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2005 MAC Football Pigskin Preview

 

Eastern Michigan Eagles


Quarterbacks

Matt Bohnet ran the spread offense like a veteran in his first season as the Eagles quarterback. The Iowa transfer finished third in the MAC and sixth in the nation in total offense (294 YPG), while tossing 21 TDs. According to Genyk, "Matt is a key cornerstone to the offense - he can throw the deep and intermediate ball as well as anyone." If there is any knock on Bohnet it is that he completed only 53% of his passes last season. With another season to learn the offense, a 230-pound frame and 4.6/40 speed, Eastern is expecting even more from the senior signal caller. There is very limited depth since Matt’s brother, Ken Bohnet, has moved from QB to TE. Tyler Jones is an athletic prospect with good speed but limited passing skills. True freshmen Andy Schmidt or Jermaine Jenkins will be #3 in the rotation.

 

Running Backs

Eastern rushed for more than 1,800 yards as a team in 2004 and produced 14 rushing touchdowns. According to Genyk, Nelson Drew (5-11, 208) has been impressive and is slated to start at tailback with Pierre Walker (5-7, 197) . Anthony Sherrell is a proven player with nearly 2,400 career yards, but his eligibility for a fifth year is uncertain until August. Expect true freshmen to contribute immediately with Tim Connor, Cory Everson and Olufemi Ogundare as the leading candidates. Connor is a star recruit from this 2005 class, rushed for over 1,500 yards and 24 TDs at famed Cleveland Glenville High. Genyk believes at least two true freshmen will see playing time this season at RB.

 

Receivers/Tight Ends

Eric Deslauriers came into his own as a sophomore last season when he grabbed 84 catches for 1,257 yards and 13 touchdowns. He ranked fourth in the nation in receiving yards per game and fifth in receptions per game. He set a school record for points scored with 26 in the Eagles’ win over archrival Central Michigan. A.J. Bennett, Duan Bracey, Dan Fugate, Mark Borders, John Bonner and Trumaine Riley bolster a solid receiving corps that Genyk describes as being "better than any receiving unit we had when I was at Northwestern." Ken Bohnet, Matt’s brother, moved from quarterback to tight end. Genyk says, "Ken is a top-22 player in this program, and we have to get him on the field." RJ Montemayor was a first-team JUCO All-American last season looks to contribute right away with his 6-5 250-pound frame. Former ILB John Wester (6-2, 238) adds depth and athleticism to the unit.

Offensive Linemen

Eastern has built a productive offensive line led by center Mike Romeli, whom Genyk says, "is tremendously tough - definitely an all-conference player." Courtney Ford has moved from the defensive line to offensive tackle, and Chris Thomas has emerged as a starting guard along with Khalid Walton. Overall, there is good size and depth within this unit that gave up just 14 sacks and powered the Eagles to the fourth best offense in the MAC. With Gemayel Cowser, John Riske and Jake Bleeker, they should be better this season. Adequate depth is a concern though.

 

Defensive Linemen

Plenty of attention is being given to the defensive side of the ball since EMU ranked 114th in total defense last season. That begins up front where the Eagles have three very good defensive ends in Oliver Gagnon-Gordillo, Jason Jones, who moved from TE to DT and Kevin Howe, whom Genyk describes as "a difference maker." At the defensive tackle position, the coaching staff is excited about Colorado transfer Josh Hunt along with sophomore Greg Eghuogu. Matt Lisek and DeMarko Hughes bring some added size and experience. There is finally some decent size in the defensive trenches as EMU averages 6-4 265-pounds per man. Expect many new defensive schemes in 2005 including zone blitzes.

 

Linebackers

The linebacker unit graduated two terrific players in Kevin Harrison, who earned all-MAC second team honors and was the nation’s 2nd leading tackler and Keyvon Barbee, who produced 92 tackles last season. The coaching staff is looking for players to step up immediately to replace Harrison and Barbee and provide more depth. Darren Matthews, Brandon Watkins and Steven Bednarik all have experience, but redshirt & true freshmen will also be expected to contribute. Daniel Holtzclaw and Kory Jackson will be looked upon to make the two-deep line up right away. There is limited size or depth in this area, which will be the biggest concern on the team for the coaching staff in the fall.

 

Defensive Backs

The Eagles finished dead last in the conference and 115th overall in pass defense, so major improvements need to be made in this area. Corey Parker and Rontrell Woodruff are experienced players, but True freshman Spenser Smith will be counted on to contribute right away. Other players of note are Blake Smith, Steven Lewis, Jereme Perry and John Neely. There is little depth as the coaching staff is looking for playmakers to emerge.

 

Special Teams

Andrew Wellock is the best place-kicker in the nation, returns after a superb season where he finished runner-up for the Lou Groza Award, given annually to the nation’s top place-kicker. He connected on 21 of 23 field goals and earning third team All-American honors by the Associated Press. Genyk states, "He is good from 53-yards in." Eastern needs to do a much better job on kickoff returns – a weak spot in 2004.

 

Final Thoughts

Eastern Michigan finished 2004 with a 4-4 MAC record, their first .500 conference finish in six seasons. To take the EMU program to the next level, second year head coach Jeff Genyk knows they must become more efficient offensively and finish and score touchdowns in the red zone. The Eagles return seven starters on an offense that churned out 428 yards per game last year but squeezed only 29 points per game from that output. Defensively, the Eagles need to do a much better job with fundamentals as their scoring defense ranked 116th in the nation last season. Genyk notes, "We need to keep getting better as tacklers - defeating blocks and pursuing better." If the defense can show significant improvement, this program will have their first winning season since 1995.

 

Mark it down!

2004 marked the first time since 1986 that Eastern Michigan beat both of their Michigan MAC rivals (Central & Western) during the same season. With vast improvement at both schools, EMU will not repeat as "the Michigan MAC champions" this season as each of the home teams will likely win in these round-robin conference games.

Schedule

@ Cincinnati (Thurs.) - LOSS

vs. Louisiana Lafayette - WIN

@ Michigan - LOSS

@ Central Michigan - LOSS

vs. Kent State - WIN

@ Toledo - LOSS

@ Northern Illinois - LOSS

vs. Miami - LOSS

vs. Western Michigan - WIN - @ Ford Field, Detroit

vs. Ball State - WIN

@ Buffalo - LOSS

 

4-7 Overall, 3-5 MAC

 

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