EMU preview: Jeremiah Harris anchors stout defense

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Jeremiah Harris

Jeremiah Harris has teamed up with Maxx Crosby in the trenches to help Eastern Michigan become one of the top defenses in the Mid-American Conference.

Crosby, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound junior, earned first-team All-MAC honors last season after getting in on 11 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. Harris, a 6-5, 255-pound senior, was a second-team all-conference performer, getting in on 12.5 TFL, including six sacks.

It was Harris who had an interception and two TFL, including a game-ending sack, to help the Eagles earn their first win over a Power Five opponent, 16-13 over Rutgers last fall. The Eagles had been 0-58 record against Power Five schools.

Now, Harris hopes to get the Eagles back to a bowl game — something they accomplished in 2016 — after falling to 5-7 record (3-5 MAC) last season when they lost six games by a combined 23 points.

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“Our defense dominated last year and I expect our offense and defense to dominate this year," said Harris, who is from Temperance Bedford. “Maxx Crosby had a fantastic year last year and we only expect more of him. We have Brady Hoying and Vince Calhoun in the backside, who are fantastic as well."

Hoying is a safety and Calhoun a cornerback and both were All-MAC performers last season.

Eastern Michigan was ranked second in the MAC in total defense and passing defense, ranking 23rd nationally against the pass.

“I love the pass rush on the outside," Harris said. “I also feel that I have a pretty good snatch move against offensive tackles in the run game, and when they get too heavy on me I can smash them down to the ground pretty well.”

Harris was disappointed the Eagles didn’t win some of those games last season to reach a bowl game. He believes they can turn those close losses into victories this time around.

“Last year we should have gone to a bowl game without a doubt, and that’s part of our theme this year — focus, fight and finish,” said Harris. “We just didn’t finish games where we could have and that’s a big focus. There was no doubt in my mind that we could beat anybody in this conference. But it was all about our side not finishing those games and we’re focusing on that for the 2018 season.”

On offense, the Eagles lose quarterback Brogan Roback and receivers Sergio Bailey and Antoine Porter. 

But Harris thinks the Eagles will be just fine at quarterback with Isaac Stiebeling and Tyler Wiegers battling for the starting job.

“We have some really talented quarterbacks in Isaac Stiebeling and Tyler Wiegers so we’ll be fine there,” said Harris.

Wiegers who transferred from Iowa and Stiebeling enters his sophomore season.

Stiebeling or Wiegers will have quality running backs to work with in Ian Eriksen and Shaq Vann.

Scouting Eastern Michigan

Last season: 5-7 (3-5 MAC West)

Coach: Chris Creighton, fifth year (15-34, 8-24 MAC)

Outlook: The Eagles will try to learn from their mistakes and close out games better this season after losing six by a combined 23 points in 2017. EMU’s strength will be its defense with first-team All-MAC defensive end Maxx Crosby returning, along with second-team All-MAC defensive end Jeremiah Harris, first-team All-MAC strong safety Brody Hoying and third-team All-MAC cornerback Vince Calhoun. The Eagles have experience in the running game with Ian Eriksen and Shaq Vann, but Creighton will have to replace three-year starting quarterback Brogan Roback with either Isaac Stiebeling or Tyler Wiegers, with true freshman Aaron Jackson (Detroit Cass Tech) also possibly getting some playing time.

Top players: Maxx Crosby, Jr., DE, first-team All-MAC, 11 sacks; Jeremiah Harris, Sr., DE, second-team All-MAC, 12.5 TFL; Brody Hoying, Jr., S, first-team All-MAC, 78 tackles, four forced fumbles; Vince Calhoun, Jr., CB, third-team All-MAC; Jimmy Leatiota, Sr., G, second-team All-MAC; Dakota Tallman, Sr., C, Rimington Trophy preseason candidate; Ian Eriksen, Sr., RB, 810 yards, 8 TDs; Shaq Vann, Sr., RB; Isaac Stiebeling, So., QB; Tyler Wiegers, Sr., QB.