The Eastern Michigan University football team is set to kick off its season against Mississippi Valley State at Rynearson Stadium on Sept. 2.
A new year brings a healthy, veteran team
The Eagles did not have to withstand a complete team overhaul after the 2015 season. They lost 10 seniors after the season including current Dallas Cowboy, Darius Jackson, wide receivers Kris Strange and Dustin Creel and linebacker Great Ibe. The Eagles are bringing back a team with experience and depth.
The most notable veteran presence will be on the defensive line as Pat O’Connor and Jerimiah Harris return after being sidelined for almost the entire season. O’Connor returns from a season in 2014 where he led the Mid-American Conference in sacks with 7.5.
For a team that finished 1-11 last year without a win in the MAC, the Eagles will be able to rely on experience and depth as they go into the season.
Stability on the O-line carries the offense
Eastern Michigan is home of the fifth-most experienced offensive line in the country with all five starters returning. It features all redshirt-seniors including Darien Tarrell, Cole Gardner, Matt Thornton, Andrew Wylie, and Jake Hurcombe. The offensive line will be blocking for the new starting running back, redshirt sophomore Shaq Vann as he will take the spot as the lead back on offense. Vann was second to Darius Jackson this past season but still accumulated 850 total yards for the team.
According to the Detroit Free Press, starting quarterback Brogan Roback has been suspended for an indefinite period of time due to a “violation of team rules.” This will put the junior college transfer, Todd Porter, into the starting spot as he will start the game against MVSU. Porter transferred from Garden City Community College where he threw for 1,218 yards and ran for another 286 while scoring 17 touchdowns on the year.
Eddie Daugherty led all receivers as a true freshman last season with 557 receiving yards. Daugherty looks to be the only player with guaranteed playing time as the other wide outs fight to get on the field.
A new defensive scheme
EMU struggled on defense last season as it allowed the most rushing yard-per-game of any team, allowing 316.8 yards a game and 44 rushing touchdowns over the course of the season. Needing a change, the Eagles hired a new defensive coordinator, Neal Neatherly to help fix the problem. Neatherly, who coached alongside Chris Creighton at Drake University, brought along with him a new defensive scheme. The defense will now be playing in a base 4-2-5 defense. This defense features four defensive lineman, two linebackers and five defensive backs.
Along with O’Connor and Harris, the defense will be featuring two linebackers with significant experience in redshirt senior Ike Spearman and redshirt sophomore Kyle Rachwal.
A duel with the Delta Devils
Mississippi Valley State resides out of Division I FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) which EMU currently holds a 10-4 record since 2001. The Delta Devils had a similar season to the Eagle’s as they went 1-10 over the course of the season.
The Delta Devils may have struggled this past year but they are looking to see big things from their sophomore defensive back Marquise Green who led the Southwestern Conference in interceptions with eight.
EMU is set to face the Delta Devils at “the Factory” at 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2 as they look to start the season with a win.