Ypsilanti — Antoine Porter knew little about Eastern Michigan’s football program when Eagles head coach Chris Creighton recruited him a couple of years ago while he was playing at City College of San Francisco.
After all, Porter grew up in San Francisco where he was a dual-threat quarterback at Mission High School.
Looking back, it was probably to Creighton’s advantage that Porter was unaware of the lack of success of EMU’s program, going 20 straight years without a winning season prior to his arrival before the 2016 season.
Porter wanted to play Division 1 football, and there were no other offers other than Creighton’s plan to bring him to EMU.
The move proved to be a great one for both sides. The 5-foot-8, 180-pound Porter moved to the slot, hauling in 44 receptions for 491 yards and four touchdowns last season to help the Eagles earn their first winning season since 1995 and their first bowl appearance since they last won the Mid-American Conference championship in 1987.
Porter had seven receptions for 74 yards and a TD in a 27-20 win at Ohio last season. The Eagles play host to the Bobcats at 2 p.m. Saturday at Rynearson Stadium, with the opportunity to go 3-0 for the first time since 1989.
Porter already has made an impact this season with a TD reception in the Eagles’ 16-13 win Sept. 9 at Rutgers. It was EMU’s first win over a Big Ten opponent, ending a 0-38 slide.
“The season’s been going well, and we’re all striving to be great and to just keep improving every week, taking it one game at a time, and I think that’s what has helped us the most,” Porter said. “I feel my strength is going up against man-to-man coverage and finding the holes to fit into so (quarterback) Brogan (Roback) can have an outlet.
“With the weapons we have, we’re just so dynamic that you don’t know how we’re going to come at you,” Porter continued. “We have Sergio (Bailey) on the outside making big plays. We have Shaq (Vann) and Ian (Eriksen) in the backfield, also we have Blake (Banham), and they can all come out of the backfield and catch, they can run, do stretch plays. We also have Johnnie (Niupalau), Jaron (Johnson) and Dieuly Aristilde all as receivers that can just do so much for us so you don’t know where to key in on.”
Creighton and his staff have done a great job of finding receivers coming out of junior college, with Bailey having 60 receptions for 868 yards and seven TDs last season after coming out of Grossmont (Calif.) College.
“It’s hard to imagine since I’ve only been at Eastern for two years, but it’s hard to imagine us having a 1-and-11 season (in 2015) because I wasn’t there for that,” Porter said. “I think it’s exciting because everyone is counting us out, even after the season we had last year. We know we have room for improvement, and it’s been great to just get better every week and to turn people’s heads and show them that we can actually play with them and that we’re for real.
“Beating Rutgers was big, not just for me, but for the whole team because Coach Creighton came in earlier that week and said we’ve never beaten a Power Five team, and to be the first one to do it is exciting because that just shows we’re for real this season.”
Roback threw for 2,694 yards and 18 TDs with just seven interceptions last season. He threw for 260 yards and a TD in the win over Rutgers, finding nine different receivers.
“He has a strong arm, but I like how he’s a very smart quarterback and he doesn’t try to just key on one person,” Porter said. “He dissects the defense and pick the best matchups and get us into the best play possible and if that’s a run play than it’s a run play and if that’s a pass play it’s a pass play.
“Whenever you’re able to spread the ball around, it just hurts the defense because you don’t know where it’s going and it can hit you in any direction. Usually a quarterback has one or two main targets and you can try and shut them down, but when you have nine different players who can hit you with big plays, it just makes you that much more dangerous.”