EKU ended last season on a 4 game winning streak, they missed making the playoffs by 1 game. The Colonels were 1 of 27 FCS teams to win at least 7 games. Colonels earned their 600th career win last season becoming only the 20th team in FCS history to achieve the feat. Colonels were great in close games last season winning 3 of 4 that were decided by 7 points or less. As Head Coach Mark Elder said during media day, “Last year ended on a good note but that was last year. This team is a different team and is 0-0”.
SR. OL Jason Bardall and SR. DB TJ Comstock both spoke about having a great summer and start to preseason practice. Bardall said of the Offensive line, “it’s a young line but a lot experience with some red-shirts and transfers. The Red shirt were around last season and the transfers have just clicked.” They both stated that the 2019 EKU motto is family, end every practice with that. Senior Running back Darryl McCleskey Jr spoke on how he chose EKU to help turn around the program. “I feel like this is the best /deepest EKU team I’ve been apart of. A lot of our 2’s would be 1’s elsewhere.”
Coach Elder spoke of the high expectations for the upcoming season. “I feel like it’s the best team I’ve had here.” Colonels have a lot of depth at key positions. 4 Quarterbacks competing for the starting position. “Each one has a good practice where they do something good and then have a bad series” When asked about the OVC preseason pick of his team at 3rd place he answered, “Where did we finish last season…3rd..What are we this preseason..3rd..amazing how that happens. Preseason polls are based on the previous season. Right now if the Colonels were to finish 3rd in the OVC there would be disappointment in the locker room.” Coach Elder really praised the OVC, ” Two teams made the playoffs last season and since the playoff field expanded to 24 the OVC has won 45% of playoff games.” About the upcoming schedule, ” I love playing 12 games. Some big road games against good opponents.” Colonels travel to Indiana State and Louisville out of conference. In OVC play they travel to both teams picked ahead of them, Jacksonville State and Southeast Missouri.
Of the 61 players on the season ending depth chart Colonels return 47 players. 18 starters return, (8 on offense 8 on defense and 2 special teams). Of the returners RB McCleskey was named preseason 1st team All-OVC and DE Aaron Patrick and Leodis Moore III were named 1st team All-OVC. Patrick is also named a preseason All-American. Aaron had 7.5 sacks last season moving him into 5th place on the Colonels all time sack list.
McClesky JR returns after rushing for 651 yards, he enters his senior season with 1469 yards. He is joined in the backfield Jason Lewis 203 rushing yards in 11 games and Alonzo Booth 94 yards in 4 games. Leading receiver from last season Jackson Beerman returns after 21 receptions and 324 yards. BK Smith returns as well with a team high 23 catches and 244 yards. Jaelin Carter and his 20 receptions return as well. A lot of talent returns at wide receiver but the question is who will throw the ball to them. Transfer QB Connor Blount from Oregon State will be competing against the returning QB’S. Blount started 6 games for the Beavers completing 95-153 passes for 7 touchdowns but lost the starting job late in the season when another QB returned from injury. Sophomore Parker McKinney leads the returning QB,’S with 608 yards including 333 in the final game at Tennessee Tech and 4 TDS. Dakota Allen 376 yards 1 TD, Austin Scott 332 yards 4 TD and 6 INT, as well as a pair of freshman will be in the mix. On special teams Sam Hayworth returns after a perfect 33-33 season on extra points and 15-21 on FG attempts.
Defensively Aaron Patrick and Leodis Moore will lead a defense that finished 5th in the country in interceptions. Colonels were 2nd in total defense and points allowed in the OVC last year. Junior Steven Crowder is the returning tackler from last season with 73 including 8.5 tackles for loss. In the defensive backfield TJ Comstock 50 tackles and 2 INT will join Moore.
Colonels are 602-386-2 all-time leading the OVC by a wide margin, Tennessee State is 2nd with 564 wins. At Roy Kidd Stadium Colonels are 224-57-1. Colonels have won 2 national Championships and are the only team in the FCS with 2 Championships and 20 or more conference titles. The last OVC Conference championship was in 2011 with the last playoff appearance coming in 2014.