Column: New look offense needs to prove itself this season for Eastern football team

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Column: New look offense needs to prove itself this season for Eastern football team

File Photo | The Daily Eastern News
Eastern linebacker Joe Caputo (left) and defensive back Mark Williams team up to bring down a Tennessee Martin ballcarrier on Oct. 20 last season. The Panthers won the game 24-21 in overtime.

File Photo | The Daily Eastern News Eastern linebacker Joe Caputo (left) and defensive back Mark Williams team up to bring down a Tennessee Martin ballcarrier on Oct. 20 last season. The Panthers won the game 24-21 in overtime.

File Photo | The Daily Eastern News Eastern linebacker Joe Caputo (left) and defensive back Mark Williams team up to bring down a Tennessee Martin ballcarrier on Oct. 20 last season. The Panthers won the game 24-21 in overtime.

File Photo | The Daily Eastern News Eastern linebacker Joe Caputo (left) and defensive back Mark Williams team up to bring down a Tennessee Martin ballcarrier on Oct. 20 last season. The Panthers won the game 24-21 in overtime.

JJ Bullock, Editor-in-Chief

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Much of what went wrong for the Eastern football team in its 3-8 clunker of a season last year, which led to the removal of head coach Kim Dameron, could be traced directly back to the team’s inability to garner any kind of consistency or execution on defense.

The Eastern defense six times last season gave up 40 points or more in losses and finished eighth out of nine Ohio Valley Conference teams in points per game allowed and yards allowed per game.

The struggles were so prominent that midway through the season the Eastern coaching staff switched defensive schemes from a 4-3 to a 3-3-5 in an effort to curb the ails of the defense.

It is not rocket science to look at what went wrong for Eastern last year and connect the dots right back to the defense.

But, in this upcoming season, it will be the offense, a unit that enjoyed a tremendous amount of success last year, not the defense, which will define the direction the team under the direction of first-year head coach Adam Cushing goes.

It is safe to say that the new staff will consider the three-win threshold set by last season’s team to be a floor, not a ceiling for this season. To get to three wins and beyond in 2019, the defense undoubtedly has to improve, that is a must.

But, the three games Eastern did win last season were because of big offensive performances by a unit that finished the season with the third-most points and second-most total yards in the OVC.

Now however, that offensive unit is mostly gone.

Eastern’s top three receivers from last season, Alexander Hollins, Aaron Gooch and Nick Atoyebi, graduated, leaving the passing game, which ranked first in the conference last season, with three major holes to fill.

The offensive line will return no starters from a strong group last season. Neither of Eastern’s two leading rushers at the running back position, Isaiah Johnson and Jamal Scott, will be on the team this year

Of the 44 total offensive touchdowns Eastern scored last season, 33 of them were done so by players who are no longer with the program.

The offense, to say the least, is a very different-looking unit.

But just because the unit has different personnel does not mean that it will take a step back in 2019. It just means that all of the new faces and new offensive coordinator John Kuceyeski will have to perform at a high level.

And perhaps the pieces are there to do it.

Eastern split time at quarterback last season between Johnathan Brantley and Harry Woodbery, both of whom are returning this season, and the receiving core is young, but packs some potential.

Tight end James Sheehan may be the team’s biggest returner on offense; he was second-team all-conference last season and will be tested in the new superbacks position this upcoming season.

The defense on the other hand, while they struggled last season, returns multiple key starters from last season and will just have to execute better to turn things around. The offense however, needs to show it can adapt to change.

It can be done of course, but for now, a bulk of the pressure of winning games next season will fall on the offense.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]