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NSD 2.0 Notes: Best Recruiting Season Ever
EMU's best mark on the recruiting trail required some of the best players this program's ever accepted.
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Actually, don’t do that. I know we’re all alive and awake for this.
Historically a down-ridden program that lives in the shadow of Ann Arbor’s major public university, Eastern Michigan’s victories on the field and on the recruiting trail usually add up to stockpiled losses.
But this is truly not your father’s Eastern Michigan football team. Far from it.
Through yesterday’s, what I’ll call ‘National Signing Day 2.0’, EMU has signed the #2 ranked recruiting class in the Mid-American Conference, and is the #1 class in the league on a per-player average. Nationally, EMU has the #86-ranked class – the highest mark of any recruiting class in school history. It’s only the second time EMU has put together a top-100 class; the first was in 2021 when it signed the nation’s 97th-ranked class.
For a team that’s traditionally recognized as a football program that generally isn’t anybody’s first or second choice to go to, finishing second in the league’s standings is a huge moment for this program’s outlook.
In total, 27 players have added their names to the roster for the upcoming season. Let’s take note of what Ypsilanti has to look forward to:
Welcome to Yinzilanti
Brogan Roback’s top-recruit-in-school-history-sized championship belt will finally be given to somebody else. Ten years since Roback came into the program as the school’s highest-ranked high school recruit of all time, Kellen McDonough gets to have that title now.
Roback had a composite score of 0.8662.
McDonough’s score: 0.8750 – he’s ranked #719 nationally and #16 in his home state of Pennsylvania.
McDonough, who played his high school ball at Woodland Hills (Pittsburgh, Penn.), is the #49 ranked offensive tackle and is the highest-ranked player at his position coming into the MAC. The next highest-ranked OT is Central Michigan signee Jacob Booth (Swartz Creek, Mich. - Swartz Creek HS). He’s the highest-ranked Pennsylvania native coming into the MAC, too.
Hell, McDonough’s singularly the highest-ranked high school player joining the MAC this signing period.
Top 25 2023 MAC signees, by 247sports comp.:
OT, Kellen McDonough (0.8750, EMU)
WR, Chase Hendricks (0.8600, Ohio)
DL, Sid Kaba (0.8594, WMU)
WR, Jevell Fugerson (0.8585, Buffalo)
OT, Jacob Booth (0.8567, CMU)
RB, Rickey Hunt Jr. (0.8559, Ohio)
OT, Terrance Saunders (0.8550, EMU)
OT, Mason Ludwig (0.8533, Toledo)
S, Tracy Revels (0.8525, BGSU)
ATH, Tyler Jefferson (0.8517, CMU)
LB, Dion Crawford (0.8500, Buffalo)
RB, Christian Davis (0.8497, Ball State)
WR, Joseph Walker Jr. (0.8497, EMU)
DL, Kobi Gorman (0.8492, Ohio)
DL, Wayne Peart (0.8489, Toledo)
Edge, Brent Hoppe (0.8486, CMU)
DL, Laith Shamma (0.8478, Toledo)
LB, Christian McKinney (0.8475, Miami)
WR, Shatavious Hogan (0.8470, CMU)
RB, Deion Brown (0.8450, EMU)
WR, Shawn Thigpen (0.8439, BGSU)
LB, Andrew Marshall (0.8437, Ohio)
WR, Javorian Wimberly (0.8433, CMU)
What makes McDonough’s recruiting ranking so interesting is how he flew so far under the radar for most teams. It’s not for a lack of attending camps or junior days.
EMU was just the only FBS-level [and non-military academy] program to extend an offer to him. McDonough’s other offers came from Delaware State, Duquesne, Howard, Indiana State, Navy, Robert Morris, and Sacred Heart. When you imagine EMU getting a recruit with a better grade out of high school that’s better than Roback, it’d be easy to assume that recruit would be coming in with a bigger market value.
Whatever the case may be, EMU only helped itself by sticking with its under-the-radar targets for as long as it has, and getting an OL stalwart like McDonough with five more linemen coming in with him this year is only setting this team up for more success.
