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New Starters on Offense?
Sidy Sow, not active in Tuesday's practice, highlights injury list.
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Practice Dispatch: Eastern Enters Third Week of Football Camp
Another day of practice, its 12th of the year, is in the books for Eastern Michigan. I went to Tuesday morning’s exercise, my 7th, so I’m lucky to say I’ve been able to see what this team’s actually about, and what some of the strengths and weaknesses of this squad are so far.
Now, that doesn’t mean I can (or would, frankly) report on every single detail that I saw from the team, good or bad. Media (it’s just me in my bucket hat) can’t take pictures or video during the practices, and I’m not allowed to write or talk about anything schematic. Sorry, I can’t tell you much about the Fumblerooski trick play that this team has been working on to perfection at the end of practice every day. You’ll never get that out of me.
But what I can tell you is that nothing about camp is stagnant. Some guys look great most day of the week, but nobody looks perfect everyday. The season’s only two and a half weeks away, and the team’s starting to figure out who’s ready to play and who still needs to develop in some areas before playing time happens. In camp, you could be a third-string player today, first-team player next week, then a non-starting rotational piece for the first-half of the season. Or, somebody could truly go from being a young, second-string player to a full-time starter with the older guys in less than a month.
All of that to say this: take my reporting with a grain of salt. I’m just two eyeballs connected to a singular, idiot brain. While I trust my eyes and idiot brain, I still know my view on the team is still pretty limited in the grander scope of this team.
Plus, it’s mid-August. Some things you just have to kick back, wait and see what happens as time goes on. There’s the chance these coaches have the same questions about their team as you do.
Let’s try to learn something about EMU football today, though.
Sidy Sow DNP Tuesday, I’Shawn Stewart back
Here’s my team injury report that everybody (and nobody) wants to see. Please note that EMU head coach Chris Creighton isn’t available after every practice for comment, so I’m unable to ask what the status is with these players.
LG Sidy Sow: Of the guys that didn’t participate in Tuesday’s practice, Sow’s absence is most notable. Sow’s a reigning First Team All-MAC recipient that’s been a huge part of EMU’s O-line for the last four years. Sow wasn’t wearing any brace on his arms or legs, so that’s potentially a good sign?
With Sow not active, Mickey Rewolinski ran with the first-string offense at left guard.
OL Mack Indestead: The freshman was sidelined wearing a full-leg brace during Tuesday’s practice.
I’ve yet to see in action this camp: OL Broderick Jordan or DL Aaron Hamilton.
WR Hamze El-Zayat: not in attendance again. El-Zayat did open camp.
WR Ali Abdul-Barr: already announced on Twitter that he’s going to miss the year with an ACL tear.
Welcome back WR I'Shawn Stewart: I don’t know if he was injured or not. I just know he was in attendance when camp opened, wasn’t in attendance sometime last week, and is now in attendance again.
LB Steven Scheidt: Wore a lower-leg brace, got around with his knee scooter.
The offensive line has four guys out right now with senior Jake Donnellon out for the year, freshman Mack Indestead in crutches, and unknown diagnoses of Sow and Jordan. Two of those guys are starters, and a lot of the second-stringers on this team already lack experience, so this is a position group that really can’t deal with any more injuries than it already has entering the year.
Defensively this team doesn’t have many sustained, which is a great place to be at right now; knock on wood.
5th-year receiver MIA
As previously noted in yesterday's Y11 Audio, Dylan Drummond hasn't been very active with the EMU offense lately. When it comes to special teams drills, Drummond is usually at the front of the lines leading the drills still. But when it’s time to work on offense and defense, Drummond’s attendance simply isn’t prioritized. The senior, who has played in 42 career games with 26 starts at receiver, is only a return specialist for the team at this point.
As a receiver, Drummond has caught 150 career passes for 1,503 yards with 11 TD scored. In 2019, Drummond was a Third Team All-MAC honoree. Fielding kicks, Drummond’s returned 18 kickoffs for 329 yards (18.3 avg.) and 17 punts for 123 yards (7.2 yards).
While Drummond is still one of the team's top return specialists alongside Hassan Beydoun, it looks like his replacement at receiver will be a transfer that came into the system last year, Dennis Smith.
Smith has generally seemed like the kind of receiver that Taylor Powell has really enjoyed throwing to this camp and is the kind of QB-to-WR relationship that ought to be maximized. Smith appeared on the team’s preseason depth chart as Drummond’s backup at the Z-receiver spot and has recently been taking a good percentage of snaps with the first-string offense. Smith, a South Carolinian who transferred in from Duke last year after playing in six games (no catches), has already made four receptions with EMU in 2021. But now, it looks like Smith is positioned to actually be a leader for Eastern’s passing attack.
Knue to WR2?
As previously noted, there’s a lot to love from EMU’s wide receiver room because of how much talent there is in its depth this year. Knue, a former walk-on receiver that’s played in 13 games with 9 starts, might be sliding back to a reserve role.
This piece of the wide receiver puzzle isn’t so cut-and-dry as the Smith-for-Drummond situation.
EMU’s run out plenty of different looks for all three of its scholarship quarterbacks to throw to, and lately that’s been sometimes looking like Knue stepping in with the second-string receivers and tight ends. I’ve seen both Zach Westmoreland and, more recently, Darius Lassiter both take reps with the first-string offense. Both of those guys have size advantages over Knue (Westmoreland 6’2, 202 lbs., Lassiter 6’3, 200 lbs., Knue 5’11, 177 lbs.), which is a plus on paper.
Height is something the starting receivers, entering camp, lacked. Drummond was the tallest of the three receivers at 6’0, followed by Knue, then Beydoun at 5’8.
No matter what EMU plans to do with its receivers throughout the rest of camp, I don’t see this team using any fewer than five or six receivers on a regular basis anyway. Getting more guys involved has always been part of this Creighton-led offense.
Dimitri Douglas time?
It looks like EMU’s got one more change of note on the offense, and it involves the guy who touches the ball before anybody else. Dimitri Douglas, who transferred to EMU from Michigan State during the 2019 postseason, has stepped into the team’s first-string rotation as the starting center while Richard Bates participated with the 2’s.
Bates was a former JUCO transfer that’s played mostly center for the Eagles. After 19 games and 7 starts made at guard, Bates was the team’s new center through the spring and at the start of the summer, but now it’s Douglas who’s primed to be the new starter to replace the graduated Mike Van Hoeven. Bates is on his final year of eligibility, Douglas has two years remaining.