Coach: Jeff Genyk (2nd season, 4–7) 2004 record: 4-7 MAC finish: 4-4 (4th West) 2004 I-A offensive rankings: Rushing: 47th (165.8 ypg) Passing: 21st (262.1 ypg) 2004 I-A defensive rankings: Rushing: 90th (191.9 ypg) Passing: 115th (277.7 ypg)
at Central Michigan
at Northern Illinois
Depth Chart: Offense
7 returning starters in red
Depth Chart: Defense
5 returning starters in red
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Eastern Michigan finished the 2004 season with a 4-4 MAC record, the school's first .500 conference finish since '99. For EMU to keep its momentum, second-year head coach Jeff Genyk knows his team must increase its offensive efficiency and become more productive in the red zone. The Eagles return seven starters from an offense that churned out 428 yards but averaged only 29.8 points per game.
EMU also needs to make some significant improvement on defense after ranking 116th in the nation in points allowed (41.6 ppg). "We need to keep getting better as tacklers -- defeating blocks and pursuing better," Genyk said.
Matt Bohnet ran the spread offense like a veteran in his first season as the Eagles starting quarterback. The transfer from Iowa finished third in the MAC and sixth in the nation in total offense (294 ypg), while tossing 21 touchdowns. "Matt is a key cornerstone to the offense," Genyk said. "He can throw the deep and intermediate ball as well as anyone."
Eastern rushed for more than 1,800 yards as a team in '04 but produced just 14 rushing touchdowns. Veteran Anthony Sherrell has rushed for nearly 2,400 yards in his career, but the Eagles won't know until Augusrt if he'll be eligible for another season. Nelson Drew, who had a strong spring, will likely be the starting tailback even if Sherrell returns.
Eric Deslauriers emerged as one of the elite receivers in the MAC as a sophomore last season, grabbing 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. A.J. Bennett, Mark Borders and Trumaine Riley round out a receiving corps that Genyk said is "better than any receiving unit we had when I was (an assistant at) Northwestern."
Eastern has built a productive offensive line that is led by center Mike Romeli. Overall, there is good size and depth on a unit that gave up just 14 sacks and powered the Eagles to the fourth-best offense in the MAC.
Plenty of attention is being given to the defensive side of the ball after EMU ranked 114th in total defense last season. The Eagles have three solid defensive ends in Olivier Gagnon-Gordillo, Kevin Howe and Jason Jones. At tackle, the coaching staff is excited about Colorado transfer Josh Hunt and sophomore Greg Egbuogu. Expect some new defensive schemes for 2005, including some zone blitzes.
There are two major holes to fill on the linebacking corps with the loss of Kevin Harrison, a second-team All-MAC pick, and Keyvon Barbee. There are several experienced players returning -- Darran Matthews, Brandon Watkins, Jereme Perry and Steven Bednarik -- but don't be surprised to see a true freshman crack the two-deep.
The Eagles finished last in the conference and 115th overall in pass defense, so major improvements need to be made. Safeties Corey Parker and Rontrell Woodruff are experienced, but there is little depth on the back line of defense.
Andrew Wellock returns after finishing second for the Lou Groza Award in '04. He connected on 21-of-23 field goals and 32-of-33 extra points. Wellock doubles as the Eagles' punter, averaging 37.2 yards per kick last fall.
Eastern Michigan jumped 95 teams in total offense in Genyk's first year, going from 116th in '03 to 21st last fall. If the defense can make a similar improvement, or even a slight gain, the Eagles may be in for a significant improvement this season. Otherwise, it will be tough to outscore MAC opponents if the defense can't keep teams out of the end zone.