The top Eastern Michigan football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
DT Pat O’Connor, Sr.
The All-MAC star and leader of the defense two years came up with a tremendous 2014 for a defense that had a hard time finding things to go right. The 6-4, 257-pound tackle made 64 tackles with 7.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss as one of the team’s few disruptive forces, but he had shoulder problems last season and missed the year. Able to play tackle or as a big end, he’d be ideal as a 3-4 end, but he spent the 2014 season in the interior getting off the ball in a hurry and doing a great job of getting behind the line – he’s got legitimate NFL talent.
S Jason Beck, Jr.
The team’s second-leading tackler, Beck had to make way too many plays to help save an awful run defense. He has the 6-1, 200-pound size to hold up just well enough against the run with 51 of his 80 tackles solo. Extremely athletic and with good range, he has the upside to start being more of a playmaker when the ball is in the air. If he can do that, he’ll be an All-MAC star.
QB Brogan Roback, Jr.
The star recruit of the 2013 recruiting class, he was supposed to come in and take the offense to another level. Now with Reginald Bell gone, Roback should have the position all to himself with the size, the arm, and just enough mobility to be a more dangerous force for the attack. He improved his completion percentage and his accuracy, getting up to 61% of his throws with 2,304 yards and 16 touchdowns, but with 11 picks. He’s good for around 200 passing yards per game – he needs to be a 300-yard bomber, though. EMU’s only win last year came when he threw for 330 yards.
RB Shaq Vann, Soph.
With Darius Jackson gone, it’ll be up to Vann to take over the rushing duties after finishing second on the team with 586 yards and five touchdowns averaging close to six yards per pop. The key in the win over Wyoming, the then-freshman ran for 129 yards and two scores. But he was reduced to a secondary role the rest of the way. At 5-10 and 206 pounds, he has decent size and tremendous speed, rocking as an Indiana state champion-level sprinter. He’s a big play waiting to happen.
LB Anthony Brown, Sr.
The team’s third-leading tackler, Brown came in from Iowa Western CC and worked in a variety of ways, making 66 tackles with a sack and 7.5 tackles for loss and a pick as a hybrid linebacker and defensive back. Built like a safety, the 5-11, 209-pounder can move and is good at getting in on the play, coming up with ten tackles against UMass before getting hurt and missing the finale against Central Michigan. He’s reliable for a defense that lacks reliability.
DE Luke MacLean, Jr.
The former Pitt Panther was a huge recruit for his old team, expected to become a big-time pass rusher and a top all-around defensive end. Now the 6-5, 261-pounder should be far more dangerous after generating five sacks with ten tackles for loss and 46 tackles. With his size and his good burst off the ball, he could become a statistical superstar if he puts all his tools and skills together.
WR Eddie Daugherty, Soph.
The team’s leader last season in receiving yards, Daugherty caught 37 passes for 557 yards and four touchdowns, and now he’s the sure-thing No. 1 target with other top wideouts Dustin Creel and Kris Strange gone. A feast-or-famine receiver, Daugherty hit the 100-yard mark three times, lighting up Wyoming, Army and Akron, but he was mediocre against everyone else. An elite athlete, he has the ability to do far more and be a more dangerous playmaker as a runner, receiver and kick returner – even at just 5-7 and 157 pounds.
OT Andrew Wylie, Sr.
The 6-6, 316-pound veteran lineman is back after working last season at right tackle. Versatile, he was a guard early on in his career and was often the best player up front, doing a great job two years ago on the inside after spending his freshman season at left tackle. He appears to have found a home on the right side, but he’ll move where needed on the veteran line.
LB Ike Spearman, Sr.
Can he get and stay healthy? The 6-0, 228-pound Spearman missed all of 2015 hurt with a leg injury, and missed most of last year hurt, too. But he was tremendous in 2013 making 82 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss. If he’s right, he’s a difference-making outside linebacker who can be used as a pass rusher, but it’s been a while since he’s been able to produce on a consistent level.
DT Mike Brown, Sr.
The EMU run defense might have been miserable, and Brown had his problems holding up, but he was just active enough to come up with 52 tackles and do what he could for the porous line. While he’s a bit smallish for an anchor on the interior, he’s just strong enough and quick enough to be a decent part of a veteran front.
S Juan Giraldo, Jr.
The 5-11, 195-pound former JUCO transfer from Arizona started his career at Mesa CC before taking over a spot in the EMU secondary. He’s a decent hitter with speed, making 58 tackles with three broken up passes. Now he needs to be a bigger playmaker as a key part of the secondary.