This is the second part of a two-story preview for the 2014 Eastern Kentucky University football team.

The Defense
New faces abound everywhere on the defensive side of the ball.

However, one of the few familiar faces can be found on the defensive line where junior Bryce Krebs is set to enter his third year as a starting defensive tackle. The Colonels ranked second in the OVC in rushing defense last year, allowing just 123.3 yards per game.

Sophomore Avery Pitt, Eastern's 2012 Defensive Future of the Year award recipient, looks to fill in the other tackle spot. Sophomore Daryl Taylor and junior Floyd Coffey are the projected starting ends. Coffey was among the team leaders in sacks (2.5) and tackles for loss (7.0) as a sophomore.

Patrick Graffree could be a wild card on the interior of the defensive line. Graffree, a sophomore transfer from Kentucky, missed most of the spring with an injury.

"I like all of the guys who have been waiting in line, they just have to step up, show they can do it and produce," EKU head coach Dean Hood said.

The coaching staff is very high on senior Tyrelle Johnson as an impact player at middle linebacker this fall. After serving as a reserve backer and battling injuries throughout his career, Johnson went through a full spring season and made a very positive impression.

Meanwhile, junior Trey Thomas and senior Chris Owens will compete for the starting strong side linebacker spot. Senior Khiry Maddox, who has experience at all three of the linebacker positions, is slated to fill the weak side linebacker position.

Junior Chris Kelly, a special teams standout the last two years, adds depth to the linebacker unit.

"We like our corner situation," Hood said. "We feel that we have three quality players in Kiante Northington, Stanley Absanon and Johnny Joseph."

That trio combined for three interceptions and 11 pass break-ups just a year ago. Northington also ranked third on the squad with six tackles for loss as a redshirt freshman. Depending on how the line-up settles, Northington may move over to safety.

Coach Hood wants to see more out of his safeties this year and that begins with 2012 All-OVC performer Brandon Stanley. The senior led the Colonels in tackles last year (61) even though he missed the first three games with an injury. Fellow senior Theron Norman and transfer Tyrell Curry are in the mix for the other safety spot. Curry returned an interception 70 yards for a score in the spring game.

Special Teams
EKU's special teams will have a different look this year due to the departure of three-time all-league punter Jordan Berry. The Colonels ranked sixth nationally in net punting in 2013 (39.08 yards per punt).

Another Australian has been brought in to assume the punting duties – Keith Wrzuszczak. The true freshman will not have the luxury of redshirting like Berry did when he arrived at Eastern in 2009.

"I think Wrzuszczak has the mentality to handle [the job]," Hood said. "He definitely has the potential to blossom into an all-conference type of player."

The placekicking duties should be in good hands with senior Andrew Lloyd. He converted 8-of-10 field goal attempts last fall, including a long of 49 yards in the season finale at Murray State.

Junior Taylor Speaks will handle the long snapping duties for a third straight year.

The Schedule
This is the final time until 2019 that FCS teams can play a 12-game regular season schedule.

Eastern Kentucky has filled its schedule with a pair of FBS opponents – Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 6 and Florida in the regular season finale on Nov. 22.

The Colonels open the schedule by playing five of their first six games on the road. The lone home game is a rivalry game against Morehead State on Sept. 13. EKU has won eight straight meetings in that series.

EKU begins the OVC slate with a road game at UT Martin on Sept. 20. That game will be televised on ESPN3 as part of the OVC Game of the Week series.

The Colonels host two-time defending league champion Eastern Illinois on Oct. 11. Eastern winds down the conference schedule with three of the preseason favorites – at Tennessee State on Nov. 1, versus Jacksonville State on Nov. 8 and versus Murray State on Nov. 15.

The 24-team FCS playoffs begin on Nov. 29.