Jusitn Mangan gives us a preview of Eastern Michigan football!
Eastern Michigan Eagles
By Justin Mangan
In the second week of the Michigan State Spartans football season they will welcome in the Eastern Michigan Eagles. A match-up that will take place on September 9th Â and lead into a much anticipated game against the Pittsburgh Panthers. The Eagles, led by third year head coach Jeff Genyk, have not had much success in the past decade. In fact, they havenâ€™t won a league title since 1987, which is when the Eagles went to their last bowl game. But with 14 returning starters and three pre-season all-mid American conference players, the Eagles are in seek of having a break through season.
Despite having question marks at quarterback and running back, the remaining positions seam to be in solid shape. Beginning at quarterback, last seasons backup sophomore Tyler Jones along with Andy Schmitt will compete for the starting job this summer. Jones completed 41 of 65 passes last season for 245 yards and two touchdowns. It seemed a sheer shot that Jones would be the starting quarterback for the squad this upcoming season, however sources say that during the off-season he has failed to progress. Schmitt on the other hand, is a redshirt freshman was bothered by a quad injury during spring drills. The two will continue to battle out one another throughout the spring for the starting job, as it is still up for grabs.
At running back, three candidates will compete and most likely share time with one another. Sophomores Dwayne Harrison and Tim Conner received adequate action last season. However, junior Pierre Walker who was injured last season will press the duo for playing time.
The strength of the team comes at the wide receiver position where star player Eric Deslauriers lines up. The star wide receiver has 174 receptions for 2,352 yards in three seasons, and not to mention 22 touchdown grabs. Once recruited as a quarterback, he has now transformed into one of the top receivers in that nation; thatâ€™s right, EMU has one of the finest receivers in the nation. During the off-season, Deslauriers put on 10 pounds of muscle while vowing to become a more physical receiver. Complementing Deslauriers is Travis Lewis who received the ball 33 times last season.
On the offensive line four starters will be returning including Courtney Ford, Kevin Minor, Andy Fretz and Desi Mayner. While only averaging 123.2 rushing yards last season, the line will experience problems with a new quarterback tacking the reins. The Eagles have not been able to run the ball in years as it appears the 2006 season wonâ€™t be any different for their ground game.
The front seven on the defensive side of the ball has almost all the starters coming back. The undersized front seven will have to start stopping opponents as they have let up over 200 yards rushing per game last season. Linebacker Daniel Holtzclaw who made a big impact as a freshman, collected 91 tackles as he started 11 games last season. End Kevin Howe earned second team All-MAC honors is the teams best pass rusher. He was originally a tight end but moved to the line during the 2003 season. Tackles Jason Jones and Josh Hunt will give Howe the help he needs, as they will take up blocks and give him freedom to rave the field. Hunt, the Colorado University transfer from 2005, will help the line become a solid front. With only one returning secondary player Duan Bracey will have difficulty in the secondary. However, defensive back Cory Reid, another Colorado transfer, has already earned a starting job in the secondary.
Andrew Wellock, one of the best place kickers in the nation, connected on 18 of 25 field goals last season. He was one of three finalists for the 2004 Lou Groza Award while finishing runner-up to former Ohio State kicker Mike Nugent. He is also the punter for the Eagles as he averages 38.3 yards per punt.