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Eastern Michigan QBs: Transfer portal giveth, then it taketh away. Then it gave again.
The Ben Bryant era was short-lived fun for EMU's offense. Can Taylor Powell pick up right where he left off?
EMU 2022 Positional Previews: Quarterbacks
After Preston Hutchinson led Eastern Michigan’s offense through the 2020 season, the team brought in Cincinnati transfer Ben Bryant to raise the team’s potential in 2021. Though Hutchinson was the MAC’s second-leading scoring rusher in 2020 (8 TD), Bryant won the full-time QB1 role early in the season, and finished the year as the MAC’s leader in passing percentage (68.4%) and completions (279). Bryant was also third in the MAC in passing yards (3,121).
Hutchinson 2020: 6 games, 126/198 passing, 63.6%, 1,662 yards (8.4 Y/A), 12 TD, 6 INT, 148.1 QBR; 87 rush att., 206 yards (2.4 avg.), 8 TD
Bryant 2021: 13 games, 279/408 passing, 68.4%, 3,121 yards (7.6 Y/A), 14 TD, 7 INT, 140.5 QBR; 87 rush att., -43 yards (-0.5 avg.), 2 TD
With the switch, EMU was able to get back to picking up big plays through the air, but the offense was too inconsistent as the team finished with a 4-4 record in MAC play. Through the 2021 regular season (disregarding everybody’s postseason games), EMU was fourth in the MAC in scoring with 31 points per game (372 total) behind Toledo (34.17), Kent State (33.42), and Central Michigan (33).
(Side note: Just to show how neck-and-neck the competition was in the MAC West: all six teams in the division averaged 30-35 points per game through the regular season, Western Michigan averaged 30.83 ppg, and NIU averaged 30.75 ppg before it beat Kent State for the MAC championship.)
Both QB1 and QB2, on paper, were scheduled to return and help EMU’s offense reach new heights. They had other plans. In the offseason, both Bryant and Hutchinson hit the transfer portal. Bryant, a graduate transfer, went back to Cincinnati to compete for the finally-vacant QB1 role after Desmond Ridder’s graduation, and Hutchinson bounced to UT-Chattanooga.
Down the depth chart, class of 2020 signee Baron May hit the portal after spring practices. He ended up at East Tennessee State with four years of eligibility remaining. Walk-on Chris Kaminski, from South Lyon, is no longer on the roster.
Taylor Powell enters the season as EMU’s starting quarterback. Or at least he should be. Needing an immediate answer for a QB1 over the winter, Powell came in from Troy as a one-year graduate transfer looking to make his final college stop a memorable one. His first three seasons were spent at Missouri (9 games, 35/76 passing, 431 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT), then moved over to Troy in 2021 (6 games, 125/189, 1,251 yards, 7 TD, 6 INT).
At the time, Powell transferred into the Trojans’ program with the objective that he’d have to beat the team’s 2020 starter Gunnar Watson in preseason camp for the starting job, and he did. But by Week 6, Watson re-took the starting role and Troy eventually fired its head coach before the season finale.
The talent is clearly there when you watch Powell. His highlights — everybody’s favorite form of football propaganda — show that he can create big plays through the air by keeping plays alive with his feet against quality defenses.
As a recruit, Powell was a 3-star, pro-style QB in the 2017 recruiting cycle (0.8519 247sports composite), and was the #6 ranked player out of Arkansas. Powell played at Fayetteville HS (AR). As a recruit, Powell picked Missouri over Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Dartmouth, Florida Atlantic, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Memphis, Purdue, San Diego State, UL-Monroe, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Washington State, and Western Michigan.
Austin Smith is the only player in EMU’s quarterback room that isn’t learning a new offense this year. In 2021 as a true freshman, Smith appeared in a home game against Texas State, and completed his, to-date, lone pass attempt for 16 yards.
As a recruit, Smith was a 3-star, dual-threat QB in the 2021 recruiting cycle (0.8126 247sports composite) who signed with EMU over Air Force, Alcorn State, Charleston Southern, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Eastern Kentucky, Fordham, Jacksonville State, Mercer, North Carolina A&T, Southern Illinois, and Tennessee State. As a HS junior at Cedar Grove HS (Ellenwood, Ga.), Smith led his team to a 13-2 record & AAA state championship (2019).
Cam’Ron McCoy is an incoming quarterback for the Eagles in 2022. Out of high school (St. Mary's HS / St. Louis, Mo.), McCoy was unranked by the three major recruiting networks as a dual-threat QB. McCoy originally committed to play for Missouri State in December 2020, but by the 2021 preseason, McCoy ended flipping to Cincinnati. In the winter of 2022, McCoy left for EMU to play both baseball and football.
Jeremiah Salem is another incoming quarterback for the Eagles in 2022. Salem was unranked by the three major recruiting networks in the 2022 recruiting cycle. Salem is from Germantown, Tenn., and played at Houston HS.
Entering the new year, EMU’s quarterback room’s problems were obvious. Now that the position group has new faces to replace the outgoing ones, it’s time for this team to find out what this group can do to drive the offense forward.
To his credit, head coach Chris Creighton does have a history of making good on his current task: getting a transfer QB ready to play.
In 2018, one-year graduate transfer Tyler Wiegers (Iowa) completed 64.5% of his throws for a 7.1 Y/A clip, 11 TD and 3 INT, getting EMU to a 7-6 record, finishing the year at the Camellia Bowl. In 2019, Mike Glass (Southwestern College) finally got to rise out of his backup role and into a Second Team All-MAC Performer as he led the MAC in pass completions (266), yards (3,169), TDs (24), and unfortunately interceptions (11) — Glass separated himself on the field with his physical, and daring, running style (428 yards, 3.6 avg., 8 TD). And last year, of course, Bryant (Cincinnati) threw for over 3,000 yards and was close to 70% passing to get the Eagles back into a bowl game.
Especially with how good I think the wide receiver room is, Powell may have some fun throwing in EMU’s offense this year as long he can get the ball to his playmakers.
If Powell doesn’t end up performing well, EMU doesn't have a lot of great go-to options on paper. While we can look at the backup quarterbacks, specifically with Smith in mind, and choose believe in their potential, their combined collegiate experience of the three backups is still just one pass.
I’m sure you get the point now. There’s a lot riding on Powell in this offense. The trio of Hassan Beydoun (1,000+ rec. yards in 2021, former walk-on), Dylan Drummond (150 career rec., 1,503 yards, 11 TD), and Tanner Knue (59 career rec., 755 yards, 5 TD, former walk-on) will be in their third year of, collectively, leading EMU’s receiver room. After this season, these seniors will be graduated, and they don’t have much time to wait for QBs to figure out how to get the ball in their hands.
EMU’s potential in the MAC West standings rely on a lot of things to break in EMU’s favor, but in a quarterback-driven sport, the new guys are going to have to perform for this team to at least get to another bowl game.
Y11 Audio: What are *your* MAC picks?
First thing’s first: subscribe to Y11 Audio! The podcast is available basically everywhere.
In case you haven’t heard my introduction to what’s to come, I’m moving back to Ypsilanti, which means this newsletter will finally be rightfully headquartered in Ypsi as well.
Episode 2 will be out on Monday.
Episode 1 is below.
What are your MAC picks? Leading up to MAC Media Day, I’m going to do the regularly-scheduled MAC predictions podcast(s), but I’d like to hear from you.
Call in and leave a voicemail (734-273-9224) or comment below with your predictions. Who’s going to win the MAC? Who’s going to have a good year? What’s something else you’re willing to predict out loud?
We’ll discuss Monday.