Rare is the place in college football where a 2-10 record can be celebrated, but in Ypsilanti, that is the case. After an 0-12 experience in the first season under head coach Ron English, the Eagles won twice in the 2010 season, and consider that a significant step forward.
The Eagles, over-matched on most Saturdays, won two of their last six, but more significant than the wins, however, could be the fashion in which the Eagles prevailed. Eastern Michigan won twice on the road, and the Eagles had to take Ball State to overtime for that first victory, and then hang on with a defensive stand at the end of a 21-17 win at Buffalo.
So with that hunk of measurable progress, starting at the top -- the very top -- the mood is upbeat. "We haven't won as much as we like, but we are in the process of winning games," Eastern Michigan president Susan Martin said recently, talking to a post-season gathering commemorating the more than 100 years of football at the school.
The positive voice of the university president has to make a difference, since the Eastern Michigan coaches can work on the colossal rebuild without constantly looking over their shoulder, or searching the help wanted ads.
For the past two seasons, English has been trying to sell his approach to someone else's players. That pretty much changes now, with two classes gone and a third English recruiting class coming aboard.
The former Michigan assistant likes to use construction analogies when he talks about what is taking place at Eastern Michigan. He talks about having "parts" scattered all over the place initially, and then slowly, steadily putting things in place.
"We're a long way from the finished product, but I believe we're building a strong foundation here," English told AnnArbor.com recently.
He will have considerable work to do on the defensive side to get his team in a competitive posture for the 2011 season, but defense has long been the strong suit for English, and it is about time for him to show the bosses he knows what he is doing.
The two wins in 2010 were nice, and gave the program some positive momentum, but the bar moves higher in 2011 and English needs to show that his recruiting skills match his fiery rhetoric.
TOP OF THE CLASS
RB Tyler Allen (Lansing Eastern, Lansing, Mich.) -- The 5-9, 170-pound was an all-state player who turned down some Division II offers because he wanted to test his talents against the top level of college football. Allen averaged 6.4 yards per carry, and is expected to play running back, return kicks and possibly get some reps at wide receiver.
QB Mark Iannotti (Schaumburg, Ill.) -- When the Eastern Michigan coaches came to watch him play, Iannotti had 397 yards of offense, and an offer on the table to come play for the Eagles. The 6-foot-3, 213-pound Iannotti completed 67 percent of his passes in his senior season for about 1,400 yards, with 12 touchdown passes. He rushed for another 1,052 yards and 11 additional scores. He had other offers, but the spread/pro-style hybrid offense the Eagles employ pretty much matches what Iannotti played in high school, so he stuck with what he knows.
RB Ryan Brumfield (Owen J. Roberts, Chester Springs, Pa.) -- Brumfield piled up 8,595 yards rushing in his high school career, making him the No. 2 all-time rusher in Pennsylvania history. He has an explosive running style with 4.4 speed, and with the graduation of primary ball carrier Dwayne Priest, the opportunity is there for Brumfield to compete for carries as a freshman.
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