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2021 MAC Football Positional Previews: Central Michigan Chippewas offensive line

A perennially respected offensive line in the MAC looks to re-load in the 2021 season.

NCAA Football: New Mexico Bowl-Central Michigan vs San Diego State Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Central Michigan had a bit of a struggle in the shortened 2020 season, finishing 3-3 despite being defending MAC West champions the season before. But it wasn’t for a lack of talent along the offensive line.

The bubs along the line of scrimmage had a respectable season despite the circumstances, allowing Central’s halfbacks to run wild, with a 5.0 yards per attempt average, and a total average of 218 rushing yards per game for a team, great numbers for a team which had to lean on the running attack due to uncertainty at the quarterback position.

Touching back on the passing game quickly, the pass protection was a bit of a struggle. The line gave up 18 sacks as a collective (averaging three per game), with one of them having the unfortunate side effect of getting starting QB Daniel Richardson injured. Admittedly, part of the issue was the result of a shaky hand at QB, given David Moore’s NCAA suspension appeal for a banned substance went unresolved prior to the season, and ended in a denial, forcing Richardson up the pipeline earlier than anticipated. All told, however, they did an admirable job helping move the ball downfield, averaging 202.3 yards per game.

Those combined numbers gave the Chippewas one of the more dangerous balanced attacks in the Mid-American Conference, averaging 420.5 yards on offense per game, good enough for 44th in the country. With the majority of the line expected to return for the 2021 season, there’s no reason to expect a drop-off in performance for the upcoming slate, especially as there will be a full season to sample from.

With about two months to go until their season opener at Missouri, here’s a rudimentary look at how the line is projected to look, from left to right tackles:

Left tackle Left guard Center Right guard Right tackle
Bernhard Raimann (Jr.) Deiyantei Powell-Woods (Soph.) Jamezz Kimbrough (Sr.) Tyden Ferris (Jr.) Derek Smith (Sr.)
OR Luke Goedeke (Sr.) Cade Klimczak (Soph.) Danny Motowski (Jr.) OR Danny Motowski (Jr.) OR Luke Goedeke (Sr.)

CMU returns all five of their starters along the line in 2021, and also brings aboard a former full-time starter in junior Luke Goedeke back into the fold after rehabbing from a knee injury in the 2020 season.

The only loss for the CMU line in 2021 is backup tackle Keegan Cousseau, who transitions to tight end after using 2020 as a season to transition from defensive end to offensive tackle, which leaves a fairly full table for CMU’s coaching staff to pluck from.

Smith (first-team), Raimann (third-team) and Goedeke (fourth-team) were all named to the 2021 Athlon pre-season all-MAC teams earlier this month, so there’s certainly a respect for the current lineup. Smith was a particularly steady player at right tackle, earning second-team all-MAC honors and third-team all-MAC for Phil Steele and Pro Football Focus in 2020 after taking over for Goedeke.

At the tackles, the six-foot-seven, 290 lb. Raimann’s spot at left tackle seems basically assured after the former tight end started all six games in 2020. Derek Smith, who stands at six-foot-five, 295 lbs., started all six games at right tackle in 2020 and has 29 career starts (21 consecutive) to his name, making him the likeliest candidate to stick there. Both spots will likely get pushed by Goedeke, a 14-game career starter who stands at six-foot-five, 295 lbs., establishing tackle as perhaps one of the deepest positions on the roster.

The interior of the line shifted around in the 2020 season, as the staff tried to figure out a combination of guards that worked for what they hoped to accomplish. One spot that’s secure is Jamezz Kimbrough, who returns to anchor the line at center for the second season after his transition from left guard in 2020. The guard spots around the six-foot-two, 285 lb. Kimbrough, however, will likely have battles at both spots, with four or five players expected to be in the running.

Among the guards expected to compete are Tyden Ferris (four starts at right guard in six appearances,) Danny Motowski (two starts each at left and right guard,) Deiyantei Powell-Woods (three starts at left guard), Cade Klimczak (one start at left guard in four appearances) and potentially Derek Smith as well (24 starts between various OL spots, with 14 starts at left guard in 2019,) should the staff decide to move Smith back into the interior.

The two-deeps should start to clarify when the fall camps start back up, but as the group has shown since the start of the Jim McElwain era, they should continue to be one of the better lines in the MAC.