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           ***** NCAA Football Preview - Eastern Michigan Eagles *****
 By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Football Editor
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
 2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: Ron English's four season at the helm of the EMU
 program was somewhat disappointing following the team's .500 finish in 2011.
 Eastern Michigan looked like it was progressing towards its first bowl game
 since 1987 and had an experienced quarterback in Alex Gillett leading the way.
 The senior passer was benched midway through what turned out to be a very poor
 2012 campaign though.
 The Eagles' hopes of reaching the postseason quickly faded as they lost their
 first six games of the year. They fell to 0-1 with a 37-26 setback to MAC
 rival Ball State and suffered a humiliating, 31-14 loss to Illinois State of
 the FCS in their home opener at Rynearson Stadium the following week. EMU was
 then defeated by Purdue (54-16), Michigan State (23-7), Kent State (41-14) and
 Toledo (52-47). The Eagles started to get in an offensive rhythm against the
 Rockets and rode that momentum to a 48-38 victory over Army the following
 EMU fell to 1-9 with a trio of losses to Bowling Green (24-3), Ohio (45-14)
 and Central Michigan (34-31). It knocked off Western Michigan (29-23), but was
 dismantled by Northern Illinois, 49-7, in the season finale. The loss to the
 Huskies dropped the Eagles to 2-10 on the year, including a 1-7 finish in
 league play, which put them in last place in the West Division.
 English fell to 10-38 in his career with a 7-25 mark in conference games. He
 began his head coaching career at EMU in 2009 after serving as the defensive
 coordinator at Michigan and Louisville. English will assume the defensive
 coordinator responsibilities as well at EMU in 2013, which is the last
 guaranteed year he will be at the program with his contract expiring on New
 Year's Eve.
 OFFENSE: EMU had a sporadic offense in 2012 that was only effective in games
 it managed to establish the run. Stan Parrish was hired to help guide the
 offense to a more consistent performance. The former Marshall, Kansas State
 and Ball State head coach has some talent to work with right away.
 Junior QB Tyler Benz wrestled away the starting job in 2012 and produced back-
 to-back 300-yard passing games against Toledo and Army. He threw seven of his
 14 touchdown passes during that span, but tossed eight interceptions in as
 many games to close out the season. Benz disappeared down the stretch as he
 was held under 140 yards passing in nine of the 11 games he saw action.
 He should be able to do a little bit more as he gets more comfortable in the
 offense. The receiving corps also needed time to develop which made Benz's top
 target graduated tight end Garrett Hoskins last season. Aside from Donald
 Scott, who is the leading returner in receptions (19) and yards (255), the
 Eagles do not have a senior wideout on their roster. Sophomore Dustin Creel
 (6-2, 205) has great size that should help him as a possession receiver, while
 fellow sophomore Jay Jones (5-10, 181) has the speed to makes plays from the
 The rushing attack charged the offense at times thanks to the breakout of
 junior halfback Bronson Hill, who gained 910 yards and 12 TDs on 140 attempts.
 Hill had amassed just 10 yards and no scores through four games before
 exploding for 538 yards and three TDs over a three-game span.
 The offensive line has great size with senior Orlando McCord (6-3, 310),
 redshirt freshman Darien Terrell (6-4, 332) and juniors Lincoln Hanson (6-6,
 301) and Bobby McFadden (6-7, 303) set to battle in the trenches. Hansen was
 given some of the credit for Hill's eruption in 2012 by his head coach.
 "Well he has played a lot and he is such a solid human being," said English on
 Hansen. "You can win with those type of guys. He'll play the right tackle for
 us. He brings stability and a lot of game experience. Our backs are dynamic
 but you have to be able to block up front and I think he will help us do
 DEFENSE: English takes over a unit that went from having the 34th ranked total
 defense in the FBS in 2011 to 112th in 2012 with averages of 479.8 yards of
 total offense and 37.6 points allowed per contest. The hope is that the head
 coach can instill some life into a defense that intercepted only seven passes
 and recorded the same unimpressive total of sacks.
 Senior end Kalonji Kashama is one of the leaders of the group after
 registering three of the seven sacks in 2012. He also made 30 total stops,
 four TFL and caused two fumbles. Junior nose tackle Cy Maughmer (6-2, 276) saw
 the field in every game last year en route to 31 total tackles, five QB
 hurries and two TFL. Others expected to contribute up front for the Eagles
 include senior Matt Price (6-3, 270), junior Travis Linser (6-4, 280) and
 sophomore Pat O'Connor (6-4, 272).
 "You can expect to see a defense that plays fast, physical and gets to the
 ball," said Kashama. "One thing that excited me about coming to Eastern was
 coach English. I'm happy that I get to have him as the defensive coordinator
 before I graduate."
 Kashama's excitement will not last too long if the inexperienced group of
 linebackers takes too long to get acclimated to expanded roles. Sophomore Ike
 Spearman, senior Sean Kurtz and junior Tim Brown all have potential and great
 speed for the position, but they are undersized and registered just 61
 combined total stops in 2012, which is not very impressive considering the
 graduated combo of Blake Poole and Justin Cudworth finished with 89 and 85
 tackles, respectively.
 The secondary has some leadership in senior strong safety Donald Coleman, who
 was the 16th best tackler in the MAC with 87 total takedowns in his first
 eligible year with the team since transferring from NC State. He has some good
 company in the defensive backfield with junior corner Pudge Cotton coming off
 a two-interception campaign and senior Ja'Ron Gillespie available again after
 not participating in any games last season.
 SPECIAL TEAMS: Sophomore kicker Dylan Mulder showed promise as a rookie,
 making 10-of-11 field goal attempts and 24-of-27 extra point tries. He
 accounted for 11 or more points on three occasions. Kickoff specialist Kody
 Fulkerson is also back after averaging 58.5 yards per attempts with three
 touchbacks a season ago.
 Freshman Austin Barnes is the top candidate to handle the punting duties. He
 averaged 47.1 yards per punt during his high school career. Junior running
 back Tyler Allen is most likely going to be used as a return specialist again
 after posting an average of 22.5 yards per attempt on his 47 fielded kickoffs.
 Junior wideout Demarius Reed may be replaced as the punt returner after
 picking up only 72 yards on 13 tries.
 OUTLOOK: English has the respect of his players and they are all aware of the
 implications of this season. The Eagles had a tough slate last year with nine
 losses coming to teams that participated in the bowl season. Their journey
 will not be any easier in 2013, but English is retaining his optimism.
 "I think that if the fans give this team a chance then they will be pleasantly
 surprised," said English. "I know what everyone thinks based on last year, but
 this isn't my first rodeo. The teams that I have been a part of that have been
 building processes - they fluctuate. They have a year where they get to .500
 and they have a year where they don't meet expectations and then they
 breakthrough. That's really what I expect from this team."
 Although it lost to an FCS school last season, EMU will have an edge heading
 into its opener against Howard at Rynearson Stadium. That will not be the case
 for the following two-game road trip that includes visits to Penn State and
 Rutgers. The Eagles begin MAC play in week four at home versus Ball State and
 play their first league game away from home at Buffalo.
 English's team will conclude its non-league schedule with Army in West Point
 and does not have a cakewalk the rest of the way with Ohio, Northern Illinois,
 Toledo, Western Michigan, Bowling Green and CMU lined up down the stretch.
 The Eagles are not built to compete for the MAC Championship, but a breakout
 year by either Hill or Benz could keep them competitive with most of their
 league rivals. EMU's lackluster defense will most likely hold it back from a
 winning record unless some underclassmen makes unexpected strides.
 08/19 11:45:08 ET

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