2013 Eastern Michigan's 10 things to know: Searching for another window of opportunity

Jamie Sabau

EMU football has yet to amount to much. Can the 2013 Eagles build momentum for 2014? Schedule, roster, projections and more below.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Sometimes things don't quite fall into place

To put it kindly, Eastern Michigan doesn't have much of a football history. The Eagles (then called the Hurons) experienced just one winning season in their first 11 years as a Division I program. They went 10-2 under Jim Harkema and won the California Bowl in 1987, won another 13 games in 1988-89 ... and have not won more than six games in a season since. Rick Rasnick went 6-5 in 1995. Ron English went 6-6 in 2011 (EMU was ineligible for a bowl that year because they won two games versus FCS teams). And that's your EMU football history.

The 2011 season was regretful. With a rather experienced team (English's third in Ypsilanti), it looked like EMU might have a path toward bowl eligibility and its first postseason appearance in 24 years. And that's how it's supposed to work, right? You scuffle along for a couple of years, get some of your kids in place, get some breaks from the schedule, and experience a lovely breakthrough. That leads to better recruiting, more success, et cetera. It looks great on paper, and sometimes actually works out the way it's intended to; but sometimes it doesn't work out.

EMU headed into November 2011 needing two wins in four games to reach bowl eligibility. The Eagles lost to Ball State, 33-31, on the heels of a last-second, 44-yard field goal. They handled Buffalo but fell to Kent State, 28-22, on a 70-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown pass. And late in a game with eventual MAC champion Northern Illinois, EMU got the ball with a chance to pull an upset. But a desperation drive stalled at midfield, and EMU lost, 18-12. Three great chances, three losses, one game short.

In 2012, the cycle began again. Ron English had to replace a ton of experience, due to graduation, injury and general attrition, and his fourth EMU squad regressed. Combined with a pretty tough schedule, EMU just never had a chance. That he got a fifth year in Ypsilanti is good -- too often, programs compound their struggles with an itchy trigger finger -- but one has to imagine he won't get too much more if his 2013 squad doesn't start to turn around the misfires of the previous fall.

2. The experience level is better this year

EMU doesn't have much of a senior class this season -- there is basically one senior starter on the offensive line, one on the defensive line, one or two at linebacker and one or two in the defensive backfield -- but last year's deluge of freshmen and sophomores is now a flood of sophomores and juniors. There are still serious question marks regarding experience at offensive line (three starters who had combined for 100 career starts are gone) and in the linebacking corps (four of the top five are gone), but EMU should expect to be both more experienced and better in 2013.

Probably not better enough, but you never know. The offensive backfield is legitimately interesting, and it could get even more interesting with the arrival of EMU's most highly touted recruit ever this fall.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 2-10 | Adj. Record: 1-11 | Final F/+ Rk: 110
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
30-Aug at Ball State 26-37 L 23.5 - 30.6 L
8-Sep Illinois State 14-31 L 12.3 - 34.0 L
15-Sep at Purdue 16-54 L 18.4 - 44.7 L
22-Sep at Michigan State 7-23 L 16.7 - 37.9 L
6-Oct Kent State 14-41 L 23.3 - 29.8 L
13-Oct Toledo 47-52 L 43.0 - 49.2 L
20-Oct Army 48-38 W 28.3 - 36.4 L
27-Oct at Bowling Green 3-24 L 18.1 - 29.9 L
1-Nov at Ohio 14-45 L 19.6 - 41.9 L
10-Nov Central Michigan 31-34 L 27.5 - 27.4 W
17-Nov at Western Michigan 29-23 W 29.4 - 32.3 L
23-Nov Northern Illinois 7-49 L 19.6 - 33.5 L
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 21.3 100 37.6 115
Adj. Points Per Game 23.3 106 35.6 116

