Eastern Michigan DBs: Talented and Experienced, Just Sometimes Banged Up
EMU's got some quality pieces across its defensive secondary. Can they put it all together in 2022?
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With our final positional preview for this year’s Eastern Michigan football team, defensive backs are the point of focus. The safeties and corners have many responsibilities in the team’s 4-2-5 base playbook, and it takes guys with experience and knowledge to ideally run the system. Thankfully, they’ve got that, plus the talent.
Other positions covered so far: QB, RB, WR + TE, OL, DL, and LB + ST.
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EMU 2022 Positional Previews: Defensive Backs
Eastern Michigan’s secondary had plenty of talent heading into the 2021 season, but it wasn’t always all on the field.
Replacing the then-outgoing Brody Hoying, a three-time All-MAC recipient, was Alvinoski LaFleur, who ended up being a First Team All-MAC safety in 2020. LaFleur missed some time with injury, and was on the field less when he was able to participate; in 2019 as an incoming JUCO transfer, LaFleur averaged 19.2 snaps per game (played in all 13 games, 1 start), then 74.2 in all 6 games of 2020, then 50.1 in 11 games last year. Like LaFleur, Korey Hernandez joined as a JUCO transfer in 2019 with 13 games played and 1 start made at safety. He bobbled between corner and safety in 2020 (6 games, 4 starts), then suffered a springtime injury in 2021 to miss all of last year. Now, Hernandez is settling in at corner of his final year of college ball.
As LaFleur moved from the Dog safety spot in 2019 and 2020 to Rover in 2021, T.J. Peavy made 8 starts over 10 games at Dog in 2021.
Jarrett Paul, a lockdown corner who transferred in from Rutgers, came in and had a career year as a first-time starter in front of Freddie McGee. The other cornerback spot went down to Mark Lee and Kempton Shine, this year’s starters, to split time at the same spot. Jeff Hubbard, who played in 52 games of his college career, moved from corner to safety with five starts made last year.
Blake Bogan, the full-time starter at free safety in 2019, missed time to injury in 2020, and made 5 starts through 11 games in 2021. Free safety Russ Vaden, who suffered a season-ending injury midway through 2020, made 4 starts in 8 games last year. David Carter played in every game and made two starts in November. Of note, Carter returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown at Wisconsin.
S, Brandon Benson 2021: 4 games, 9 tackles (4 solo)
S, Blake Bogan 2021: 11 games, 45 tackles (21 solo, 1 TFL), 2 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery
DB, David Carter Jr. 2021: 13 games, 27 tackles (17 solo), 2 INT, 2 PBU
S, Robert Daniel 2021: 13 games, 43 tackles (26 solo), 1 INT, 1 PBU, 2 FR
CB, Jeff Hubbard 2021: 11 games, 14 tackles (8 solo, 1.5 TFL, 0.5 sack), 1 INT, 2 PBU
S, Alvinoski LaFleur 2021: 11 games, 51 tackles (34 solo, 1.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks), 1 FF, 1 FR
CB, Mark Lee Jr. 2021: 7 games, 16 tackles (11 solo, 1 TFL), 4 PBU
CB, Freddie McGee III 2021: 13 games, 17 tackles (12 solo), 4 PBU
CB, Myles McNeal 2021: 3 games, 1 solo tackle
S, Kendric Nowling 2021: 9 games, 6 tackles (2 solo)
CB, Jarrett Paul 2021: 13 games, 45 tackles (27 solo, 2 TFL), 6 PBU, 1 FF
S, T.J. Peavy 2021: 10 games, 43 tackles (20 solo, 0.5 TFL), 1 PBU, 1 FR
S, Quentavius Scandrett 2021: 3 games, 4 tackles (3 solo)
CB, Kempton Shine 2021: 10 games, 47 tackles (27 solo, 1 TFL), 3 PBU
CB Thomas Shorack 2021: 1 game, 1 tackle
S, Cameron Smith 2021: 2 games, 4 tackles
S, Russell Vaden IV 2021: 8 games, 10 tackles (4 solo), 3 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FR
CB, Isaiah Watson 2021: 7 games, 2 tackles (1 solo)
CB Jalen Weathers 2021: 7 games, 1 tackle
The team’s preseason depth chart has the three listed safeties as T.J Peavy (Dog), Russ Vaden IV (Free), and Blake Bogan (Rover), backed up by Robert Daniel, David Carter Jr, and Brandon Benson respectively.
Peavy (Fayetteville, Ga.; Sandy Creek HS) walked onto the team in 2019 after he initially started his college life out at the Naval Academy. So far, he’s played in 15 games, made 49 career tackles (23 solo, 0.5 TFL), 1 pass breakup, and 1 fumble recovery. Daniel (Oak Park, Mich.; Oak Park HS) signed with EMU in 2018, played in 14 games over the last two years, and made two starts in 2021.
