Last Season: (2-10, 1-7)
2012 was rough for Ron English's Eagles. The former Michigan defensive coordinator (the second Penn State has faced in as many weeks, coincidentally and/or fortunately) and his inexperienced team couldn't replicate the relative success of the 2011 season, losing 10 games and finishing the year with a scoring margin of -195. The punching bag of the MAC, Eastern Michigan was especially decrepit on defense, allowing 478.9 total yards per game, most of which came on the ground--the Eagles were dead last in the nation in that category, allowing 3199 total rushing yards over 12 games (266.6 ypg).
The lone bright spot, essentially, was the emergence of running back Bronson Hill. The current junior was dynamic once he gained starting duties halfway through the year, rushing for over 900 yards on merely 140 carries (6.5 ypc).
Not many coaching staffs would survive a ten-loss season fully intact, and EMU's was no exception. Five coaches were replaced, including offensive coordinator Ken Karcher, who was given the boot in favor of former Ball State head coach Stan Parrish. English himself may have only survived based on the length of his current contract--his deal expires this upcoming summer.
Even fewer coaching staffs would be able to recruit a four-star QB after a ten-loss season, but that's just what English did by signing Toledo (OH) QB Brogan Roback in February. Roback, whose name is, I'm sure, already a popular salutation amongst frat bros at EMU, was deemed a four-star player by both Rivals and Scout and sported offers from much of the MAC. Time and the play of incumbent starter Tyler Benz will tell if Roback gets a chance to feature this season.
It really does start and end with Hill here. The junior is one of the most dangerous open-field ball carriers in the nation, statistically speaking. His 7.0 "highlight" ypc average (yards gained once the line did its job) from last season placed him in some elite company in that category. Guys like Kent State's Dri Archer and Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey posted similar numbers last year and English is hoping Hill will be able to duplicate that production in 2013.
Benz was serviceable last season. He replaced Alex Gillett, who moved to WR a few games into 2012. "Tylercedes" (if you're reading this, Benz, feel free to use that) completed 53% of his passes and threw for 14 TDs compared to eight interceptions. He's got most of his receiving corps back, though that's not really a huge positive--none of them totaled more than 300 yards last season. The offensive line is totally remodeled on the blindside, hashtag Deion Barnes smash.
As previously mentioned, yikes. The good news is that the front seven returns 67% of its sack production from last season. The bad news is that EMU's lineman and linebackers registered six sacks last year. Unfortunately for the Eagles, there's no heralded newcomer like Roback waiting in the wings. After defensive coordinator Phil Snow left for a gig at Temple, English decided to take matters into his own hands and bestowed the DC role unto himself in the final year of his deal. Fixing the line should have been his biggest priority this offseason.
The secondary wasn't terrible considering how much time opposing passers had to throw. There's some talent here--Pudge Cotton and Donald Coleman are experienced and capable--but don't expect them to be any more trouble for Christian Hackenberg than Syracuse's secondary if the Eagles don't get any pass rush.
Kicker Dylan Mulder didn't have a ton of opportunities last season, but he shone when given the chance. The sophomore was 10-11 on the year in 2012, including 3-3 from 40+ yards out. The new punter is Austin Barnes and he sure did punt the ball against Howard last week.
Last Week (34-24 W vs. Howard)
It took a 14-point 4th quarter, but EMU got it done against their FCS opponents in Ypsilanti on Saturday. Hill rushed for 105 yards on 28 carries, thus making me look like an idiot for discussing his explosiveness earlier. KEY STAT: Howard's three touchdown drives went 95, 80, and 90 yards.
Gambling Advice from a Degenerate
PSUbaltimore requested gambling tips from me in this thing last week, but even though I am really good at losing money I wouldn't consider myself an expert. So I enlisted the help of twitter user/person who has bet on NFL preseason games @Kunk7 to help you with your pick. Take it away Kunkster:
Hello, sprots bettors, I am @Kunk7, your run-of-the-mill degen of no renown. Because I often spout worthless gambling opinions on Twitter (and participate in the world's dumbest survivor league), my best friend* Chad asked me to render an opinion in this space on each week's point spread. With the obvious caveats being A) Don't gamble, kids, it's illegal or something and 2) I have no idea what I'm doing, let's see what we've got this week for EMU.
* loose Internet acquaintance
Depending on where you shop for lines, PSU opened as a large favorite, approximately in the 4 touchdown range. Sure, PSU failed to cover last week against Cuse, but let's talk about EMU for a minute. Last Saturday, despite being a 3 touchdown favorite, the Eagles trailed the mighty Bison of Howard by double digits late in the third quarter before a "big" rally to win by 10. Not exactly inspiring a lot of confidence. You'd think EMU wouldn't be getting much love, right? Hmmm:
Whoopsie! Well, uhhh, everybody makes mistakes? Guess that's why you make limits low and move quickly in the early stages. Anyway, you wanted *MY* pick, right? No? Nobody asked me? Oh right. I guess then I'll just hand it over to Tony, your sophomore year roommate with a gambling problem! "Hey guys, I like PSU to cover this week! Where the heck is Eastern Michigan anyway? They suck worse than the Philly Eagles! Think I'll tease PSU down to 17 and the over to 42.5! I'll be treating the whole IM softball squad to Vladdy next weekend!"
Eastern Michigan was founded in 1849 as "Michigan State Normal School," which was the unassuming way of saying that they educated future teachers.
Blog You Should Also Be Reading This Week
The excellently thorough Hustle Belt. If you stop by, make sure to thank all of the guys there for Allen Roberts. If you feel really comfortable, ask how Bill Edwards is doing.
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