#30 Eastern Kentucky FCS Football 2020 Preview

Eastern Kentucky Colonels
Overall Rank: #30
#4 Ohio Valley
 Eastern Kentucky Logo
Eastern Kentucky has moved on from four average seasons with Mark Elder leading the program. The last two seasons were not terrible though and the Colonels won 14 games during 2018 and 2019. But there were no playoff appearances and EKU hopes that Walt Wells can change that. Coach Wells had a couple of stints as an assistant with the Colonels, but was most recently at Tennessee and Kentucky.  
2019 Record: 7-5, 5-3
2019 Postseason: None
Coach: Walt Wells (0-0 at Eastern Kentucky, 0-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Andy Richman
Defensive Coordinator: Jake Johnson
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Alonzo Booth, RB, 673 yards
Passing: Parker McKinney, QB, 1,371 yards
Receiving: Keylon Dixon, WR, 497 yards
Tackles: Steven Crowder, LB, 63
Sacks: Sreven Crowder, LB 2.0; Daulson Fitzpatrick, DB, 2
Interceptions: Daulson Fitzpatrick, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR Matt Wilcox Jr, OL Tucker Schroeder, OL Graham Ashkettle, DB Joseph Sayles, DB Josh Hayes
Key Losses: RB Daryl McCleskey, QB Conor Blount, WR Jerome Gross, LB Corey Glass, DL Aaron Patrick, DL Taquan Evans, DB Ben Bascom, DB Frank Sumpter, K Samuel Hayworth
The best rushing offense in the Ohio Valley Conference will look quite a bit different without Daryl McCleskey. He rushed for 1,238 yards during his senior season and capped off his collegiate career with 2,707 yards on the ground. Bruising back Alonzo Booth is back though after rushing for 673 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Colonels should have more confidence in their passing game this year too with the return of sophomore Parker McKinney. He started seven contests and tallied 1,371 yards with seven touchdowns and nine interceptions. Obviously there is some work to do in the passing attack, but EKU will have to make up some of their offense through the air in an effort to replace the production lost with the departure of McCleskey. The good news is that there is a very good and very experienced offensive line that was playing very well by the end of the 2019 campaign.
Eastern Kentucky had one of the best defenses in the OVC last season, allowing just 22.0 points per game. Despite seven starters returning, duplicating that success could prove difficult. Defensive end Aaron Patrick is gone after earning first-team All-American honors and now players like Tre Turner will have to provide a consistent pass rush from the front four. Steven Crowder will be the new leader at linebacker after tallying 63 tackles as a junior. With experience also coming from Daulson Fitzpatrick, Josh Hayes and Joseph Sayles, this is a unit with experience. However, if they cannot find any pass rushing threats, the entire defense will take a step back.
The Bottom Line:
Eastern Kentucky is not too far off from a playoff spot. Finishing with seven wins in each of the last two years means they were close. If the pieces come together and the experience on the offense can make up for the lack of McCleskey, Eastern Kentucky will make a strong push for their first playoff appearance since 2014.
Projected Postseason: None
2019 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 205.5 (20th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 158.7 (110, 9)
Total Offense: 364.2 (76, 7)
Scoring Offense: 27.9 (56, 3)
Rushing Defense: 119.1 (15, 2)
Pass Defense: 206.2 (43, 3)
Total Defense: 325.3 (16, 2)
Scoring Defense: 22.0 (22, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.42 (32, 1)
Sacks: 2.17 (57, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 2.00 (51, 3)
Madness 2020 Recruit Rankings:
#5 Jadyn Bost
#135 Abraham Alabi
#145 Ryan Jackson
#276 Vincent Munlin