The Eastern Michigan Eagles feature experience throughout their projected two deep depth chart going into the 2021 season along the offensive line; as of press time, the Eagles look to return a robust total of 92 career starts, which would be amongst the highest totals in the conference.
The Eagles offensive line is expected to be led by Junior guard Sidy Sow. Sow was a third team all-MAC selection a season ago after starting all six games in 2020, and is considered a first-team all-MAC preseason selection at tackle for 2021 by Phil Steele. Sow, a six-foot-five. 336 lbs. Canadian national, has started 23 games over the course of his career, including 11 at left tackle, which makes him the rare offensive guard with blindside tackle experience. Sow will likely be an NFL Draft prospect through this season.
Center Mike Van Hoeven, a Rimington trophy watch list nominee last summer, returns as a senior and brings experience with appearances in 41 career games, anchoring the line at six-foot-five, 306 lbs. A three time all-MAC academic selection, Van Hoeven’s smarts match his play as he anchors the EMU line.
Fellow academic all-MAC selection and local product Jake Donnellon, another senior, is back at the other guard position after starting six games a year ago. Standing at six-foot-five, 300 lbs., he has experience across both guard spots and has 16 career starts.
Sophomore Marcellus Johnson likely returns to the left tackle position after six starts a season ago, while fellow Sophomore Brian Dooley looks like the right tackle. Dooley started each of the six games a year ago and has 15 starts in two seasons.
Some of the other names with game experience on the roster include sophomore guard Alex Howie, Richard bates and Michigan State transfer Dmitri Douglas, a former three-start recruit.
Other names to watch are redshirt freshman Lucas Tesznar, Jimi McAdams, William Racely, Zach Kadri and Broderic Jordan, as those are the names that will likely fight for backup or rotational roles in 2021. True freshman Coleon Smith and Daniel Warnsman are names to watch for in the future as well, but it’s yet to be determined where they currently fit in the short-term plans for the staff.
With former offensive line coach James Patton bolting for in-conference foe Miami (his alma mater), Chris Creighton replaced him with Sean Coughlin, who spent the past two years on Blake Anderson’s staff at Arkansas State. While with the Red Wolves, Coughlin also held the title of run game coordinator and previously coached at Missouri State.
With so much returning experience and depth, it will be hard for a lot of the up and comers to see the field, especially with a new coach who will likely stick with sure thinkgs while evaluating the rest of the roster.
A big task for the Eagle offensive line will be to improve upon their ground game, as the Eagle rushing attack ranked last in the MAC with 124 yards rushing per game.
Having a mobile QB like Preston Hutchinson makes the offensive line job easier but with a line this experienced he may not have to run nearly as much.
As I have said before, if MAC teams can have healthy and experienced offensive lines, they tend to surprise some people. I would expect EMU’s offensive line to be one of the better lines across the board in the MAC, thanks to their combination of depth and experience.
If the line can help will a running game to respectability, watch out for the Eagles as a MAC sleeper.