Eastern Illinois University
2015 Record: 7-5 (7-1 OVC) FCS Playoffs First Round
Key Losses: DT Dino Fanti (Second Team All-American), DB Jourdan Wickliffe (First Team All-OVC)
Key Returnees: RB Devin Church (Second Team All-OVC), OT Jimmy Lowery (Second Team All-OVC), LB Seth McDonald
Head Coach Kim Dameron is entering his third year at Eastern Illinois. Last year he saw his Panthers fight back from a 0-3 record to punch their ticket to the FCS playoffs for the first time since the departure of Tom Brady’s backup, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Aside from All-American Dino Fanti and All-OVC Jourdan Wickliffe, one major loss for the Panthers is quarterback Jalen Whitlow. Whitlow is one of only 3 losses for the Panthers on offense and Austin Green looks to fill Whitlows shoes next season. Things get better for the Panther’s offense as well, they not only return All-OVC rusher Devin Church, but also return a veteran offensive line and bring in Arkansas transfer Korliss Marshall, giving the Panthers one of the most solid rushing games in the conference.
On defense, there’s work to do as the Panthers will have to replace three All-OVC selections, including EIU’s only 2015 All-American selection. Linebacker Seth McDonald will likely form the backbone for a new Panthers defense as he totaled over 100 tackles last season. Defensive Lineman Jarvis Williams will help fill Dino Fanti’s shoes and safety Bradley Dewberry will help provide experience in a secondary that has to replace both starting cornerbacks.
Schedule and Predictions: 7-5 (5-3 OVC)
W 9/1 vs. Western Illinois
L 9/10 @ Miami (OH)
L 9/17 @ Illinois State
W 9/24 vs. Austin Peay
L 10/1 @ Southeast Missouri State
W 10/8 vs. Tennessee State
W 10/15 @ Tennessee Tech
W 10/22 vs. Murray State
L 10/29 @ Jacksonville State
W 11/5 vs. UT- Martin
L 11/19 @ Eastern Kentucky
The key game here for the Panthers is their September 17th matchup with Illinois State. Illinois State lost a HUGE chunk of offense this year with the departure of Tre Roberson and All-American running back Marshaun Coprich. The game may be in Normal but don’t be surprised if the Panthers come home with the win but we will have to wait and see. Pulling off a win on the road at EKU or SEMO would also help the Panthers get another playoff bid.