Last year’s six wins were the most by the program in a season since 1995. In three of their six losses, the margin of defeat was two, six and six points. Can it happen again? Sure.
Offense: The running game is the Eagles’ bread and butter and comes back fully intact. Leading the way are quarterback Alex Gilbert, who rushed for 736 yards and Javonti Greene, who had 667 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Their 218.3 rushing ypg was third in the MAC and 14th nationally. Despite throwing 14 touchdown passes, Gilbert isn’t much of a passer, as he threw for only 1,504 yards last year and just 126.7 yards per game.
The passing game should get a boost with the length and athleticism that the incoming players will add to the team.
Defense: Unlike the offense, the defense only brings back five starters from a squad that ranked 34th nationally in total defense.
Linebacker Justin Cudworth, who had a team-high 83 tackles, including 8.5 for loss, returns for his senior season. Andy Malumbia, who had 51 tackles and 3.5 sacks, returns at one defensive end and the line will be bolstered by the return of tackle Devin Henderson, who sat out last season with academic issues.
The secondary lost both starting safeties, but the two corners, Marlon Pollard and Marcell Rose, return. Pollard had quite the debut after transferring from UCLA, racking up 54 stops.
Recruiting: Outside linebacker Ike Spearman racked up 95 tackles, 25 for losses, seven sacks, two blocked punts, two fumble recoveries, and 4 forced fumbles as a senior. Juwan Lewis is the standout on offense. The running back ran for 20 touchdowns and 1,446 yards during his senior season averaging 6.8 yards a rush.
Schedule: Unlike last year, the schedule isn’t as favorable for the Eagles. Two nonconference road games are at Michigan State and Purdue. They get two of the MAC’s tougher teams, NIU and Toledo, at home, but have to travel to Ohio, Bowling Green and Western Michigan .