On the night of Friday, April 15th, Eastern Michigan invited fans back for their first spring game open to the public since the pandemic began.
The calendar might have said spring, but the weather had other ideas with a cold driving rain which lasted the duration of the spring game. It gave the evening more of a midweek MACtion game type of feel.
Fans returning to “The Factory”, had the chance to shop for team-issued Adidas gear in the atrium of the George Gervin GameAbove Center. The sale featured items across all sports with particular interest being paid to game-used football helmets and jerseys. Lines for the sale at one point spanned most of the atrium.
While fans picked out gear, numerous recruits were invited to a luncheon which was bookended with NFL draft prospect and former EMU captain Thomas Odukoya speaking to recruits before the spring game. Due to the weather, the potential recruits would make up most of the spring game ground. One other guest of note was that of College Football Hall of Famer Lloyd Carr, who won a shared National Championship at Michigan in 1997 after starting his collegiate coaching career at Eastern Michigan in 1976 before leaving for Illinois following the 1977 season.
The spring game was what you would expect from a spring game in poor weather. It was a fast-moving affair, which was likely in everyone’s best interests.
Fans hoping to find out who would replace outgoing QB Ben Bryant (who transferred back to Cincinnati), got their wish, with former Missouri and Troy started Taylor Powell getting the start.
It was hard to read much into his performance with the poor weather, but Powell showed a strong enough arm and showed a lot of energy on the sideline after he exited the game. Fitting in with his new teammates does not seem to be an issue for Powell thus far.
Second-year QB Austin Smith started opposite and played for a similar amount. Former Cincinnati QB Cam McCoy showed impressive speed and elusiveness which will remind Eagle fans of Jairus Grissom and Reggie Bell. He also was intercepted by the underrated Kempton Shine and once had to burn a time-out due to some pre-snap confusion. Walk-on Christoper Kaminsky who had the throw of the night, connecting to Tanner Knue off play-action for 74 yard passing touchdown.
Samson Evans added a short-yardage touchdown (which is his style), while Bryson Moss offered some sizzle. The Eagles receiving room remains deep. In addition to Knue, who had a nice day, the Eagles return Hasaan Beydoun, and Dylan Drummond among others. Oregon State transfer I’Shawn Stewart had his number called often, and could be a sleeper to take a step forward in his second year with the program.
While it is hard to form opinions on an offensive line from a spring game, it was nice to see Jake Donnellon back on the field after he missed last season with injury.
The Eagles did find themselves without several potential contributors, as defensive backs Korey Hernandez and Blake Bogan were out due to injury, while defensive end Mikey Haney, one of the Eagles top-returning pass rushers, went down with an injury late in the spring game.
Haney was helped off the field, and would be a major loss if the injury proves to be serious. The good news for EMU, is that they will have the summer to rest up.
On the transfer front, Boston College transfer Joe Sparacio made some plays, as did returning linebacker Luke Cameron. The Eagles will add Oklahoma State transfer kicker and punter Brady Pohl for the fall as they look to fill the shoes of the programs all-time leading scorer in Chad Ryland, who transferred to Maryland.
In his audition for the job, Jesus Gomez, a native of Mexico connected from 53 yards out, which is even more impressive when you consider the rain and the wind.
This year’s Eagles coaching staff features perhaps the most new faces since Coach Chris Creighton’s arrival, and one theme which stood out was energy. As I spoke about Powell fitting in with his teammates, there’s a buzz coming from the coaching and it was evident as you could tell none of the players minded playing in the cold rain.
The spring game serves as the first— and last— public look at Eastern football until September 2nd, when they play host to Eastern Kentucky to kick off the season.