3. No hope in 2012

With a team stripped bare of experience, EMU's best hope for the first six games of 2012 (now that we know how much better Ball State and Kent State would become) was 1-5. EMU got thumped by a pretty good (for FCS) Illinois State team, and that basically clinched an 0-6 start. The Eagles were lucky to stay close to a field goal-happy Michigan State, and they almost won a shootout versus Toledo; plus they pulled it together, beat Army and Western Michigan, and almost took out Central Michigan (which would have denied the Chippewas bowl eligibility). But this was a "building for 2013" year from the start.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 105 103 108 99
RUSHING 60 87 84 89
PASSING 108 97 112 88
Standard Downs 98 97 99
Passing Downs 93 102 94
Redzone 29 57 17
Q1 Rk 112 1st Down Rk 83
Q2 Rk 103 2nd Down Rk 99
Q3 Rk 63 3rd Down Rk 111
Q4 Rk 97

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Tyler Benz 6'3, 215 Jr. ** (5.3) 114 212 1,511 53.8% 14 8 0 0.0% 7.1
Alex Gillett


45 96 548 46.9% 5 7 0 0.0% 5.7
Brogan Roback 6'4, 185 Fr. **** (5.8)








4. Hello, marquee recruit

A four-star recruit from Toledo St. John's high school fielded interest from Cincinnati and a lot of midwestern schools and had received offers from most of the MAC by the middle of last summer. But on July 8, he committed to Ron English and EMU, and he never looked back. In the end, Rivals.com rated him the No. 17 pro-style quarterback in the country and a Top 20 prospect in the rich state of Ohio, but he remained committed to EMU, becoming the Eagles' most highly-touted signee ever in early February.

As such, one would worry about Brogan Roback getting thrown into the deep end too early. But with the return of Tyler Benz behind center, EMU won't be forced to immediately find out what they have in Roback if he's not blatantly ready to go. Benz was an interesting option when he replaced starter Alex Gillett (who moved to receiver) early in the season. He showed some big-play capability in the passing game (13.3 yards per completion is pretty high; each of EMU's top three targets averaged at least 13.4 per catch) and was a reasonably competent runner (4.9 yards per non-sack carry), but EMU was lacking terribly in efficiency. It was big-play-or-bust in 2012, and ... it was mostly bust. Still, there are worse options than Benz behind center.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Bronson Hill RB 5'10, 208 Jr. ** (5.2) 140 905 6.5 7.0 6 +14.3
Dominique Sherrer RB 66 216 3.3 3.2 1 -12.3
Alex Gillett QB/WR 59 427 7.2 6.0 4 +10.7
Ryan Brumfield RB 5'10, 185 Jr. ** (5.2) 57 164 2.9 3.0 1 -12.2
Tyler Benz QB 6'3, 215 Jr. ** (5.3) 49 238 4.9 2.3 1 -2.2
Javonti Greene RB 5'10, 186 Sr. NR 38 159 4.2 4.7 0 -2.7
Darius Jackson RB 6'0, 215 Jr. ** (5.2)





Juwan Lewis RB 5'10, 218 RSFr. *** (5.6)





5. Bronson Hill is explosive

EMU must replace its top receiver, but in junior receiver Donald Scott, sophomore Dustin Creel and tight end Tyreese Russell, the passing game still features some big-play threats (albeit ones who probably need to up their mostly awful catch rates a bit).

But the big-play threat in this offense is Hill, an October supernova last fall. Hill carried just seven times in five games but took over as primary ballcarrier against Toledo. In his first five games in that role, Hill carried 105 times for 724 yards. Keep that up for a full season, and you gain more than 1,700 yards. He gained just 106 yards in 28 carries in EMU's last two games, but he left his mark in October and early November.

Of the 114 FBS players with at least 140 carries in 2012, only 12 managed to average 7.0 highlight yards per carry, and only seven of those 12 were running backs: Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, Oklahoma's Damien Williams, Kent State's Dri Archer, UCF's Latavius Murray, Utah State's Kerwynn Williams, Houston's Charles Sims and Hill. Highlight yards are, on paper, the yards you gain after the line has done its job; if the line could get Hill through the first level of the defense, Hill was capable of going a long, long way.

