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Scout.com season preview

May 10, 2010

Scout.com has posted their 2010 season preview for the Eagles, and on the whole, I think they’ve done a much better job analysing the team than some of the other season previews have.

First off, here’s their projected depth chart. The first thing that jumps out at me is that for an ostensibly “young” team, there are an awful lot of juniors and seniors in the starting lineup. There are no freshmen, and five sophomores listed as starters, all on offense. As all those freshmen and sophomores gain experience, we could see a pretty strong offensive squad that could put this team in contention for the MAC Championship in another year or two. I’m not sure that the defense’s experience is such a good thing, considering how bad they were last year, but there it is. Look past the starters, however, and you’ll see plenty of youngsters, so to the extent that injuries and fatigue come into play, we’ll see a lot of youth.

The other particularly noteworthy item in the depth chart is the quarterback. Scout.com lists Alex Gillett as the starter with Devontae Payne as his backup, and while I think that’s where the Eagles will start the season, I suspect Payne will get far more snaps than the typical backup quarterback, particularly if Gillett has as much trouble throwing the ball as he did last year, and Payne may even end up starting some games.

Turning to the defense, Scout.com notes that the defensive line is deep, and despite only one senior on the two-deep, experienced. That bodes well for this season, and even better for the future. The linebacker corps is also deep, though possible lacking in highly talented playmakers. The secondary is probably the strongest element of the defense, returning five players who started regularly last fall, and adding in Latarrius Thomas, a senior transfer who regularly started for the Louisville Cardinals.

Special teams are probably the biggest unknown factor on the team, after punter Zach Johnson  and kicker Joe Caruthers both graduated. Johnson has signed as an undrafted free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs, so that’s a pretty big loss. On top of that, the punt returns were atrocious last year, averaging just 4.9 yards per return. The only expected bright spot on special teams is WR Corey Welch, who averaged 21.4 yards per kickoff return last year.

On offense, the strength will be the running game, with several strong running backs in addition to Gillett’s ability to run as quarterback. The team has a very talented bunch of sophomore and junior receivers, but their effectiveness will depend largely on which quarterback is under center. The offensive line should be at least somewhat improved over last year, but is a bit of an unknown; at this point it’s hard to even tell who’ll be in the lineup.

Looking at the team overall, they note the relatively weak opponents, but note that “…the slate doesn’t work out well overall. There aren’t two home games in a row, there are only five home games total, and there is only one home date from October 9 to the season finally against NIU meaning there are five road games in six and one home game in seven weeks before the finale.” If the Eagles are going to win, they’ll have to win early.

As we’re looking ahead to 2010, I also thought it would be interesting to look back at preseason expectations for ’09. Scout.com predicted that EMU would go 3-9 but could win as many as six games, and noted that “Andy Schmitt…won’t get the press of CMU’s Dan LeFevour or WMU’s Tim Hiller, but he could be more productive…He’s too valuable to take a ton of hits.”

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