As mentioned in the offensive skill positions preview, Central Michigan was a Top 25 offense in 2021, with Lew Nichols III leading the country in rushing, while QB Daniel Richardson was one of the MAC’s most efficient passers.
Part of the reason for their success is because of an offensive line unit which was one of the best collectives in the MAC, including two NFL Draft prospects at the tackle spots in Bernhard Raimann (selected by Indianapolis) and Luke Goedeke (selected by Tampa Bay.)
The line helped block for what was ultimately the third-best offense in the MAC, picking up 443.4 yards per game in total offense and 265.4 yards per game through the air, while blocking for Nichols’ 142.2 yards per game in 2021.
This season will see the return of a good majority of contributors from last season, with several position battles set to take place over the course of fall camps. Several underclassmen with promise should slot right in, with their progress in the offseason likely being the key to CMU’s offensive success this season.
It will be hard to replace the duo of Bernhard Raimann and Luke Goedeke, who were both all-MAC first-team contributors at their respective positions in 2021. There’s no denying that losing players of that caliber will have some effect on the offense moving into 2022, but there are still a number of prospects the Chippewa staff have faith in to fill the voids.
Manitowac, Wisconsin’s David Heinzen currently projects as a potential starter, standing at six-foot-five, 278 lbs. He played in four games in 2021, the minimum to retain a redshirt. Heinzen is a former high school tight end, which fits right in with the background and athletic profile of Reimann and Goedeke. His frame suggests he could be in the works to replace Goedeke.
Vashon Bailey, the Sunrise, Florida native, is also a candidate to nab a starting role, standing at an impressive six-foot-seven, 305 lbs. and playing in all 13 games, mostly on special teams. Bailey’s size would suggest he is in play to replace Raimann, who stood at an identical height and weight in 2021.
Other names who will be in contention for the tackle rotation include Hillsdale College [D-II] transfer Cole Johnson (six-foot-five, 290 lbs.), redshirt freshman Jonathan Decker (six-foot-five, 275 lbs.), freshman Martin Koivisto (six-foot-seven, 311 lbs.) and Bruno Guberinich (six-foot-five, 280 lbs.)
Unlike the outside spots, the interior of the line should have a lot of experience with some familiar names returning to the fore.
Athlon Sports pre-season second-team all-MAC center Jamezz Kimbrough returns for his third season as the anchor of the interior. He’ll be looking to prove himself to professional scouts as a fifth-year senior.
Keegan Smith will likely back up Kimbrough after seeing time in 12 games in 2021, with four starts along the interior positions, including at guard and center, and will likely see some rotation time with the left and right guard positions as well.
Tyden Ferris, the former high school teammate of Bernhard Raimann, and Bluefield, West Virginia’s Deiyantei Powell-Woods return with a combined 22 starts under their belts last season at the guard positions, giving CMU one of the most experienced interior lines in the MAC for a line which was one of the most effective in the country in the power running game.
Other names which will be in backing roles include the six-foot-four, 305 lb. Brayden Doyle, who saw action in nine games as a true freshman, and redshirt freshman Caden Dewald (six-foot-two, 275 lbs.) and Trevor Jones (six-foot-four, 275 lbs.)
The interior itself is fairly stout, averaging around six-foot-three, 289 lbs. per member, which should give some opposing defensive line fits.