Of course, Hill will be taking blocks from a line that has to replace three two-year (or more) starters. Highlight yards don't really come into play unless you get the chance to create a highlight. There is some experience up front -- four returnees have started at least eight games -- but quite a bit less than last fall. New offensive coordinator (and former Ball State offensive coordinator and head coach) Stan Parrish has some toys in the skill position toybox, but a line that was a relative strength last year (37th in the country in Opportunity Rate, i.e. creating opportunities for its runners) might be a hindrance this time around.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Garrett Hoskins WR-Y 62 38 537 61.3% 8.7 21.4% 51.6% 8.8 62.9
Donald Scott WR-X 5'8, 160 Jr. ** (5.3) 43 19 255 44.2% 5.9 14.8% 46.5% 5.7 29.9
Dustin Creel WR-Z 6'2, 205 So. ** (5.2) 28 13 220 46.4% 7.9 9.7% 67.9% 8.0 25.8
Demarius Reed WR-H 5'10, 161 Jr. ** (5.4) 28 18 171 64.3% 6.1 9.7% 53.6% 6.3 20.0
Tyreese Russell TE 6'3, 242 Jr. ** (5.2) 26 12 196 46.2% 7.5 9.0% 53.8% 8.1 23.0
Alex Gillett QB/WR 18 14 132 77.8% 7.3 6.2% 38.9% 7.0 15.5
Bronson Hill RB 5'10, 208 Jr. ** (5.2) 17 12 208 70.6% 12.2 5.9% 52.9% 11.2 24.4
Jay Jones WR-H 5'10, 181 So. ** (5.0) 16 8 98 50.0% 6.1 5.5% 75.0% 5.1 11.5
Quincy Jones WR-X 6'3, 209 So. *** (5.7) 16 5 35 31.3% 2.2 5.5% 50.0% 2.0 4.1
Javonti Greene RB 5'10, 186 Sr. NR 15 9 114 60.0% 7.6 5.2% 53.3% 7.2 13.4
Mitchell Dawkins WR 6'3, 205 So. ** (5.3) 5 2 16 40.0% 3.2 1.7% 0.0% 2.1 1.9
Dominique Sherrer RB 5 2 12 40.0% 2.4 1.7% 0.0% 1.6 1.4
Ryan Brumfield RB 5'10, 185 Jr. ** (5.2) 4 3 34 75.0% 8.5 1.4% 100.0% 5.1 4.0
Dylan Brooks TE 3 2 5 66.7% 1.7 1.0% 0.0% 0.7 0.6
Matt Boyd FB 2 1 20 50.0% 10.0 0.7% 100.0% 6.0 2.3
Christian Menet TE 6'4, 255 So. ** (5.3) 2 1 1 50.0% 0.5 0.7% 100.0% 0.3 0.1

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 92.9 2.70 2.97 41.3% 62.9% 26.1% 90.0 3.3% 8.4%
Rank 100 97 81 37 91 119 75 39 92
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Andrew Sorgatz LG 46 career starts
Corey Watman C 30 career starts
Korey Neal LT 24 career starts
Campbell Allison RG 6'6, 316 Jr. NR 17 career starts
Lincoln Hansen RT 6'6, 301 Jr. ** (5.1) 16 career starts
Bobby McFadden RT 6'7, 303 Jr. ** (5.2) 9 career starts
Orlando McCord RG 6'3, 310 Sr. ** (5.1) 8 career starts
Josh Woods LG 6'4, 285 Jr. ** (5.2)
Jordan Erbes C 6'5, 282 Jr. ** (5.3)
Jake Hurcombe OL 6'3, 302 RSFr. ** (5.4)
Dwayne Brown OL 6'4, 320 Fr. *** (5.5)
Kent Collins OL 6'2, 285 Jr. ** (5.2)

