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College Football: Previewing the Eastern Illinois Panthers Offense
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18 Jun 2019 05:33 PM EST

-by T.J. Inman, Contributing Writer; Image: Eastern Illinois quarterback Johnathan Brantley. (Image Source: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Bloomington, IN—Here’s a preview of the 2019 Eastern Illinois offense:

PANTHERS RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: Johnathan Brantley - 65.1%, 2,016 yards, 14 touchdowns

Rushing: Johnathan Brantley – 100 rushes for 476 yards with 6 touchdowns

Receiving: James Sheehan – 50 catches for 544 yards with 3 touchdowns

OFFENSIVE PREVIEW

Eastern Illinois enters a new era after disappointing 3-8 season that saw them go over 3-5 in the Ohio Valley Conference. The losing season brought an end to Kim Dameron’s reign and the Panthers turned to longtime Northwestern assistant Adam Cushing. Cushing is the 25th head coach in the history of the EIU program and he has been the offensive line coach for the Northwestern Wildcats since 2009. Pat Fitzgerald is one of the best in the business but Cushing has no head coaching experience and how he will run his own program is a complete mystery at this point in time.

It is safe to assume that he will implement the multiple personnel packages we saw deployed in Evanston, using “h-backs,” tight ends and Superbacks to try and create mismatches against the defense.

Of course, he won’t have near the personnel he did in Evanston but there’s no reason that type of system can’t work at the FCS level. This season, the Panthers will have their choice of three quarterbacks: 2017 starter Scott Gilkey (five starts) is back along with 2018 contributors Johnathan Brantley and Harry Woodbery.

Brantley was the better of the two, last season, as both a passer and a rusher. He’s the odds-on favorite to be the starter in 2019. The Panthers are starting over at running back and wide receiver as top running backs Isaiah Johnson and Jamal Scott, as well as top pass catchers Alexander Hollins and Aaron Gooch are all departed.

Robert Columbus is the top returning running back but he only had 19 carries in 2018. The best offensive player is likely redshirt senior tight end James Sheehan. He had 50 catches for more than 500 yards and he’s one of the better players at his position in the FCS.

The offensive line actually has some pretty good size but the lack of proven skill players is a major question mark. The Panthers averaged 32.5 points per game in 2018, so the offense was not the main reason for the season’s failure.

To read more from Sammy Jacobs and his staff at HoosierHuddle.com, click here.

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