Eastern Kentucky coach Dean Hood has revamped the Colonels' defense in hopes of containing OVC opponents' spread offenses.
The Colonels have moved junior Marquise Piton and sophomore LaJuan Smith from linebacker to defensive end. Defensive backs Trey Thomas and Chris Owens switched to linebacker along with running back Thomas Owens, while safety Theron Norman shifted to cornerback.
EKU lost five of its front seven, but junior Bryce Krebs is a third-year starter at defensive tackle. Senior free safety Brandon Stanley had a team-high 61 tackles last season despite missing three games.
OVC Freshman of the Year Devin Borders is back to spark the offense. He had 509 receiving yards and six touchdowns during the Colonels' disappointing 6-6 season.
Kentucky transfer Dy'Shawn Mobley joins J.J. Jude in the backfield. Mobley averaged 7.0 yards a carry and rushed for 300 yards in the SEC last year, while Jude gained 637 yards.
Here are five things to watch as the Colonels contend for an OVC title:
BLOCK THAT KICK: Borders, a tall target at 6-foot-5, also blocked a nation-best five kicks on special teams. Hood praised Borders' unselfishness to use the same hands that earned him a scholarship at a "prima donna" position to block a football leaving the kicker's foot at 97 mph.
SWAMP SONG: EKU closes out the regular season at SEC power Florida on Nov. 22, which could pose a challenge to get emotionally ready for a possible playoff berth a week after playing in the Swamp.
QB DEPTH: Returning senior quarterback Jared McClain is a dual threat who ranked third in the OVC in passing yards and total offense. Redshirt sophomore Bennie Coney has transferred after playing two games for Cincinnati.
SPECIALISTS: Senior kicker Andrew Lloyd made preseason All-OVC after making 8eight of 10 field goals and all 19 extra points. Keith Wrzuszczak takes over for fellow Australian Jordan Berry, a three-time all-league punter who helped EKU rank sixth nationally in net yardage.
ROAD WARRIORS: The Colonels play only one home game in the first six weekends, Sept. 13 against Morehead State.
Predicted Ohio Valley Conference finish: Fourth