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 115 112 105 114
RUSHING 124 116 103 119
PASSING 38 107 104 106
Standard Downs 115 103 113
Passing Downs 111 110 113
Redzone 92 68 105
Q1 Rk 97 1st Down Rk 104
Q2 Rk 109 2nd Down Rk 96
Q3 Rk 118 3rd Down Rk 119
Q4 Rk 108

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 95.2 3.30 3.52 46.5% 79.5% 14.3% 35.4 1.6% 1.6%
Rank 77 111 92 121 118 116 123 123 122
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Andy Mulumba RUSH 12 50.0 7.2% 7 1 0 1 1 0
Cy Maughmer NT 6'2, 278 Jr. *** (5.6) 12 20.0 2.9% 2 0 0 0 1 1
Kalonji Kashama DE 6'4, 270 Sr. ** (5.3) 11 19.0 2.7% 4 3 0 0 2 0
Travis Linser DT 6'4, 288 Jr. *** (5.5) 11 13.5 1.9% 4.5 1 0 0 1 0
Devin Henderson DT 8 11.5 1.7% 2.5 1 1 0 0 0
Pat O'Connor RUSH 6'4, 272 So. ** (5.2) 12 11.0 1.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Omar McFarlane DE 6'1, 250 So. NR 12 6.0 0.9% 0.5 0 0 0 2 0
Arron Pipkins NT 6'1, 270 So. ** (5.2) 7 5.5 0.8% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Price DE 6'3, 259 Sr. NR 4 4.5 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Brown DT 6'3, 284 So. ** (5.2)






6. Wanted: pass rush

End Kalonji Kashama logged two sacks in the first three games of the year, one against Ball State and one against Purdue. He reeled in a third sack against Toledo. Those three sacks represented 43 percent of EMU's season total. There was simply no push up front. EMU's rush ends combined for one sack, the same number as EMU's safeties. And while linebackers Justin Cudworth and Bryan Pali did combine for 13 tackles for loss in 2012, a) none were sacks, and b) Cudworth and Pali are both gone.

Now, EMU did pull off a decent 23 sacks in 2011; they aren't that far removed from competency in this regard. But with little new blood in the rotation here, it is difficult to see the Eagles suddenly generating a decent pass rush again. That, combined with a new set of starting linebackers, will put a lot of pressure on EMU secondary ... again.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Blake Poole SLB 12 60.0 8.7% 2 0 0 1 1 0
Justin Cudworth MLB 10 58.0 8.4% 8 0 0 2 1 2
Bryan Pali WLB 9 58.0 8.4% 5 0 0 4 1 0
Hunter Matt WLB 6'1, 225 So. ** (5.4) 11 16.5 2.4% 1 0 0 2 0 0
Colin Weingrad MLB 4 13.0 1.9% 1.5 0 1 0 0 0
Sean Kurtz WLB 5'11, 224 Sr. ** (5.3) 12 10.0 1.4% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Ike Spearman SLB 6'1, 220 So. *** (5.6) 6 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tim Brown LB 6'0, 218 Jr. ** (5.2)

Lavonte Robinson LB 5'11, 215 Fr. ** (5.4)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Donald Coleman FS 6'0, 205 Sr. ** (5.4) 11 58.5 8.4% 2 0 0 0 0 0
Alex Belfy FS 12 55.0 7.9% 5 1 0 4 1 3
Pudge Cotton SS 6'1, 218 Jr. *** (5.7) 12 49.0 7.1% 3 0 2 0 0 1
Marcell Rose CB 12 45.5 6.6% 1.5 0 2 3 1 1
Darius Scott CB 5'8, 160 Jr. ** (5.3) 9 22.0 3.2% 0 0 1 3 0 0
Kirkland Bryant CB 5'9, 177 So. ** (5.2) 12 19.5 2.8% 0 0 0 4 0 0
Kevin Johnson SS 5'11, 200 Jr. ** (5.2) 5 19.0 2.7% 1 0 0 1 0 0
Mycal Swaim SS 6'4, 212 Sr. ** (5.2) 8 15.0 2.2% 0 0 0 1 1 0
Corey Manns CB 12 9.5 1.4% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Marlon Pollard DB 1 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 1
Dominique Rouse DB 2 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kenyarda Bates DB 5'6, 162 Sr. NR 2 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kris Strange CB 5'11, 178 So. ** (5.4)

