An absurdly premature assessment of the 2010 Eagles.
Why They Might Look Familiar: Apart from the infamy of finishing as one of the nation's two winless teams in 2009, they probably don't. Even if you live in Ypsilanti, Mich., they probably still don't. A commuter school suffering through 14 straight losing seasons, EMU has an occasional history of having to bus in high school students in a vain attempt to remain within the bounds of NCAA attendance requirements – the Eagles averaged a pitiful 5,016 fans for five home games last year, less than half of the next-worst number on the I-A list. A whopping 1,535 showed up for an October defeat at the hands of winless Ball State, and that's announced.
One name you might know is head coach Ron English, hired as head coach after a stint as defensive coordinator at Michigan (he was a Carr casualty when Rich Rodriguez rolled into town) and a one-year gig at Louisville.
Previously on: Dead-last in the MAC West, the MAC and major college football. The Eagles joined I-A startup Western Kentucky as the only outfits to go 0-for-12 in '09, and didn't even have WKU's excuse of being new to the big leagues. The high point of the season came against Northwestern in the second game of the season, when the Eagles roared from a 21-3 halftime deficit to tie the Wildcats at 24 with 2:40 on the clock – only to lose, 27-24, on a 49-yard Northwestern field goal with six seconds remaining. They followed up by losing their starting quarterback in a 45-17 thrashing at Michigan a week later, a prelude to further highlights such as losses of 48 points at Central Michigan, 36 points at Arkansas and 44 points at Northern Illinois.
The Eagles do come with some fun statistics: 108th nationally in passing offense, 116th in total offense, 120th (dead last) in rushing defense, 106th in total defense, and 116th in passing efficiency. Best of all: They led the nation in pass defense – because no one ever bothered to throw against such a woeful ground D, which yielded 277 yards per game on simple handoffs.
Encounters in the wild: A handful of gruesome patsy dates abound: At Ohio State on Sept. 25, at Vanderbilt on Oct. 9 and at Virginia on Oct. 23. Let us hope the Eagles are at least being well-paid for their service as punching bags.
Stock characters: The quarterback is Alex Gillett, forced into duty as a true freshman as the team's third choice after veterans Andy Schmitt and Kyle McMahon went down with injuries. Gillett cannot throw (he served up seven interceptions in three starts to close the season), but did manage to run for 484 yards, second on the team behind senior-to-be Dwayne Priest. And he's all they have – the only other quarterbacks on the roster are redshirt freshman Devontae Payne and incoming Tyler Benz.
The most intriguing player on the offense may be running back Ben Axon, a former four-star prospect in 2009 who lost his scholarship to South Carolina following a marijuana arrest last May. Suddenly finding himself a not-so-sought-after character risk, Axon landed in Ypsilanti, redshirted and is reportedly full speed ahead for 2010. Oh, and let's not forget the unofficial winner of the preseason All-Name award: Receiver Kinsman Thomas, who managed to catch three touchdowns in the last five games as a true freshman.
On the sidelines, you'll see six new faces on the coaching staff. Chief among them is new defensive coordinator Phil Snow, who was out of coaching in 2009 after being set adrift by another winless outfit from the Great Lakes State, the Detroit Lions. Given new life, he's merely tasked with turning around one of the most perennially sad-sack units in the country.
Prognosis: The cross-divisional draw includes a couple of pitiful offerings from the MAC East, Miami (Ohio) and Buffalo; the RedHawks and Bulls, along with fellow West Division bottom dweller Ball State, may be the only winnable games on the schedule. Although it would be kind of awesome if they put a 'W' in the win column against the SEC by upsetting Vanderbilt in the most depressing game ever staged in an SEC venue.
- - - Holly welcomes your adulation and veiled threats at nastinchka-at-yahoo, etc.
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Holly welcomes your adulation and veiled threats at nastinchka-at-yahoo, etc.