Eastern Michigan is fielding five coaches who have ties to the University of Michigan by having coached there, played there or done both.
To start, EMU is now led by former U-M defensive back coach and defensive coordinator Ron English. The former Michigan and Louisville defensive signal caller had plenty of success while coaching in Ann Arbor.
In 2007, English led the Wolverine defense to an eighth-ranked pass defense nationally, a team that defeated Florida in the Capital One Bowl.
As a former coach of the home team at Michigan, English acknowledged Monday in his weekly teleconference he knows the Big House isn’t an easy place to play.
“Michigan is a different animal,” he said. “There’s one way in and one way out. If you haven’t had experience there it can be distracting. Now that they have those boxes, I think that it’ll be a lot louder.
“The team has to make sure it doesn’t get caught up in the pageantry of it all. It’ll be a challenging environment. The Big House is a special place. I don’t care what side you’re on.”
Another big name on the coaching staff that knows plenty about the energy at Michigan Stadium is former first round NFL pick and Inkster product Tyrone Wheatley. While playing running back at Michigan, Wheatley vaulted himself to the status as one of the greatest backs to play at U-M.
In his illustrious college career, Wheatley ranks third all-time in career rushing and second all-time in touchdowns at Michigan. He was also named Big-Ten offensive player of the year in 1992 and the Rose Bowl MVP in 1993.
Wheatley knows all about playing in Michigan Stadium and admits the difficulties of heading back to where he set many all-time records.
“It’ll be bittersweet, but at the same time it’s like I never really left,” Wheatley said at practice on Tuesday. “I’ve played there, been in there several times, so it’s nothing really new. Each one of us coached or played there in different eras, so we all have our eras of what Michigan is among ourselves.”
While it won’t be unfamiliar on Saturday for Wheatley, he knows Michigan Stadium is different compared to other venues.
“It’s a special place you can’t deny it,” he said. “But at the same time we’re trying to put Eastern on the map and put Eastern in its rightful place.”
English and Wheatley understand the task that lies ahead this weekend won’t be a simple one. Michigan has started the season 2-0 with victories over MAC team Western Michigan and a nationally ranked Notre Dame.