Top Michigan-based recruit ever is a skyscraper
For a moment, Messiah Blair’s composite ranking was good enough to be slightly better than Roback’s to be the top dog. His score has since been adjusted to be lower than that, and he’ll instead join the team as the #5 ranked prospect of all time. Darn.
Since the #1-4 ranked recruits in EMU history respectively came from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oklahoma, and California, Blair is EMU’s biggest in-state recruit in the program’s history.
Blair (0.8597), a 6-foot-7 defensive end from Detroit (Martin Luther King Jr. HS), is ranked the #18 player from Michigan and #102 edge defender (#1,112 nationally). Much like how McDonough’s the highest-ranked incoming OT to the league, Blair’s also the highest-ranked player at his position for the MAC.
And, yes, he’s the highest-ranked player from Michigan coming into the league this year.
5 added via transfer portal
Of the 27 incoming players, five join the program as transfers through the NCAA-tolerated portal. They’re all offensive players – three O-linemen and two receivers.
The OL additions through the portal include Chris Mayo (West Virginia), Owen Snively (Colorado State), and Dan Sunderman (Central Missouri, D2). While EMU didn’t sign him out of high school, Mayo’s composite score (0.8824, 2020) is good enough to be the program’s best-ever incoming offensive player. Sunderman, a 3-time all-conference player at his Division 2 college, is the program’s only incoming graduate transfer.
The wide receivers, Terry Lockett Jr. (Michigan State) and Javon Swinton (Indiana) are both Big Ten castoffs.
Four JUCO players come in
The transfer portal isn’t the only way to add players to the roster with college experience. The junior college scene has been a great place for Chris Creighton and his coaching staff to find talent, whether they’re depth pieces or instant starters. This year, four new signees join from the JUCO ranks.
Those four: QB Ike Udengwu III (Mt. San Antonio), TE C.J. Horton (Iowa Western), DT Ugochukwu Nosike (Butler), and CB Jaheim Jenkins (Iowa Western).
Udengwu III is the one and only quarterback that EMU has signed this recruiting season. Originally, EMU had a very early commitment from in-state target Drew Viotto, but the big-armed QB nicknamed “The Canadian Cannon” switched up his plans and flipped to Minnesota during the summer. With Viotto out of the picture and sophomore Austin Smith playing his way into the starting position for this year, it didn’t seem like EMU needed to emphasize going after one this winter, but clearly didn’t want to be empty-handed at the most important position on the field.
Nearly half are already enrolled
Of the 27 new players (25 on scholarship), 13 are already enrolled at EMU to compete through the winter and spring. Of course that figure includes all nine incoming transfers, then four high school guys who graduated early before the rest of the freshman class joins the team in June.
EMU’s early enrollees:
TE, Cedric Anton (Rabun Gap, Ga. - Rabun Gap-Nacoochee HS)
RB, Deion Brown (St. Louis, Mo. - Kirkwood HS)
TE, C.J. Horton (Fort Scott, Kan. - Fort Scott HS; Kansas State, Iowa Western C.C.)
CB, Jaheim Jenkins (Bainbridge, Ga. - Iowa Western C.C.)
WR, Terry Lockett Jr. (Minneapolis, Minn. - Minnehaha Academy; Michigan State)
OL, Chris Mayo (Highstown, N.J. - The Peddie School; West Virginia)
S, Jaivian Norman (Springfield, Ohio - Springfield HS)
DT, Ugochukwu Nosike (South Holland, Ill. - Butler C.C.)
OL, Owen Snively (Tilton, N.H. - Tilton HS; Colorado State)
OL, Dan Sunderman (Omaha, Neb. - Millard South HS; Central Missouri)
WR, Javon Swinton (Stafford, Va. - North Stafford HS; Indiana)
QB, Ike Udengwu III (Paramount, Calif. - Mt. San Antonio College)
OL, Trenton VanBoening (Libertyville, Ill. - Libertyville HS)