With the season beginning on Thursday, we wanted to provide a small primer for each of the OVC Teams. Here are the 10 things you should know about Eastern Kentucky heading into the 2013 year.
1) STARTING ANEW — EKU is coming off an 8-3 (6-2 OVC) season, but much of their offensive production is gone. The program’s all-time leading passer, TJ Pryor, graduated, as did their top two wide receivers (including NFL camp invitee Tyrone Goard) and leading rusher Matt Denham. The good news is that the majority of the conference is in the same boat, especially at quarterback with six OVC teams featuring new players under center.
2) THE SIGNALCALLER — This year’s squad will be led by Jared McClain at QB. The junior started three games last year for the injured Pryor, finishing the season with 3 TD’s, 3 INT’s, and 460 yards passing. He’s a threat to run, pulling it down 43 times for 211 yards. He did see action in all of EKU’s 11 games last year.
3) COMING BACK — Some really good news for EKU, the return of TE Matt Lengel. Lengel suffered a knee injury in the team’s 2012 season opener against Purdue, and missed the rest of the season. Lengal only participated in limited spring drills, but the 6’7, 265 pounder is expected to be at full strength when the season begins.
4) DON’T RUSH IT UP THE MIDDLE — Seriously. Five of EKU’s starting front seven from last year returns, including three all-OVC players in 2012. (LB Anthony Brown, LB Ichiro Vance, DL Shawn Shupperd) Last year, the Colonels led the OVC in rush defense, allowing just 3.5 yards a run and giving up just 10 TD on the ground.
5) THE OFFENSE NEEDS TO SCORE TD’s — Kicking is a concern for the Colonels. Senior kicker Luke Pray is just 17-34 in his career, including three missed field goals from 21 yards last season. Pray missed two crucial attempts in EKU’s 23-20 loss to Tennessee State in October. The good news: he hit five of his last seven the close out last season.
6) GET ON THE BALL — Impressive stat from 2012: EKU had 16 fumbles last season. They lost just three of them.
7) THE CONFERENCE ELITE — If you don’t follow EKU football, you might not know about their history. The Colonels have won 21 OVC titles, including a shared title in 2011, easily the most in the OVC. Tennessee Tech is second with 10 titles.
8) BEST TWITTER HANDLE — Linebackers coach Gary Fisher can be found on twitter @Linebackers101. Nice.
9) SENSIBLE SCHEDULE — EKU opens the season at home on a Thursday night for the first time in 20 years against Robert Morris. They play just one FBS team this year (unlike some conference members playing two or three) in Louisville in week 2, before facing Coastal Carolina and rival Morehead State to round out non-conference play. You should circle September 28th on your calendar: It’s not only the Colonels conference opener, EKU travels to Eastern Illinois in a game that’s expected to have major OVC Title implications.
10) WINNING WITH TURNOVERS — Another impressive 2012 stat: EKU had a positive turnover margin in 10 of their 11 games last year. The one they lost the turnover battle: That close loss to Tennessee State.