Stevens out as Eastern football offensive coordinator

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

After spending four years as the offensive coordinator of the Eastern football team under head coach Kim Dameron, Greg Stevens was relieved of his coaching duties Tuesday afternoon, Eastern sports information director Rich Moser confirmed.

Dameron also confirmed over text message that Stevens is no longer with the program.

Stevens joined the Panthers’ coaching staff in 2014 when Dameron was hired as the head coach of the program. He spent the prior two seasons at the offensive coordinator at Southern Louisiana.

At the start of his tenure with the Panthers’ football team, Stevens battled Non-Hodgkin’s Large B Cell Lymphoma after being diagnosed in June 2014. He underwent chemotherapy until October but never missed a game or practice that season.

Eastern made just one trip to the FCS playoffs in the last four seasons, coming in 2015, which ended in a first-round loss to Northern Iowa.

This past season however, the Eastern offense struggled to get yards and put points on the board, which is in part for it having to deal with the revolving door at the quarterback position.

Although, in his first year, when Eastern did not make the playoffs, the Panthers had a great offense with Stevens as the coordinator. Eastern had two 600-plus-yard games and averaged an FCS 13th-best 480 yard per game and had the 11th-best rushing offense in the country with 236.3 yards per game.

The Panthers finished the 2014 season with a 5-7 record.

Eastern also missed the playoffs in 2016, but did not have the struggles offensively it had in 2017 or the revolving door at quarterback, which was also a huge part.

The Panthers were without redshirt senior starting quarterback Mitch Kimble since the fourth game of the season. Kimble suffered an arm injury against Illinois State in the third game of the year and was out for the remainder of the season.

Redshirt freshman Scotty Gilkey Jr. took over the quarterback duties until, he unfortunately, was injured against Tennessee Tech after leading the Panthers to two straight wins.

Redshirt junior Bud Martin then had to step up and take over at halftime of the sixth game of the season where he threw three touchdown passes to lead Eastern to a win.

He was the starter for the next three games and led the Panthers to one other win. Eastern dropped two games in a row near the end of the season to Jacksonville State and Tennessee-Martin derailing playoff hopes for 2017.

Martin was benched for the final home game of the season against Eastern Kentucky where Gilkey Jr. took the offense back over and led the Panthers to a last second game-tying score and an overtime win.

The Panthers’ wins this season were nothing short of exciting having all come by three or less points and three of them coming in overtime and the other three to the last play.

Exciting wins or head scratching wins, Eastern’s offense was only able to just slip by its opponents and have just enough in the tank to pull out its wins.

The Panthers were eighth out of nine teams in scoring offense with an average of 17.6 points per game, fifth in passing offense with an average of 165.5 yards per game, eighth in total offense with an average of 293.5 yards per game and sixth in rushing offense, which was relied on heavily (third most in OVC) ended with an average of 128 yards per game.

And while the passing game was a question that had to be answered every week, the run game was hit-or-miss.

The Panthers had five sub-100 yard rushing games with two less than 30. They had 351 yards against Murray State in week seven, but followed that up with just 28 against Jacksonville State a week later.

The offense came alive when the Panthers needed it to and at the time it was worth celebrating, but over the course of the year it never caught stride.

It had three come-from-behind wins, two where it led the whole game and one where the Panthers blew a two touchdown lead—Eastern had three turnovers in that game.

Stevens’ contract officially runs through early January based off the hiring cycle at Eastern, Moser said.

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]