Kent State Week: Thomas Odukoya Honored With #2, Depth Chart Notes
Preston Hutchinson listed as EMU's starting QB and lots of other newbs help fill out the Eagles' initial two-deeps. Mikey Haney receives #0 assignment at Kent State.
Image via EMU Athletics
Welcome to The Ypsilanti Eleven! Eastern Michigan finally begins its football season tomorrow at Dix Stadium against the Kent State Golden Flashes. It’s certainly not going to be a normal season by any stretch of the imagination, but we’ve got to make the most of it.
I wanted to get more previews and such done over here at Y11 but, as you may have noticed, I’ve got some MAC football content coming at you from a spot I wasn’t expecting to find myself in: YouTube! The not exciting part of that is that the early growing pains/technical hiccups kept me from writing with any consistency over here. Now that we have a groove going, good friend Kaleb Carter and I have our first three episodes up over at MAC Football Forever, so check those out if you like our talks. Tomorrow we’ll have another video on our Week 1 previews and picks, so you might as well subscribe to the channel when you get there (thanks!).
Today for the newsletter, we’re going to look at a couple of guys who received big honors on Monday, Eastern’s depth charts for Wednesday night’s opener.
New Uniform Assignments
Thomas Odukoya honored with #2
With two days before the season opener, EMU finally announced new uniform assignments for two of its stud players on each side of the ball. Senior tight end and captain Thomas Odukoya will wear #2 this year as the recipient of “The Deuce”.
‘The Deuce’ is a big deal for Eastern Michigan’s football program. The jersey number symbolically carries the legacy of Demarius Reed, a former Eagle receiver who was shot and killed back in 2013. Reed’s legacy isn’t about being the biggest, fastest, or strongest athlete out on the field. Reed was one of the most loveable guys around Eastern’s football program — somebody the entire community could rally around — and his memory still lives on in Ypsilanti seven years later.
The #2 jersey was assigned in the last three seasons after it went unworn through what would’ve been Reed’s senior year: Sergio Bailey in 2017, Blake Banham in 2018, Mathew Sexton last year, and now it’s Odukoya’s turn.
Odukoya is in his third and final year with the team after the Netherlands native found his way to the program after starting his collegiate career at West Hills-Coalinga (Calif.) and Garden City Community College (Kan.). Unlike the other Deuce recipients, Odukoya’s a tight end — everybody else is a wide receiver. Odukoya’s played in 21 total games for EMU and made three catches all last season.
"Thomas Odukoya reflects so many of the positive qualities that we have learned about Demarius Reed," said EMU head coach Chris Creighton in Monday’s press release. "He is our voice on offense, he is a great player, and a person that the entire program respects and admires. He will do an awesome job representing all that 'The Deuce' means in our program."
Defensive #0 of the Week: Mikey Haney
This season is also the first season where the NCAA will let players wear #0 . EMU’s way of having fun with it is by letting defensive players earn their chance to wear #0 by representing their “Hard Hat D” mentality. The number will change every week, and will be given to somebody else based on that player’s previous performance.
For the season opener, sophomore defensive lineman Mikey Haney will open the year up with #0 across his body. Haney, from Maumee, Ohio, made 11 starts last year as a redshirt-freshman and racked up 43 tackles with 2.5 for loss.
EMU Depth Charts at Kent State
Finally, the good stuff!
Teams around the MAC (some, not all) put out their depth charts and 2-deeps during last week’s virtual Zoom calls with the MAC media. EMU released its own depth charts for both the preseason media guide and the Kent State game pregame notes. After the (/checks calendar) incredibly long drought of no live MACtion on my TV, these 2-deeps are the official reminders that things are about to change.
