#26 Eastern Kentucky FCS Football 2019 Preview

Eastern Kentucky Colonels
Overall Rank: #26
#3 Ohio Valley
 Eastern Kentucky Logo
Eastern Kentucky just missed out on the playoffs last season, finishing 7-4 overall and 5-2 in Ohio Valley Conference play. Two of those four losses came against FBS opponents Marshall and Bowling Green, and the Colonels played well in those two contests. With eight starters returning on offense and eight on defense, EKU has the potential to push for their first playoff appearance since 2014.
2018 Record: 7-4, 5-2
2018 Postseason: None
Coach: Mark Elder (14-19 at Eastern Kentucky, 14-19 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Adam Austin
Defensive Coordinator: Kurt Mattix
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Daryl McCleskey, RB, 651 yards
Passing: Parker McKinney, QB, 608 yards
Receiving: Jackson Beerman, WR, 324 yards
Tackles: Steven Crowder, LB, 73
Sacks: Aaron Patrick, DL, 7.5
Interceptions: Leodis Moore, DB, 5
Other Key Returnees: QB Dakota Allen, QB Austin Scott, WR BK Smith, DB Ben Bascom, DB TJ Comstock
Key Losses: RB LJ Scott, OL Cameron Kowalewski, WR Neiko Creamer, LB Gavin Bryant, DB Cornelius Floyd, DB Jared Tucker
Stability at quarterback would go a long way. Parker McKinney, Austin Scott and Dakota Allen are all back after earning at least one start last season. Coach Mark Elder has also brought in Oregon State transfer Conor Blount. It will be an interesting battle, but whoever ends up under center will be an experienced quarterback. BK Smith, Jackson Beerman and Jaelin Carter are quality targets, although nobody has emerged as a particularly dangerous and consistent receiving threat. Daryl McCleskey will keep Eastern Kentucky productive on the ground. He has rushed for nearly 1,500 yards during his three seasons with the program and should get a bulk of the carries during his senior season.
The defense created plenty of turnovers in 2018. Leodis Moore intercepted five passes and TJ Comstock added a couple more. Those two will make more big plays in 2019, especially if the defensive line can consistently get to the quarterback. The pass rush was not particularly potent last season, but Aaron Patrick tallied 7.5 sacks and is a great piece to build around. Steven Crowder is the team’s top returning tackler with 73. There are experienced pieces, but Eastern Kentucky has some transfers coming in that should be able to successfully fill the holes.
The Bottom Line:
The OVC should be very competitive this season. Something that could keep this group out of the playoffs is their tough road games at Southeast Missouri and Jacksonville State. The Colonels also travel to Murray State, who beat EKU 34-6 in Richmond last season. With non-conference contests against Louisville and Indiana State, Eastern Kentucky may not be able to afford to lose all three of those conference road games.
Projected Postseason: None
2018 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 204.2 (26th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 148.2 (113, 9)
Total Offense: 352.4 (81, 8)
Scoring Offense: 26.9 (66, 8)
Rushing Defense: 152.5 (42, 4)
Pass Defense: 219.2 (68, 3)
Total Defense: 371.7 (50, 3)
Scoring Defense: 28.7 (68, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.64 (17, 2)
Sacks: 1.64 (80, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 2.45 (93, 9)
HERO Sports 2019 Recruit Rankings:
#178 Josiah Ezirim
#218 Isaiah Velez