Every year, every team around college football begins with a strong sense of confidence that “this is the year.” The good teams believe that they will remain good while the teams who struggled the year before believe that they will be better and surprise many critics.
For Eastern Michigan University football, the hope is to be better than the dismal season before. And after three consecutive 2-10 finishes, it is hard to think that they will be a better team in the upcoming 2015 season. However, this year will be different than years past.
Why? Well, here are my five reasons why:
- The Coaches Are Doing a Great Job Building the Team-
Chris Creighton enters his second season at the helm for the Eagles after a frustrating first season in Ypsilanti. Creighton and his staff want to build a tough team at EMU, and the theme of it is everywhere. From replacing the green field turf to gray to signify a factory floor, and giving Rynearson Stadium the nickname “The Factory” to having the team enter every game with a sledgehammer, the theme of a tough and strong mentality is there. And now that the foundations have been laid for a tougher and better team by the coaches, the players are listening and looking to practice what the coaches are preaching.
- Players Are More Familiar With the System-
While Creighton and his staff were busy laying the foundation, it had to be known that there would be growing pains in the first season under a new system. The Eagles in 2014, well, struggled in the first year of the spread offense and 3-4 defensive alignment, allowing 30 or more points eight times while scoring less than 20 points in nine of the twelve games. Look for some improvement in those regards, as the players are more acclimated with playing in the certain schemes and have a better understanding of the playbook. Experience is one of the many keys in football, and more experience in one system is part of being a better team.
- The Eagles Have Their Quarterback-
For the first time in years, the Eagles have a talented quarterback to lean on. Sophomore Reggie Bell returns after showing signs of what he is made of. Bell is a dual-threat quarterback and showed he can be a playmaker with both his arms and his legs, particularly his legs, which was on display in an Oct. 11 victory over Buffalo. Bell came in relief of the struggling starter Rob Bolden and ran for 202 yards with three rushing touchdowns and added 144 passing yards with a touchdown in less than three quarters of play. Bell finished the season with 562 rushing yards with four touchdowns and threw for 1,297 yards and nine touchdowns in eight starts and two other appearances. Now, as mentioned above, Bell has a year in Creighton’s system under his belt and plenty of in-game experience to help further improve the team.
- The Linebackers Are Pretty Good-
I have covered Eastern Michigan football for four years now, and I caught myself saying on multiple occasions last season how this linebacking corps is easily the best since I’ve covered the team. Anthony Zappone and Great Ibe were bright spots on what was otherwise a very weak defense. Well, both of those linebackers return this season. Linebackers are important to the success of a 3-4 scheme, and the talent in the linebackers is there to find some success this season.
- Because They Have to be Better-
Alright, I admit, this sounds like a lame reason for why this team will be better, but the fact is that the pressure is still on to improve. There have been many discussions on whether it is worth it to keep the football program or not considering the same dismal result year after year. In this writer’s eyes, Creighton is the program’s last hope, but I also understand that it is a process as a newer coach in a program. For a program to have success, there needs to be at the very least minor improvements from year to year. Improvements from year one to year two are no different. The team knows it must be better in 2015 from 2014, and that is obvious. But this roster, with these coaches, are poised to show everyone the progress in the program.
Improvement is a very broad term in this situation, like when a team has won two games in each of the last three years, three wins can technically qualify as improvement. However, this team is capable of winning five games at the least and competing in the others. This season won’t just be another lost season that gets swept under the rug of futility.