Eastern Illinois Panthers
Ohio Valley Conference
Head Coach: Kim Dameron
Overall Record: 6-5
Conference Record: 5-3
Biggest Win: For the third straight year the Eastern Illinois and Tennessee State game came down to the final play. For the third straight year EIU came up with that final play as the Panthers won 19-16 in double overtime at Nissan Stadium.
Most Frustrating Loss: In a battle for second place in the Ohio Valley Conference standings, Austin Peay toppled EIU 28-13, on a cold and windy Saturday evening at Fortera Stadium.
Quoatable & Notable: “For the second straight season, it was an uneven year that started with quarterback injuries. Without Mitch Kimble, the offense never really seemed to find its way with Scotty Gilkey Jr. and Bud Martin. Gilkey is only a redshirt freshman so he can improve, but the offense might be going in a bit of a different direction since Greg Stevens won’t be back as the offensive coordinator. There are some holes on the line to fix, too, next season. If EIU is going to be a top team in the OVC, the offense has to be more consistent.
“The defense was solid and should continue to be solid and that’s what Kim Dameron’s specialty is. Even with the loss of David Johnson and Nick Horne, the defensive line and linebacker group should be solid. The defensive backfield has some talented players back next season like Mark Williams, but losing Bradley Dewberry and Tray Mitchell are big losses and both were two key playmakers. Filling those two holes will be key for the defense.”
--beat writer Justin Rust
Returning strengths for 2018: With expected starter Mitch Kimble out with injury for most of the season, redshirt freshman Scotty Gilkey, Jr. got valuable experience beginning with the fourth game of the season. Alexander Hollins returns as a big-play receiver. Though a solid defense lost plenty due to graduation, the Panthers' younger players have showed flashes of promise.
Emerging Star: Linebacker Dytarious Johnson, who was fifth on the team in tackles in his true freshman season.
Giving Thanks: The Panthers can't complain about ill fortune. EIU pulled out three overtime victories (two in double overtime) during the 2017 season.
New Year's Wish List: A consistent offense to take pressure off a defense that needs to be retooled after heavy losses to graduation.
Biggest Shoes to Fill: All-OVC offensive lineman Austin Askin and the defensive trio of Nick Horne, Tray Mitchell and Bradley Dewberry.
Tomorrow: Barry Bottino explores Five Burning Questions that face EIU football for 2018.