EMU football welcomes 2016 signees on National Signing Day

It’s an exciting yet emotional day for high school seniors signing their national letter of intent to their future schools. It’s also a special day for college coaches who have been recruiting these kids for so long, and it’s finally the day they’ve all been waiting for.

“It’s a big deal when you’re choosing someone and they’re choosing you for one of the biggest decisions they’ve made in their life to this point, it’s super exciting,” Eastern Michigan football coach Chris Creighton said.

After two years at the helm of the football program at Eastern Michigan, Creighton and his staff have compiled a 3-21 record, but that hasn’t interfered with the effort and determination these coaches have put toward making EMU a noteworthy college football program, and recruiting high level players to compete in the Mid-American Conference.

“You’ve got to have courage and you’ve got to have a deep seed of confidence,” Creighton stated. “You’ve got to want a challenge and really believe you can be a part of the difference in making this thing happen.”

The 2016 class welcomes in 20 new signees and five players that enrolled in 2015, but are a part of the 2016 class. EMU brought in eight players from the state of Michigan, six from the Midwest region, and 11 others across the United States. This class provided an even balance with 12 offensive and 13 defensive players joining the roster.

“We had people last year from 16 different states,” Creighton stated. “We’re starting here in Michigan and then trying to find our people wherever they are, and these guys are choosing us. There’s a bond with that.”

Jake Donnellon (6’5 280lbs.) was EMU’s first signee of the day, a homegrown offensive lineman from Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard High School, and was later joined by another Michigan product in Paw Paw’s Mike VanHoevan (6’5 304lbs.).

“As soon as I started talking to Eastern, it just felt right,” VanHoevan said in an interview with Mlive.com’s Justin Dacey. “I wouldn’t have given it up for anything. There was no debate in my head.”

The two of them will be joined by a couple of junior college transfers in Jimmy Leatiota (6’3 290lbs.) and Steven Nielsen (6’8 320lbs.) who both enrolled early to help the depth of the offensive line.

The Michigan made men would also feature Clinton High School’s Mathew Sexton (5’11 170lbs.), a WR/RB who scored 99 touchdowns in his high school career and made it to the state championship game in his sophomore and senior seasons.

National Signing Day brings many surprises to college football programs across the country. There are guys who flip schools, reopen their recruitment, choose to commit on signing day and so on. Fortunately for Eastern Michigan most of those surprises were good surprises.

EMU’s struggles on the defensive side of the ball in 2015 sparked a few changes, as a new defensive coordinator in Neal Neathery takes the reigns, where a new style of defense will be implemented for the 2016 season. One of the major changes features a four-man front, as opposed to three.

Joe Keels, (6’3 265lbs.) a graduate transfer from the University of Nebraska, where he played in five games, announced on signing day he will join the EMU football program in hopes to make an immediate impact upfront.

Along with Keels, EMU adds Mike Smith Jr. (6’3 290lbs.) from Frostproof, Fla., Clayton Dryfuse (6’4 235lbs.) from Tiffin, Ohio, Chase Lynch (6’4 210lbs.) from Fenton, Mich., and Justice Williams (6’4 205lbs.) from Belleville, Mich. to add depth to the position.

EMU’s secondary improves with the help from five new signees. Ohaji Hawkins (6’2 166lbs.) from Winter Haven, Fla., and Vincent Calhoun (5’11 171lbs.) from Middletown, Ohio are among those five who made their commitments on signing day.

“Eastern Michigan was just showing me the most love,” said Vincent Calhoun in an interview with Tristatefootball.com. “I’m a leader and I’m going to bring toughness and character to the family.”

Ohaji Hawkins was a highly touted recruit and listed as a 3-star prospect by 247sports.com. After previously being a University of Utah commit, Hawkins reopened his recruitment in late January and visited EMU the day after.

Offensively, EMU adds a couple of new quarterbacks with junior college transfer and former Western Kentucky QB Todd Porter (6’3 185lbs.) from O’Fallon, Ill., and 3-star QB Isaac Stiebeling (6’4 195lbs.) from Fort Wayne, Ind.

“We saw him (Stiebeling) at a camp at Ohio State and could tell he was the leader in the group, and we got down on one knee and hoped he’d say yes, and he did,” said Creighton in his interview on Matt Shepard’s morning radio show on 1130 AM WDFN.

Creighton also stated it’s ideal to have four quarterbacks on scholarship and a few walk-ons, which is exactly what EMU now has with Brogan Roback, James Pensyl, Todd Porter and Isaac Stiebeling.

“It’s so exciting,” said Creighton. “It becomes the official membership to the football family here at Eastern.” He went on to say, “It’s more than just signing a letter and saying hey we’re on the same team we’re in the same color jersey. We’re all believing into it for the deeper purpose.” 

POS.

NAME

Height

Weight

Hometown-Previous School

S

Vincent Calhoun

5-11

171

Middletown, Ohio-Middletown

DB

Rashon Davis

5-11

165

St. Louis, Mo.-Christian Brothers College

OL

Jake Donnellon

6-5

280

Ann Arbor, Mich.-Gabriel Richard

DE

Clayton Dryfuse

6-4

235

Tiffin, Ohio-Columbian

CB

Ohaji Hawkins

6-2

166

Winter Haven, Fla.-Winter Haven

DE

Joe Keels

6-3

265

Kenosha, Wis.-Bradford-Univ. of Nebraska

OL

Jimmy Leatiota

6-3

290

San Jose, Calif.-Wilcox-College of San Mateo

LB

Tyler Lyle

6-0

210

Kalamazoo, Mich.-Kalamazoo Central

DL

Chase Lynch

6-4

210

Fenton, Mich.-Fenton

OL

Steven Nielsen

6-8

320

Dragoer, Denmark-La Lumiere (Ind.) School

RB

Willie Parker

5-9

185

Lutz, Fla.-Carrollwood Day School

CB

Jalen Phelps

5-10

171

Powder Springs, Ga.-Hillgrove

S

Jordan Porter

6-0

190

Colleyville, Texas-Heritage

QB

Todd Porter

6-3

185

O'Fallon, Ill.-O'Fallon-WKU-Garden City C.C.

WR

Mathew Sexton

5-11

170

Clinton, Mich.-Clinton

DL

Mike Smith Jr.

6-3

290

Frostproof, Fla.-Frostproof

QB

Isaac Stiebeling

6-4

195

Fort Wayne, Ind.-Snider

OL

Mike Van Hoeven

6-5

304

Paw Paw, Mich.-Paw Paw

WR

Josh Wilkes

6-2

170

Rock Hill, S.C.-South Pointe

DE

Justice Williams

6-4

205

Belleville, Mich.-Belleville

2015

Enrollees 

WR

Dieuly Aristilde

6-4

197

Boynton Beach, Fla.-Boynton Beach

TE

Sam Browning

6-5

233

Escondido, Calif.-Escondido-Palomar C.C.

TE

Sam Girodat

6-3

244

Jackson, Mich.-Lumen Christi

TE

Nigel Kilby

6-7

235

Fort Wayne, Ind.-Northrop

DL

Luke Maclean

6-5

261

Grand Blanc, Mich.-Grand Blanc-Pittsburgh


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