Updated: Eastern Michigan hopes football recruiting class will immediately bolster defense
As Eastern Michigan announced its 2011 football recruiting class Wednesday, it was clear that the Eagles are looking to improve on the defensive side of the ball. And in a hurry.
Of the 20 players the Eagles signed, 13 are defensive players. Eight come from junior colleges, and one is as a transfer from UCLA.
“We’ve recruited players on the defensive side that we hope contribute right away, whether they are junior college or high school kids,” Eastern Michigan coach Ron English said.
English acknowledges that, in the long run, it is preferable to bring in high school recruits and develop them. He also watched his defensive personnel struggle greatly last season as his team went 2-10.
“Reality is reality. On defense you’ve got to do it with players,” English said at the end of last season, noting that a sound defensive scheme doesn’t mean much if the players can’t tackle one-on-one.
Since last season’s three leading tacklers were all seniors, there was an urgency to find players who could make a quick impact.
“We felt like we needed to upgrade our standup positions on defense, and if we get all the guys who have (verbally) committed, we feel like we’ve done that,” English said.
One player who may be able to contribute immediately—and be a part of the program for years to come—is Sean Cotton, a 6-foot-2, 197-pound safety from Melrose Park, Ill.
Cotton is rated a three-star prospect by both Scout and Rivals.
“He’s a great player and a great athlete,” said Allen Trieu, the Midwest Regional Manager for Scout.com. “Physically, he looks like a college-ready player. And he’s been athletic enough to play quarterback and receiver.”
Cotton and his family thought they were doing the responsible thing when he gave an early verbal commitment to Northwestern last summer, but the plan ended up backfiring.
Although Cotton easily clears all NCAA eligibility standards, his ACT score didn’t meet Northwestern’s tougher admission standards.
Despite being told repeatedly by Northwestern coaches that the score wouldn’t be an issue, the Cottons learned in November that the score was a problem. And he was told soon after that the Wildcats weren’t going to wait around for results to come back from another test. Meanwhile, Cotton's other options had dried up.
“We had literally told every other team in the Big Ten that we weren’t interested,” said Cotton’s father, Charles Cotton. “So they had already made commitments to other safeties.”
Cotton then began considering offers from Mid-American Conference schools, and he felt Eastern Michigan was the best fit.
Cotton said he liked Eastern Michigan’s campus and football facilities, as well as the coaching staff, but he also liked the idea that he could come in and compete for playing time right away.
“Coach English kept telling me he needed a safety who can come in and play right away, so that was a huge factor in me deciding to go there,” Cotton said.
Just three of Eastern Michigan's new recruits came from the state of Michigan, whereas seven came from Illinois, and six came from junior colleges in California.
Darius Scott (5-9, 150) and Demarius Reed (5-10, 155), teammates at Chicago Simeon High School, are perhaps undersized for the time being, but are dynamic athletes who could make a quick impact. Don't be surprised if the Chicago tandem is side-by-side back deep to return the opening kickoff of the 2011 season.
Quarterback Mark Iannotti (6-4, 215), of Schaumburg, Ill., is athletic for his size and ran for more than 1,000 yards his senior season in addition to passing for nearly 1,400.
Of the players coming to Ypsilanti from California Junior Colleges, English is particularly excited about a pair of linebackers, Justin Cudworth (5-11, 208) and Sean Kurtz (5-11, 228).
The only thing that kept Cudworth from landing at a Pac-10 school, English said, was that he is an inch or two too short--but watching Cudworth play, English said he was reminded of two linebackers he had coached at Arizona St.--Pat Tillman and Adam Archuleta.
In Kurtz, English sees the potential that could get him onto the field immediately as a middle linebacker.
Eastern Michigan has 22 scholarships available for its 2011 class, and expects to add another player or two in the coming days.