I’ve been updating this season’s transfer portal tracker a lot lately, mostly because things have really been speeding up over the past couple of months. Spring practices have come and gone, the head coaching shuffle at the FBS level is finally over, and the deadlines to figure out what everybody’s plans are for 2021 are making guys hurry up and finally make their final decisions.
Eastern Michigan’s had a run of incoming talent from FBS and FCS schools alike. Let’s take a look at the incoming players for the Eagles in 2021, via the transfer portal:
- S, Brandon Benson (Bucknell, FCS) — Benson’s first four years were spent at Bucknell, and now the first team All-Patriot League free safety is headed to EMU. For his career, Benson has registered 211 total tackles (120 solo) with 3 INT, 11 PD, 2 FF, and 2 FR.
- QB, Ben Bryant (Cincinnati) — Joined the team over the winter and participated in spring practices. There’s no official word out on whether or not he’ll start in front of Preston Hutchinson in his lone year as a grad transfer.
- RB, Jawon Hamilton (James Madison, FCS) — Committed to EMU today. Hamilton’s a one-year graduate transfer who originally started his college career at UCF from 2016-17 (15 games, 153 att., 546 yards, 5 TD) and suffered an early, season-ending injury in ’17. Hamilton transferred to James Madison where he got early playing time as the team’s kick return specialist and had 1,461 rushing yards over the last two seasons. A lot of people will instantly point to his 99-yard TD run in the FCS playoffs recently, but big plays from him as a running back or as a return specialist is something he’s done repeatedly for the Dukes. The Miami, Fla. native (South Dade HS) is listed at 5-8, 196.
- TE/DL, Dexter Manior (Navy) — Was with the team during the spring after he transferred from the Naval Academy as a first-year freshman. Manior has already switched from TE to DL during his time at EMU.
- OL, Cody Nawrot (Saint Francis, FCS) — Nawrot, from New Lennox, Ill., started his college career at Ohio Dominican in 2018, then transferred to Saint Francis to start in 10 games at LT in 2019. The team did not play in 2020. Nawrot entered the portal in April and joined EMU
- CB, Jarrett Paul (Rutgers) — EMU formally announced Paul’s addition Wednesday. Paul didn’t play in 2020, and had eight starts in 2019 as a free safety.
- WR, Dennis Smith (Duke) — Smith was a 3-star receiver out of Gaffney HS (SC) who had minimal playing time with the Blue Devils and is going to get his last shot in Ypsilanti. In 2020, Smith caught 16 passes on 31 targets (2 drops, 4 contested catches per PFF) for 235 yards and 1 TD. He’s listed at 6-2, 190.
- WR, I’Shawn Stewart (Oregon State) — Stewart’s from Illinois and only played in two games for Oregon State even after being an early enrollee in 2018. He’s listed as a junior with the Eagles, and he has a younger brother that’s super talented too.
The challenge, of course, will be getting these guys all coordinated and ready to play in just a few short months since not all of these guys have played with one another yet. EMU’s recognizing that the best way to supplement guys leaving the team with varying levels of experience is with guys that are more experienced and might see the field right away. This sport’s moving in a direction where it can’t always wait for freshman to come in and develop to see what kind of players you have, and I like how EMU’s made sure its added new faces through the portal across multiple positions on each side of the ball.