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Eastern Michigan OL: It Starts Up Front (But Who's Behind Them?)
Five seniors lead EMU's O-line, but experience in its depth isn't ideal entering 2022.
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In our final EMU football-sided positional preview for the offensive players, we take a look at the big guys up front who make things possible for the rest of the team. Other positions covered so far: QB, RB, and WR + TE.
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EMU 2022 Positional Previews: Offensive Line
Last year’s starting offensive line for Eastern Michigan was supposed to look just like the one it rolled out in 2020. From left to right, the offensive linemen that were starters in 2020 through the start of 2021 were Marcellus Johnson at left tackle, Sidy sow at left guard, Mike Van Hoeven at center, Jake Donnellon at right guard, and Brian Dooley at right tackle.
But just one game into the 2021 season, EMU was rushed to make some long-term decisions as Donnellon went down with a season-ending injury, making room for Alex Howie to start the next six games at right guard, followed by Richard Bates Jr. for the final six.
Aside from the one injury, EMU’s starters were otherwise able to stay healthy for the year and play out the year.
The offensive linemen don’t play skilled positions, but here are some offensive stats that we can look to try and bring back to this unit. In 2019 EMU allowed a sack rate (sacks/dropbacks) of 4.4%, which rose to 7.3% in 2020, then rose again last year up to 7.9%. Ignoring the pandemic-shortened season, EMU allowed almost twice as many sacks as it had in 2019 (23) in 2021 (42). It’s worth noting that QB Ben Bryant, last year, was less mobile than Mike Glass in 2019 and Preston Hutchinson in 2020, but 40+ sacks a year is still a lot to give up.
Running the ball, EMU still didn’t improve its game to get itself into the top-half of the league’s standings. By rushing average, EMU hasn’t had a season average of four yards or more per carry since 2016. Last year, EMU finished tied for 10th in the MAC with rushing at a clip of 3.39 per carry, and 11th in rushing yards per game with 118.54.
By total snaps each offensive lineman had last year, thanks to Pro Football Focus’s info:
C Mike Van Hoeven 2021: 919 snaps
RT Brian Dooley 2021: 911 snaps
LT Marcellus Johnson 2021: 911 snaps
LG Sidy Sow 2021: 894 snaps
IOL Richard Bates Jr. 2021: 523 snaps
RG Alex Howie 2021: 417 snaps
OL Jimi McAdams 2021: 20 snaps
RG Jake Donnellon 2021: 17 snaps
OL Jimi McAdams 2021: 20 snaps
IOL Dimitri Douglas 2021: 10 snaps
OL: William Racely 2021: 10 snaps
OL: Zack Conti 2021: 10 snaps
From left to right, the starting offensive line currently looks like this: Marcellus Johnson, Sidy Sow, Richard Bates Jr., Alex Howie, and Brian Dooley.
LT Johnson signed with EMU in 2018 out of Normal, Ill. (Normal Community HS) and has been the team’s starting left tackle since 2020 (32 career games, 19 starts).
LG Sow returns as a two-time All-MAC honoree and received First Team honors in 2021. Sow, from Bromont, Quebec, Canada, joined EMU in 2017 out of high school (Leclerc-Champlain Lennoxville), sat out his first year on redshirt, then has played every game of his career since (44 games, 42 starts). Sow was initially slated as the team’s left tackle in 2018, but moved over to guard in 2019.
C Bates (Kenner, La.; Scotlandville Magnet HS) joined EMU as a transfer from Independence C.C. in 2019, started out as a backup center, started at right guard for two years, and is now moving back to center (19 games, 7 starts).
RG Howie, and in-state senior with two years of eligibility remaining, finally got his first true season of playing time with six starts in nine games played last year (12 career, 6 starts)
RT Dooley has been a three-year starter at his position (36 games, 34 starts), and 2022 will be his fourth. Dooley signed with EMU in 2018 out of his Toledo, Ohio high school (St. John’s Jesuit).
And the current #2’s, from left to right: Jez Janvier, Mickey Rewolinski, Dimitri Douglas, Jimi McAdams IV, and Zack Conti.
LT Janvier is another Canadian in the offensive line room (Montreal, Quebec). Janvier signed with EMU in 2021 and appeared in the LendingTree bowl.
LG Rewolinski came to EMU from Caledonia, Wis. (Union Grove HS) in 2020 and has appeared in just two games so far.
C Douglas was an in-state transfer that EMU felt fortunate to receive from Michigan State following the 2019 season. Douglas, from Saline (Saline HS), played mostly in special teams in nine games last season, and may probably be one of the first interior linemen used off the bench this year.
RG McAdams, from Parma, Ohio (Padua Franciscan HS) played in all 13 games last year, but mostly on special teams. McAdams signed with EMU in 2019.
RT Conti was an in-state walk-on in 2019 (Trenton; Trenton HS) and played in every game last year. Like McAdams, most of Conti’s playing time was spent on special teams in 2021.
Broderick Jordan was a two-star center that signed with EMU in the 2019 recruiting cycle (Lansing; Okemos HS). Jordan played in four games during the 2020 season but missed all of 2021 with an injury. Daniel Warnsman was a three-star signee in EMU’s 2021 signing class (Dublin, Ohio; Dublin Coffman HS).
Joshua Anderson, from the St. Louis area (Westminster Christian HS), was EMU’s highest-rated offensive signee for the incoming freshman class. By 247sports composite, Anderson is graded as the #66 interior O-lineman for the 2022 recruiting cycle. Mack Indestad is also an incoming freshman for the 2022 signing class (Lemont, Ill.; Lemont HS) with a three-star rating.
Carson Lee joins the team this year as a transfer from Colorado. Lee played in five games over his first two collegiate years, and was an early enrollee for the Buffs in 2020.
As for EMU’s non-scholarship O-linemen, Jeremiah Jackson Jr. joins with a three-star composite rating as a recruit (Lakeland, Fla.; Kathleen HS). He was originally set to play his college ball at Air Force, but in June he committed to EMU. This year’s walk-on additions also include Tommy Dickinson (Collegeville, Pa.; Methacton HS), Nicholas Gallegos (Naperville, Ill.; Neuqua Valley HS), and Dennis Strey Jr. (Paw Paw; Paw Paw HS).
John Golden Jr. (Glen Ellyn, Ill.; Glenbard South HS) walked onto the team in 2021. Golden’s father, John Sr., played college football for Northern Illinois. Daniel Greene (Goodrich; Goodrich HS) was a PWO addition in the 2020 recruiting cycle.
Jake Donnellon (Ypsilanti; Gabriel Richard HS) was penciled in to be Eastern’s returning, starting right guard for this team after the spring season, but another injury has sidelined the grad student in his final year of eligibility.
EMU losing Donnellon for the season gives the team less talent and experience to work with up the middle, so guys who haven’t gotten to play too much before will be demanded to step up during camp.
Five seniors up front to start feels like a safe option for this team, but after that there’s not a lot of offensive experience from the back-ups. If one more starter goes down, who’s going to be the next guy EMU will call on to block for this offense?
When I talked to coach Creighton at MAC Media Day, he told me he felt that this position has a chance to be really good. I’ll take his word on it, but for this O-line to be really good, the freshmen and other underclassmen are going to have to show that they’re able to play up to the level of the starters in front of them.
Up next for the EMU 2022 Positional Preview series: Defensive line.
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