Spring ball opening gives newcomers first chance to impress

Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain speaks with the media ahead of the New Mexico Bowl against San Diego State Dec. 20 at Isleta Resort and Casino in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

With the beginning of spring ball comes additions. 

Normally, it's only a few players who come in the spring, with the bulk of a team's signing day opting to finish high school and join the team in the fall. 

But this year, Central Michigan and coach Jim McElwain have a large crop of newcomers joining as spring ball begins. A large chunk of the Chippewas' 2020 recruiting class spent the fall semester at home and are coming to campus for the spring semester. They're with the team now and will participate in spring ball. 

"I'm excited to see what they're going to do to help this team get better next fall," McElwain said. 

The crop of newcomers isn't all freshmen, however. McElwain added three players, two sophomores and a junior, through the transfer portal. One of those transfers, Washington sophomore transfer Jacob Sirmon, is a contender for the team's starting quarterback position. 

Sirmon played three seasons at Washington and was the state's top recruit in the class of 2018. 

The other two transfers are former Michigan State linebacker Marcel Lewis and former Valdosta State defensive lineman Thomas Incoom. 

As for the freshmen, there are 24 players joining the team for the spring. Among those are a trio of running backs, Jordon Ingram, Myles Bailey and Marion Lukes, that McElwain is particularly excited about. All three were 3-star recruits coming out of high school, with Ingram being the highest rated member of the 2020 recruiting class.

"We've got a couple running backs," McElwain said. "We'll see when they put the pads on, but they move pretty well." 

Spring Arbor freshman quarterback Tyler Pape has also impressed with his leadership abilities. 

"I'm really encouraged with Tyler Pape," McElwain said. "Just seeing how he has taken a leadership role."

On the defensive line, Incoom is joined by fellow newcomers Jason Williams, Jonathan Decker, Marcus Young and Quindario Lee. Lee was originally part of the Chippewas' 2019 recruiting class but spent the season at Fort Scott Community College before transferring to CMU. 

"We've got some kids that are gonna come in and play," McElwain said. "They need to grow up and grow up in a hurry, because they're gonna have to come in and play some valuable snaps for us in the fall."

The other position McElwain noted specific excitement about was linebacker, where Lewis joins a talented group. Two-time All-MAC junior linebacker Troy Brown and fellow starter George Douglas -- another junior -- both return, as well as a talented group of newcomers who join the fold. 

Among the newcomers are Kyle Moretti, Lawai'a Brown, Cole Riddle and Dakota Cochran. Florida native Jayden Cray is also part of the group, though he is one of seven scholarship freshman with the team in 2019. 

"I'm really excited about our linebackers," McElwain said. "I think we've got three young guys there that are really gonna push that room. We need to create some depth and get some bodies in there and I'm really excited about that competition."

The Chippewas will also have eight seniors taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility: DB's Gage Kreski and Alonzo McCoy, WR JaCorey Sullivan, OL Derek Smith, DL Troy Hairston II and Robi Stuart, TE Hunter Buczkowski and LB Kumehnnu Gwilly. 

But for the freshmen, this spring offers a first opportunity to make an impression. The start of their careers was nowhere near normal, but now the time has come for them to make an impression.

"They had something taken away from them too, those freshmen," McElwain said. "They didn't get to experience what a freshman gets to experience. They actually came in and rejuvenated our team, just because their excitement to actually be in college and working out."

Here are the Chippewa newcomers heading into 2021 spring ball:
QB Jacob Sirmon (#3)
DL Thomas Incoom (#94)
LB Marcel Lewis (#12)
WR Nahree Biggins (#5)
RB Marion Lukes (#9)
QB Tyler Pape (#12)
LB Kyle Moretti (#22)
WR Matt Miller (#24)
RB Myles Bailey (#26)
RB Jordon Ingram (#27)
WR Chase Peddie (#30)
LB Lawai'a Brown (#40)
RB Jake Tafelski (#45)
LB Cole Riddle (#46)
TE Hunter Adams (#48)
LB Dakota Cochran (#52)
DL Jason Williams (#53)
DL Jonathan Decker (#54)
OL Braden Doyle (#55)
DL Marcus Young (#55)
OL Keegan Smith (#77)
WR Ke'Andre Collins (#81)
TE Mitchel Collier (#82)
TE Davis Heinzen (#86)
WR Keegan Monroe (#87)
DL Quindario Lee (#92)