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2023 Eastern Michigan Eagles Positional Previews: Offensive line

A reliably tough offensive line returns to make hay of opposing defensive fronts in 2023.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 Eastern Michigan at Western Michigan Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If the offensive line can’t block well, the quarterback can’t really pass and the running backs can’t really set up their runs. It’s a basic tenet of football.

One of the reasons why I think Eastern Michigan has a shot is that they are returning an experienced line which has shown signs of improvements over the years. Considering how successful the Eagles were, that's a great sign for the upcoming season.

Last year, that experienced line guided an offense that averaged 140 yards on the ground and 223 yards in the air, putting EMU 88th in the NCAA in total offense. That’s on par with Miami [FL] and above several notable Power Five teams such as Wisconsin, Michigan State and Cal. EMU does lose one notable payer in all-MAC guard Sidy Sow, who is currently with the New England Patriots, but Chris Creighton has always managed to find contributors along the offensive line.

Football Outsiders is a bit more optimistic in the offensive line than the raw NCAA offensive numbers suggest; the Eagles were a unit which scored 65th in average line yards (2.72) and 66th in stuff rate (18 percent), while putting up an incredible 87.8 percent number in “power success rate”, an indication of their ability to open up running lanes on key downs.

If there’s an area sorely in need of improvement, it’s their passblocking. EMU was one of the worst teams in the country in sacks allowed, with 32 overall. It was particularly gruesome in obvious passing downs, as their average sack rate (7.2 percent; 85th), which was already concerning, ballooned up to 11.5 percent (115th) in such scenarios.

Based on Eastern Michigan’s media guide, the projected starting offensive line will likely look something like this:

  • Left tackle Zach Conti
  • Left guard Mickey Rewolinski
  • Center Dimitri Douglas
  • Right guard Alex Howie
  • Right tackle Brian Dooley

When we talk experience, it’s not a joke; Dooley, Howie and Douglas are all graduate students, while Conti is a senior and Rewolinski is a junior. Not one underclassmen is on the line, an indication of Eastern’s depth and expereince at the position.

Brian Dooley started in 12 games last year and was named to the second-team all-MAC squad. He is definitely one of the anchors of the line, having played in 49 games total with 47 starts. Brian Dooley also made the news recently by giving up his scholarship for a teammate. If there is one thing I know about an offensive line, it is a team and that is one heck of a way to show team spirit.

The rest of the line hasn’t started as many games but they have made appearance in most of Eastern Michigan’s games. Howie, the projected starting right guard, has the most returning experience after Dooley, with 24 appearances and 14 starts on the right side. Fellow guard Rewloinksi has 12 total appearances in the guard rotation. Conti has 20 appearances as a rotation tackle and Douglas anchors the line at center with eight appearances and three starts after a four-year stint Michigan State.

With much of the same staff still in place, and a good majority of the returnees having lots of game or system experience, the EMU offensive line should once again be one of the more reliable units in the MAC in 2023.

This is the second in a series of Eastern Michigan football previews, with our next piece addressing the defensive front seven positions. Please look forward to that! If you missed any of our previous pieces, please check out our preseason previews storystream here.

EMU’s season kicks off Friday, Sept. 1st at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where they are set to play the Howard Bison [FCS].