Eastern Michigan landed some much needed depth to the defensive line on signing day, but one of those additions wasn’t from an incoming freshman.
Joe Keels (6’3 265lbs.) of the University of Nebraska decided he would finish his playing career at Eastern Michigan University as a graduate transfer. Since Keels was able to earn his degree in Sociology he was eligible to transfer without penalty.
At 9:10 Wednesday morning, Keels’ national letter of intent came through the fax machine in the EMU football offices, and not only was it a much-needed addition, but a solid addition to the 2016 roster.
EMU head coach Chris Creighton stated Keels, “should make an immediate impact on the field.”
Keels spent two seasons on Nebraska’s football team where he played in five games and had one unassisted tackle. He earned a spot on the 2014 Nebraska Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll and was one of ESPN’s top junior’s to watch in 2014.
Before committing to Nebraska, Keels spent his first season of collegiate football at the North Dakota College of Science, but sat out due to being medically redshirted. He then spent one season at Rochester Community College in Minnesota, recording 12.5 sacks in a single season. He then transferred to Highland Community College in Kansas ranking as one of the top five junior college defensive linemen in the country, having had 20 tackles and 2.5 sacks in the nine games he’d played in.
He’s listed as a 4-star prospect on 247sports.com’s composite ratings out of junior college, and as a 3-star prospect out of high school. In 2014, he racked up 19 scholarship offers from teams such as Alabama, Penn State, Wisconsin, USC, Texas, Oregon, Ohio State, Indiana and Nebraska where he would eventually reside.
Keels graduated from Bradford High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 2010 where he helped lead his team to the state semifinals. He recorded 65-tackles and eight sacks his senior season. Keels spent the first three years of his high school playing career at Mt. Zion High School in Wisconsin.
With the changes to the defensive side of the ball due to the hiring of new defensive coordinator Neal Neathery, EMU is switching to a four-man front. EMU’s weakest position a season ago is now shaking up to look a lot stronger.
Senior defensive end Pat O’Connor will return in 2016 after being sidelined the entire 2015 season with a shoulder injury. O’Connor was a 2015 preseason first team All-MAC selection, and in consideration for multiple year-end awards. Jeremiah Harris was also sidelined with a hand injury and will return for the 2016 season, along with returning players such as Luke MacLean, Maxx Crosby, Derrick Dunlap, Kwanii Figueroa, and many more on the defensive line.