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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Likes and Dislikes

Five and Five: Eastern Michigan

What are five things I like about Eastern Michigan in 2010? What about five things I don’t? This list has all the answers.

Likes

1. The potential depth on the offensive line. Yes, E.M.U. loses Andy Fretz, a 46-game starter, but returns three 2009 starters and a 2008 starter in Bridger Buche, who missed all of last season with a hip injury. Buche will start at left tackle.

2. Last year’s youth, now with an added year of experience. Eight true freshmen started games for E.M.U. in 2009, including at quarterback. Those youngsters can only be improved with another year in the system.

3. The one-two punch of Dwayne Priest and Ben Axon in the backfield. Axon, who enrolled at E.M.U. after his scholarship to South Carolina was revoked (don’t ask), should have fans excited.

4. The athleticism of quarterback Alex Gillett. Thrown into the fire as a freshman, Gillett struggled as a passer. But he showed a good amount of running ability, and that facet of his game gives E.M.U. another dimension on offense. However, as loyal reader Dave pointed out in the team preview, that skill set could have played better in Eastern Michigan’s old offensive system.

5. A secondary that may feature four senior starters. There’s something to be said for experience.

Dislikes

1. The defensive line. It loses a key performer in Brandon Downs, and there is little reason — based on what was seen in 2009 — to think any of the four returning contributors can replace his lost production.

2. An awful rush defense. Part of this stems from the porous defensive front, but E.M.U. needs to improve against the run. It’s not just about controlling the clock: it’s about the mentality. The Eagles need to get tougher.

3. A lack of threats at wide receiver. Jacory Stone might have had a poor senior season statistically, but that was largely due to the ineptitude of the E.M.U. quarterbacks. The Eagles have a nice target in tight end Ben Thayer, but little in terms of experience at the three wide receiver spots.

4. An unforgiving schedule. Army, Ohio State, Vanderbilt and Virginia in non-conference play, the latter trio on the road. In MAC play, the Eagles face Miami (Ohio), Ball State and Buffalo — three teams not too far ahead of the Eagles — on the road.

5. The questionable future. Eastern Michigan won’t compete this season, we know that. But what about in 2011? How many recruiting classes, how much coaching-up will it take until the Eagles can be a realistic contender in the West division?

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