Ron English: Respect won't come for EMU football team until it wins big, and consistently
DETROIT - The Eastern Michigan football team has shown steady improvement under coach Ron English, but there’s some hesitancy to predict it will continue in 2012.
The Eagles - who went from 0-12 to 2-10 to 6-6 in English’s three seasons - were once again picked to finish near the bottom of the league standings in the preseason media poll released Tuesday at the Mid-American Conference media day at Ford Field.
Only three teams in the 13-team conference received fewer votes than Eastern Michigan. Even Central Michigan, the only team picked to finish below the Eagles in the West Division standings, received one first-place vote.
None of that caught English by surprise.
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“It’s just like recruiting. These guys are not going to respect you until you win some recruiting battles,” English said, motioning to other coaches spread around the Ford Field press box. “Now we’ve done that, so now they have to deal with us. They’re not going to respect us - the media is not going to respect us - until we win a championship and until we win a bowl game.”
Senior linebacker Justin Cudworth thinks the Eagles’ first six-win season since 1995 at least proved to opponents that they’re no longer the doormat of the league.
“I think that’s gone,” he said. “We’re not going to sneak up on anybody anymore. Those days are over.”
English said last season’s goal of winning a MAC title was a realistic one, regardless of whether anyone outside of the program believed it was possible. The goal is the same this season, with the same stipulation.He points to three November losses to Ball State, Kent State and league champion Northern Illinois - all by less than a touchdown - as proof his Eagles were on the verge of being a contender.
Finding ways to win those close games is the next step in the process.
“Coach always emphasizes it’s not a physical issue, it’s a mental thing,” Cudworth said. “We’ve got to learn how to finish late in the season. You go back and look at those games and we certainly could have done some things to help ourselves.”
The Eagles return four-fifths of their offensive line and three 500-yard rushers (QB Alex Gillett, RB Javonti Greene and RB Dominique Sherrer) from an offense that finished the 2011 season with the nation’s fourth-best rushing attack (218.3 yards per game).
The loss of three graduated lineman from a defense that ranked 34th in the country in yards allowed should be mitigated by junior college transfers Cy Maughmer, Devin Henderson and Travis Linser, all of whom went through spring practice in Ypsilanti.
Those lines are the building blocks for English’s preferred smash-mouth style that is a bit of an oddity in a conference full of more wide-open attacks.
“The reality is, the way we play football, we’re going to have a chance to win games," English said. "Because people don’t want to play that style of football."
Mid-American Conference Football Preseason Poll
(First-place votes in parenthesis.)
1. Ohio (17) 119
2. Bowling Green 91
3. Miami 84
4. Kent State 76
5. Buffalo 52
6. Akron 31
7. Massachusetts 23
1. Toledo (7) 87
2. Northern Illinois (5) 83
3. Western Michigan (4) 79
4. Ball State 42
5. Eastern Michigan 34
6. Central Michigan (1) 32