Diondre Moore-Young DB 5'10, 180 Jr. ** (5.3)

Willie Creear DB 5'10, 170 Jr. ** (5.2)

Jaleel Canty DB 5'9, 191 Fr. *** (5.5)

7. The secondary gets a boost

EMU's secondary needed some help, both because of its own iffy performance in 2012 and the complete lack of assistance it got from its pass rush. With two junior college transfers and a three-star freshman joining a senior safety (Donald Coleman) and a former star recruit (Pudge Cotton), it's easy to see this unit improving a bit. Whether that matters will depend on the front seven. Well, that, and the defensive coordinator, whoever that may be. Phil Snow is gone, but no replacement has been listed on EMU's website.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Jay Karutz 69 42.7 3 22 24 66.7%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Kody Fulkerson 5'11, 190 Sr. 52 58.5 3 5.8%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Dylan Mulder 6'0, 186 So. 24-27 7-8 87.5% 3-3 100.0%
Kody Fulkerson 5'11, 190 Sr. 4-5 0-1 0.0% 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Tyler Allen KR 5'8, 171 Jr. 46 22.5 0
Dominique Sherrer KR 6 20.8 0
Demarius Reed PR 5'10, 161 Jr. 13 5.5 0
Alex Bellfy PR 5 4.4 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 109
Net Punting 21
Net Kickoffs 118
Touchback Pct 124
Field Goal Pct 12
Kick Returns Avg 78
Punt Returns Avg 102

8. A mixed bag on special teams

Punter Jay Karutz was a lovely weapon for a team that, well, punted a lot, but with his departure, the special teams unit is relatively mediocre. Kicker Dylan Mulder was accurate on field goals (strangely, he was more accurate on those than on extra point attempts), and Tyler Allen showed a little bit of potential as a kick returner. But nobody on the team could get the ball into the end zone on kickoffs, and EMU gained almost as much yards on fair catches as it did when it actually tried to return punts.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2012 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug Howard NR
7-Sep at Penn State 24
14-Sep at Rutgers 48
21-Sep Ball State 84
5-Oct at Buffalo 101
12-Oct at Army 103
19-Oct Ohio 83
26-Oct at Northern Illinois 50
2-Nov at Toledo 62
9-Nov Western Michigan 93
23-Nov Bowling Green 67
29-Nov at Central Michigan 96
Five-Year F/+ Rk 120
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 105
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -5 / -1.4
TO Luck/Game -1.5
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 13 (8, 5)
Yds/Pt Margin** +2.9

9. Find six wins

It does appear that Ron English has improved his overall recruiting in recent years. Roback was a big get, and in players like running back Juwan Lewis, receiver Quincy Jones, freshman OL Dwayne Brown, a pair of defensive tackles, linebacker Ike Spearman, safety Pudge Cotton and incoming defensive back Jaleel Canty, English has built up the raw number of three- (or four-) star recruits in the rotation. But ... find six wins above. If you treat the 2013 projections as legitimate (your choice), EMU would probably need to improve to perhaps the mid-80s in the F/+ rankings to have a chance at six wins (they haven't ranked better than 102nd in the last seven years), and they play three of their five worst opponents on the road.

I see this team improving in 2013, but I don't see it improving enough to make a run at the postseason.

10. But on the bright side, this guy is still in the league

This is apropos of nothing, but in my first official home game as a college student, I watched Charlie Batch throw for 256 yards and two touchdowns. That he is still in the NFL, and still providing spot starts for Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh (hey, 276 yards and an 89.6 passer rating against Baltimore in Week 13 this year), allows me to pretend I'm not as old as I actually am. Never retire, Charlie.

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