Vaden (Louisville, Ky.; Moore HS), on one of the true leaders on this year’s team, has been in 10 career games, made 23 career tackles (13 solo), 3 INT, 5 passes defended, and 1 fumble recovery. Vaden was a class of 2017 signee and is on his finally year of eligibility. Carter (River Rouge, Mich.; Ecorse HS) signed with the team in 2020, sat out his first year with the team, and appeared in every game last year.
Bogan, from Grand Blanc, Mich. (Grand Blanc HS), signed with the team in 2017, started most of the 2019 season, then battled injuries to see the field less since. Entering this year, Bogan’s on his final year of eligibility and should be a full-time starter in 2021. Benson (Triangle, Va.; Hylton HS) transferred to EMU last year after he played his first four years at Bucknell where he was an All-Patriot League safety. He only played four games for EMU last year (Bucknell had a spring 2021 season in response to the Covid-19 outbreak) and made 9 tackles.
Kendric Nowling (Chicago, Ill.; Marist HS) appeared in 9 games last year (1 start), and made 6 tackles after he appeared in 4 games during the 2020 season (3 tackles). Bowling was a member of the 2019 signing class. Quentavius Scandrett (Hampton, Ga.; Lovejoy HS) signed with EMU in 2021 and made 4 tackles as a true freshman. Likewise, Cameron Smith (Cleveland; Euclid HS) also signed with EMU in 2021 with four tackles made in his first year.
Josh McCarty (Troy, Mich.; Orchard Lake St. Mary’s) walked-on as a running back in 2019, and has recently moved over to safety. McCarty was the team’s Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year as a freshman. Jack Goodman (Battle Creek, Mich.; Lakeview HS) joined the team as a preferred walk-on in 2020.
This year’s two PWO additions at safety are Barry Manning (Stone Mountain, Ga.; Tucker HS), Jason Marshall (Trenton, Mich.; Trenton HS).
For corner, the preseason depth chart has Mark Lee Jr. and incoming JUCO transfer Joshua Scott as the starting cornerbacks, but I’m of the belief that returning starter Kempton Shine, not listed not he depth chart, will probably be the other starting corner to start the year. Keylen Gulley and Korey Hernandez are the listed backup corners.
Shine, from Chicago (St. Rita HS) has appeared in 20 games (15 starts) for EMU, made 90 career tackles (55 solo, 1 TFL), 5 PBU, 1 forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Lee, from Columbus, Ohio (Northland HS) has played in 14 career games for EMU with 37 total tackles (19 solo, 2 TLF) 5 PBU, 1 FF, and 1 FR. Both corners signed with EMU out of high school in 2019.
Hernadez (Decatur, Ga.; Cedar Grove HS) transferred to EMU from Iowa Western C.C. in 2019 after he spent his season with Arkansas. In his two of three years played at EMU, Hernandez has a career 66 tackles (36 solo, 1.5 TFL), 1 INT, 3 PD, and 1 FF.
Both Scott and Gulley joined the team this year (Scott in the spring, Gulley in summer) from their respective JUCO program. Scott (Anticoch, Calif.; Deer Valley HS) went to City College of San Francisco for his first year and helped lead his team to an undefeated season. Gulley (Largo, Fla.; Largo HS) was originally committed to Iowa in high school, but ultimately ended up going to Coffeyville C.C. his freshman year.
Tristen Hines (Milan, Mich.; Milan HS) signed with EMU in 2020. He didn’t see the field in 2020, and missed all of 2021 with an injury. Hines was listed as the team’s third-string free safety in the preseason depth chart, but it looks like he’s also had reps at cornerback during camp.
Corry Thomas (Ecorse, Mich; Westlake HS (Ga.)) signed with EMU in 2019 after he moved from Ecorse, Mich. to Atlanta in high school. Thomas has played in six games, but hasn’t recorded any stats. Isaiah Watson (Baltimore, Md.; Calvert Hall HS) signed with EMU in 2018, and has mostly been a special teams player with 23 career games played. Jalen Weathers (Chicago, Ill.; Mouth Carmel HS) is a walk-on transfer that started out at Trinity College (D3) in 2019, then came to Eastern in 2020. Weathers played in seven games last year, mostly on special teams.
The Eastern secondary, if it can all stay on the field, is as strong as it’s ever been in the Chris Creighton-Neal Neathery era.
While it has three safeties coming up on their final year of eligibility, there are still five safeties on the roster that still have three or four years remaining. The team only added PWOs to the safety room this year, no incoming transfers or scholarship signees. If EMU felt nervous about the youth in this room, wouldn’t it have tried to add one more scholarship player this summer?
At corner, EMU added talent, JUCO experience, and youth with a couple of promising guys, and it already felt good about the returning combo of Lee and Shine.
If EMU gets everything clicking up front between the D-linemen and linebackers, then it’ll definitely making things more simple for these guys on the back-end. The less the safeties have to be tasked to fill-in on run support, the easier it’ll be for these guys to dial-in on their pass-protecting assignments.
Suffice to say, this secondary far from being a weakness on the team. The biggest thing for this group, outside of performing well on game days, is to just stay healthy. But when those unwanted injuries do pop up, the underclassmen will hopefully be ready to play like starters when it’s suddenly their time.
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