seasons in the first two games.
After a 2-0 start, I predict the Eagles will lose the next two games easily. The first comes against Michigan at the Big House. The second loss will come at the hands of Penn State at University Park in Pennsylvania before opening the Mid-American Conference schedule.
The MAC conference isn’t going to be any easier than it was last season when the Eagles finished at the bottom of the west division. I only see them beating Akron the game after Penn State. At the end of the season, their record will be 3-9 overall and 1-7 in the MAC.