YPSILANTI — The news did not make the earth stand still and it did not make the headlines on local television but Eastern Michigan University football coach Ron English was named the Mid-American Conference football coach of the year.
English guided the Eagles to an overall record of 6-6 and a 4-4 finish in the West Division of the conference.
The Eagles made the late games in November worth playing because Eastern Michigan University fate was in their collective hands but losing at Kent State University and at Northern Illinois doomed the hope of playing in a bowl game.
“I am a dreamer,” English said about the steps of improvement made by his team.
The last time the Eagles were packing for a bowl game was back in 1987 and the last time the Eagles finish the season with a winning record was a 6-5 in the 1995 season.
English in his third year as the football coach at Eastern Michigan University orchestrated a dramatic turnaround for the Eagles. In his previous two seasons at Eastern Michigan University, the Eagles finish 2-10 in the 2010 and were 0-12 in 2009.
Last season the Eastern Michigan University defense finished as the worst defense in the conference causing many sleepless nights for English and defensive coordinator Phil Snow.
Last season the Eagles defense gave up 43.1 points, including a league worst 68 touchdowns and a total of 454.1 yards per game.
Snow and English scouted and view many hours of film on a lot of players that showed an interest in playing for the Eagles.
The hard work for Snow and English paid off because the Eagles’ defense finished with the third best defense in the conference and 35th in the nation.
The Eagles gave up 350.3 yards per game and the team averaged almost six tackles for loss per game.
The defense line created more confusion and led by senior Brad Ohrman, he became the anchor of the defense, he found his way around the pocket for five and a half sacks and made 52 tackles.
Orhman forced one fumble and intercepted one pass, his best game came against the University at Buffalo when Orhman made eight tackles and his effort against the Bulls he was named the West Division Defensive Player of the Week for November 12.
Orhman is a member of the 2011 All-MAC Second Team Defense.
Snow and English said they needed a player that could play linebacker with a physical present that many offensive players would take notice and a player that would be quick to the ball and be a sure tackler.
Snow found that player from California, a transfer student-athlete that wanted to play in the system that Eastern Michigan University deploys.
Junior linebacker Justin Cudworth came to snow cover sidewalks of Ypsilanti, Michigan from the College of the Canyon with only one purpose and that was to play football for Snow and English.
“He is a steal!” Snow said about Cudworth before the start of the season and practice.
Cudworth started all 12 games for the Eagles and made a team leading 83 tackles, 32 were solo hits. His best game was opening night against Howard University, Cudworth made 13 tackles against the Bison.
Cudworth solid play this season earned him a place on the 2011 All-MAC Third Team Defense.
The quality line backing play made the defensive line more effective but the defensive backfield is still a group that still needs to improve and being a secondary coach English is taking on the challenge.
Senior defensive back Latarrius Thomas and a sophomore transfer student from UCLA, Marion Pollard were two key players that English counted on heavly to provide the defensive backfield leadership and talent and both players did not disappoint English.
Thomas played 12 games for the Eagles and made 79 tackles including making seven tackles against Western Michigan University. He showed his leadership quality when he made two critical tackles against the Broncos that preserved the 14-10 win.
Cudworth prove to be the soul of the defense but Thomas showed that he was the heart of the defense providing team leadership especially with Pollard.
Pollard started 11 games for the Eagles and he contributed 54 tackles and he knocked down seven passes and one interception.
Pollard added depth on special team as the punt return receiver for the Eagles his average of 5.33 yards ranked him sixth in the conference and 45th in the nation.
Pollard and Thomas join Cudworth on the 2011 All-MAC Third Team Defense.
Last season the defense gave English and Snow many sleepless nights but this season the defense gave both coaches a reason to stand tall.
English said the players that stuck with his program would be the foundation that would support the Eastern Michigan University football squad.
He said on several occasions that his players deserve the credit and he wanted it known that he is proud of the hard work of the players but especially the seniors they leave a legacy – as winners.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.