Eagles host Western Michigan in first home game of 2015

Hayden Boudreaux

The Eagles return home this weekend to kick off the season against Western Michigan. Fans may be nervous to see how the offense will stack up against the Broncos, but their defense may not be as prepared for the spread-option attack.

Western Michigan also received there first loss against Michigan State, but had better results in the 24-37 affair. Michigan State was able to run for nearly 200 yards and average almost 5 yards per carry. The loss will hype up the Broncos and make them even hungrier for their first win.

Last week, the Mountaineer defense was able to use their 3-3-5 defense full of established players to cripple the Eagle offense. This week, the Eagles will have the upper hand as Western Michigan’s defense pales in comparison and is not strategically set up to efficiently stop Fritz’s offensive attack.

One of the biggest reasons for the success of the Mountaineer defense was the success of their defensive line. They were able to hold up the offensive linemen and close up the running lanes, slowing and forcing the running backs right into their linebackers. After reviewing the film, the Bronco’s defensive line will do their best to replicate the process with their senior leader on the line Jarrell McKinney. The 6″4 defensive end racked up 42 tackles last season and brought down runners behind the line of scrimmage 7 times.

The linebackers are led by senior standout Grant Depalma along with sophomore Robert Spillane. Depalma had the second most tackles last season with 102 and 2.5 sacks. Spillane came in fourth with 67 tackles and picked up 4 sacks. The one two punch offered by these two is a huge help to the Bronco defense as Depalma is a smaller linebacker that has the ability to move around the field quickly, while Spillane is a bigger, more traditional linebacker who can clog up holes and disrupt run plays.

It may be another rough passing week for the Eagles if they throw in the vicinity of senior corner Ronald Zamort. The returning starter caught four interceptions last season and managed 28 tackles. Zamort will have help over the top from redshirt senior safety Rontavious Atkins who broke up nine passes last season. The strong safety is a vital part of stopping the run as well and he has 64 tackles last season as evidence. It will be important to try and wear Atkins down with the run and try to catch him peeking into the backfield with a pass over the top.

To best the Eagles, Western Michigan will have to get fancy and tweak their defense a bit. Fans should expect to see a lot of blitzing, stunts, and mixed coverage. The Broncos have not fared well against option teams in recent history. In the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl last season, they allowed 284 rushing yards from Air Force, another team that relies heavily on the run. Western Michigan will slip up and make mistakes to allow Breida and Upshaw to catch them off guard if they execute properly.

Fans attending the game this weekend will be apart of history. It is the first time that a Division I opponent will travel to Paulson Stadium and it would be a huge win in the road to becoming an established FBS program. If the offense could pull their weight and pick up a win over the Broncos it would be one of the most important wins in Georgia Southern’s storied history.