Y11 Notes: Two Offensive Newcomers
Maybe they won't be starters right away, but there's definitely a path for them both to become leaders in 2024.
Y11 Notes: Wednesday, May 24
Incoming Transfer #1: WR Jamarien Wheeler
Eastern Michigan was happy to sound off its sirens yesterday with a couple of late joiners to the 2023 recruiting class.
At wide receiver, EMU welcomes Jamarien Wheeler, who announced his commitment to the team after two years at Iowa Central C.C. A class of 2021 high school graduate from Minneapolis, Minn. (Washburn HS), Wheeler’s last listed size has him at 6-foot-even, 202 lbs.,
Last season he caught 21 passes over 11 games for 315 yards and scored six times, and he will be redshirt-sophomore eligible once he arrives in Ypsilanti next month.
Wheeler will get the chance to play just like anybody else coming into fall camp would. Still, the recent subtraction of Darius Lassiter from the team means that there’s an even bigger, immediate opportunity waiting for guys like Wheeler to work toward.
Lassiter, who joined EMU as a junior college transfer last year, worked his way up into a starting position, then transferred to BYU after EMU’s spring practices. Now, the only starting receiver left on this 2023 roster is Tanner Knue.
There’s nothing about Wheeler’s resume that tells me that he’s absolutely bound to replace Lassiter his first day with the team, but I don’t want to doubt this guy’s ability to get on the field early on either. On film, Wheeler shows that he’s a strong blocker when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands. As a receiver, he never caught more than three passes in a game for ICCC, but he still recorded five receptions for 30+ yards each — three were touchdowns.
Wheeler will get his chance to play this year, but 2024 is probably worth looking at really quickly as well.
By then, Knue and Hamze El-Zayat, but the wide receiver room will be very senior and junior-heavy. EMU’s three seniors next year (one year of eligibility) will be J.B. Mitchell, Indiana transfer Javon Swinton and Isaac Smith. The juniors (two years remain) will be Kaiden Keefe, Michigan State transfer Terry Lockett Jr., Wheeler, and walk-on Quinn Fracassi. While that’s a lot of names EMU fans haven’t seen play on the gray turf yet, we’ll have a better picture on which of those guys end up standing out after this season. All of that will be figured out way after we find out who the solutions will be for the 2023 season.
Incoming Transfer #2: RB Dontae Mcmillan
The second transfer to announce his decision yesterday was running back Dontae McMillan from Weber State.
McMillan, who spent the last four years at Weber State, comes to EMU with two years of eligibility remaining and was a Third Team All-Big Sky running back in 2022 after being the league’s co-Freshman of the Year in 2021 spring season.
Last year, he was 10th in the Big Sky in rushing with 134 total carries for 801 yards (5.9 avg.) and six touchdowns. For his 31-game career, Mcmillan had 1,651 rushing yards on 283 carries (5.8 avg.), and scored 15 times. As a pass-catcher, he caught 10 passes in 2021 for 42 yards.
Mcmillan was last listed at 5’11, 190 lbs.
As a high school recruit from Seattle, Wash. (Sealth HS), 247sports gave him a three-star ranking, the recruiting service’s #11 ranked recruit in his state during the 2019 recruiting cycle.
EMU followers know that the team, on paper, is happy with its top two options at running back. Mcmillan isn’t here to seriously challenge the playing times of Samson Evans or Jaylon Jackson, but he will provide the level of collegiate experience and playing ability this team needs from a backup role.
While EMU’s coaches probably feel happy with its Elijah Jackson-Anderson’s potential as a redshirt-freshman and Deion Brown’s in his true freshman year, losing Darius Boone to the transfer portal meant that there was a spot for this team to take in a new transfer this year.
Plus, let’s again look ahead to 2024 when Evans and Jackson will both be graduated from the team. Bryson Moss, until Mcmillan’s arrival, would be the only other upper-classmen in the position group. Jackson-Anderson will be a redshirt-sophomore next year, and Brown will either be a redshirt-freshman or true sophomore by then.
The experience just hasn’t been there yet for the young guys, and grabbing a rising, FCS-level running back to fill an immediate, backup role for now in hopes that he becomes a dependable starter next year was a responsible move by this coaching staff.