No huge surprises here on the offense, I suppose. Preston Hutchinson played just the one full game, but it’s enough to trust that he’ll be fun as a starting quarterback this year. The running backs will be committee/hot hand/whatever’s working, and the freshman class is going to get a bunch of exposure from this position. Quian Williams/Hassan Beydoun/Dylan Drummond are of course the three returning receivers you should know of, but only because there are so many newcomers. So many that they’re starting to pierce their ways into the 2-deeps, like how true freshmen Zach Walling, Kaiden Keefe, and Jent Joseph have. There’s a lot of experience coming back along the offensive line, and Marcellus Johnson and Zachariah Kadri look like they’re the replacement left tackles with Steven Nielsen as the only starter of the group gone from last year.
New starters: QB Preston Hutchinson (8 games, 1 start), WR Quian Williams (17 games, 1 start), LT Marcellus Johnson (13 games, 0 starts), RB Darius Boone Jr. (2 games, 0 starts), RB D.J. Smith (2020 enrollee)
It looks like EMU is hiding where they want to put Jairus Grissom. I’m 100% convinced he’ll be an impact player for the offense, but this team’s going to be tight-lipped about what position(s) he’ll be playing at this season.
OL Dimitri Douglas, who transferred from Michigan State in December, isn’t listed on the two-deep. It’s possible that the NCAA isn’t going to let him play this year, but EMU still loves where it’s at as far as its current O-line goes. Would’ve been an embarrassment of riches from EMU’s perspective if Douglas were to play in 2020.
More on the O-line, Johnson is the new starting left tackle as a sophomore (13 games, 0 starts) with a ton of experience from the other four starting linemen to his left. The rest of that line (Sidy Sow, Mike Van Hoeven, Jake Donnellon, Brian Dooley) have a combined 106 games played and 62 starts. There’s not a ton of EMU-game experience behind them, but there’s a lot of development to be considered.
Tight ends will be leaned on a ton this year, especially when there are three returnees in that spot that have started games before. Bryson Cannon’s name is listed as the backup for both Y-TE and H-WR spots for the Kent State game. Wonder how much this offense will run out 13 personnel (1 RB, 3 TE) we might see out of this EMU offense in 2020.
Also, no C.J. Parks?
EMU’s defense is rolling out some newer starters on this side of the ball too, but spots are being filled by talented young guys that have been in development for the past season or so. EMU’s had plenty of luck in getting underclassmen on the field and be instant impacts for Neal Neathery’s 4-2-5 defense during his time with the team, it’d be hard to imagine that EMU’s any less successful at that this year. Without many seniors to lean on this year, youthful defensive success is a necessity for this team.
New starters: DT Aaron Hamilton (3 games, 0 starts), LB Tariq Speights (8 games, 0 starts), any cornerback opposite of Freddie McGee III, FS Russ Vaden IV (12 games, 0 starts), S Alvinoski LaFleur (13 games, 1 start)
If the defensive line plays up to what it’s capable of, EMU might end up winning more games than people realize. Senior leadership from Turan Rush, Woo Scott, and Michael Smith Jr. (switched over from OL last year).
The most experienced player on this side of the ball is LB Terry Myrick (35 games, 14 starts).
The story of Greg Kelley is certainly one that everybody should get behind, and it’s going to be one that I’ll be following. Kelley was wrongfully convicted to steal his opportunity to play for Neathery at UTSA in 2014 (and, generally, years away from his normal life). He’s finally out, and EMU was able to get him on the roster with full eligibility, which means he’s a 25-year old freshman. That doesn’t mean he’s automatically the best player on the field, but something tells me that this might actually help EMU in the long run. Waiting to confirm.
Unless anybody truly stands out, I’d expect the corners to rotate a bunch. Freddie McGee III will get his playing time on the field-side corner, but there’s going to be a ton of competition throughout the season for any of the other corners (Myles McNeal, Timarcus Simpson, Kempton Shine, Jerodd Vines, Isaiah Watson, Jeff Hubbard) to get and stay on the field.
What kind of difference can Jose Ramirez make in 2020?
No huge thoughts on EMU’s roster for the third phase of the game, other than the fact that I see a big “OR” between Chad Ryland and Caleb Richwine’s names. Ryland’s been impressing as a kicker and earned a scholarship with the team over the summer, so I just wonder how Richwine compares.