#98 Eastern Michigan Football 2017 Preview

Eastern Michigan Eagles
Overall Rank: #98
#5 Mid-American
There was little reason to think Eastern Michigan would have a break out season in 2016 and reach a bowl game. Coach Chris Creighton has had a lot of success at programs where little was expected of him and EMU was no different. After winning just three games in his first two seasons with the Eagles, Coach Creighton led the program to seven wins and a close loss to Old Dominion in the Bahamas Bowl.
2016 Record: 7-6, 4-4
2016 Bowl: Popeyes Bahamas Bowl vs. Old Dominion (L 20-24)
Coach: Chris Creighton (10-27 at Eastern Michigan, 149-73 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Aaron Keen
Defensive Coordinator: Neal Neathery
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Ian Eriksen, RB, 771 yards
Passing: Brogan Roback, QB, 2,694 yards
Receiving: Sergio Bailey II, WR, 868 yards
Tackles: Kyle Rachwal, LB, 109
Sacks: Jeremiah Harris, DL, 4.0
Interceptions: Vince Calhoun, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Breck Turner, WR Dieuly Aristilde, WR Antoine Porter, DB Jason Beck, DB Ikie Calderon, K Paul Fricano,
Key Losses: QB Todd Porter, TE Nigel Kilby, OL Cole Gardner, OL Andrw Wylie, DL Pat O’Connor, DB DaQuan Pace
Brogan Roback returns at quarterback after throwing for 2,694 yards and 18 touchdowns in ten games. He should be in for another big year, especially with most of his top receivers coming back. Sergio Bailey caught a team high 60 passes for 868 yards and seven touchdowns and will likely continue to be Roback’s favorite target in 2017. Dieuly Aristilde is a big 6-4 sophomore who made plenty of big plays in his limited playing time. In six games he caught 25 passes for 492 yards, which averages nearly 20 yards per catch. With Antoine Porter, Johnnie Niupalau and Eddie Daugherty also returning, Eastern Michigan could have the most potent passing game in the MAC. The backfield is deep, led by Ian Eriksen who rushed for 771 yards and nine scores in 2016, which should allow for an effective running game while the opposition worries about Roback and the passing attack. The potential problem for the offense is the inexperience on the line. Ka’John Armstrong and Jimmy Leatiota are the only returning starters and the offense could struggle without all of those veterans paving the way.
In large part it was the massive improvement of the defense, particularly the rush defense, that led to Eastern Michigan’s seven wins. With eight starters back, EMU hopes for even better things in 2017. However, replacing Pat O’Connor, Mike Brown and DaQuan Pace will not be easy. O’Connor led the team with 8.5 sacks last season and that consistent pressure was huge for EMU. Mike Brown was also a starter on the line. Without O’Connor, Jeremiah Harris will have to turn into a consistent pass rusher. In the secondary, Pace recorded 50 tackles and three interceptions. With four other starters back in the secondary though, Eastern Michigan should be able to replace Pace without too much of a problem. Keep an eye on sophomores Vince Calhoun and Kevin McGill. Both had solid freshman campaigns.
The Bottom Line:
This is an important season for Eastern Michigan. Either we will find out that last season was a fluke and this is a program that is not going to be a consistent contender in the MAC or the Eagles are going to take the next step and thrive under Coach Creighton. The truth probably lies somewhere in between, but this is a team that should compete for another bowl berth. That would involve winning a road game or two. Although that was not a problem last season, if the run defense struggles Eastern Michigan will find it much more difficult to win those tough road games.
Projected Bowl: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 159.1 (85th in nation, 8th in conference)
Passing Offense: 296.1 (18, 2)
Total Offense: 455.2 (35, 4)
Scoring Offense: 29.6 (61, 4)
Rushing Defense: 167.5 (59, 5)
Pass Defense: 265.2 (108, 10)
Total Defense: 432.7 (83, 7)
Scoring Defense: 29.8 (76, 6)
Turnover Margin: 0.08 (58, 3)
Sacks: 1.62 (97, 8)
Sacks Allowed: 1.00 (8, 2)