After winning their first bowl game in 35 years against San Jose State (the team that they won their first bowl game against), Eastern Michigan has to be riding high this year. They came within two minutes of winning the MAC West last year; if they had beat Toledo, they would have done that.
It was also a banner year for them as they got two players drafted to the NFL, a feat accomplished for the first time since 1976, when Michigan native Gerald Ford was President.
Before we get into what’s new, let’s get into what’s old.
Offensive guard Sidy Sow was drafted by the New England Patriots, while defensive end Jose Ramirez hear his name called by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The MVP of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl quarterback, Taylor Powell, graduated and is embarking on a CFL career with the Hamilton Ti-Cats. Also go are Gunnar Oakes (USFL’s MIchigan Panthers), Macellus Johnson, Richard Bates, Dylan Drummond (NFL’s Detroit Lions) and Hassan Beydoun.
While he is not new, Austin Smith should be moving into the starting quarterback position. Last year, he played in nine games and rushed for 225 yards and threw for 774 yards. He also scored eight touchdowns, including one against Arizona State. He had a 57 percent completion rating but four interceptions.
The ultra-dynamic Samson Evans will be returning to the running back spot as well. Last year, he played in 12 games and ran for 1166 yards. He scored 15 touchdowns. Joining him in the backfield will be former Lamar University Cardinal Jaylon Jackson. He played in 13 games last year for the Eagles, registering 425 yards and two touchdowns.
New at wide Receiver will be JB Mitchell III and Hanze El Zayat. Hanze comes to Eastern Michigan by way of Fordham. J.B. Mitchell III did not play last year. Tanner Knue will return to lead the room after a 2022 season which saw him play in 12 games, amass 632 receiving yards and score nine touchdowns.
Dimitri Douglas will be taking over at left guard from Sidy Sow and Mickey Revolinski will be taking over at center from Richard Bates. Other than than, there is not a ton of upheaval on the offensive line.
Carter Evans will be at the defensive end position, succeeding Jose Ramirez. He will have some tough shoes to fill as he is replacing a player that had one sack per game. Tim Grant-Randall will be taking over at the nose tackle position. Last year, he played in 10 games while recording nine solo tackles. Other than that, the defense remains relatively intact.
And for the most part, Eastern Michigan will stand pat on special teams. This is a boon for the team, as the all-MAC combo of placekicker Jesus Gomez (second-team) and punter Mitchell Tomazek (first-team) was one of the MAC’s best special teams units in 2022.
So what does all of this mean for the Eagles?
I am hoping that Eastern Michigan will be able to challenge for the MAC Championship. That seems to be the only thing that has eluded Coach Creighton so far in his transformational program-building tenure. The changes that have been made to Eagles aren’t really all that major and I think they will be fine.
There’s sometimes comfort in knowing that not a lot of what you love has changed; that’s certainly the case for EMU.
This is the first in a series of Eastern Michigan football previews, with our next piece addressing the offensive skill positions. Please look forward to that!
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].