CMU Football rebuilds offensive line with William Vlachos at helm
As the NFL Draft approaches, former offensive linemen Bernhard Raimann and Luke Goedeke wait to hear their names on April 28.
Although their absence looms large, Central Michigan football offensive line coach William Vlachos believes the program is in good hands.
"There is a rich tradition of offensive lineman here," Vlachos said. "I think that helps in recruiting, which is certainly part of this job. Yes, there is a lot to live up to. But the people before me have recruited good players, and we've got good players in that room. It's the next-man-up mentality. I think people will be pleased with the two offensive tackles that we trot out there on opening day."
On Jan. 18, 2021, news broke that long-time offensive line coach Mike Cummings was leaving the program for a similar position at the University of Cincinnati.
Head Coach Jim McElwain found Cummings’ replacement in a familiar face.
"We had a close rapport when (McElwain) coached me," Vlachos said. "I know what the guy's about. I know what he stands for. I know what type of culture his team is going to have."
A member of Alabama’s All-Decade team (2010-19), Vlachos played center for McElwain during his time as offensive coordinator. Ultimately, he was a part of two BCS National Championships.
After beginning his career as an assistant at his alma mater, Vlachos was a part of two more National Championships. His time in Tuscaloosa led him to Colorado as its quality control/defensive blitz & offensive front specialist. Then Vlachos received a call from Joe Pendry, his offensive line coach at Alabama.
"(Pendry) called me early in the morning on like a random Monday, and he said, '(McElwain) was trying to figure out if you'd be interested or not,’” Vlachos said. “I said, ‘Well, tell him I'm interested.’"
Within a few hours, Vlachos phone rang once again. This time it was McElwain offering him the job. He accepted.
"His message to me was be yourself, be a team guy," Vlachos said. "Just get along with everybody and try to make this thing as good as we can make. he's given me a lot of leeway to do what I want relative to the offensive schemes I'd like to deploy.
"(McElwain's) also helped me become a professional. There are parts of the business that maybe I'm not an expert at, but he certainly is with the experiences he's had in his career. So it's a two-way street. And it's been a great experience so far."
Although he had prior knowledge of CMU football’s history, the energy around the program from people on campus has been an unforeseen perk of the job.
"People are all in about football," Vlachos said. "It's a football town. We've got kids driving from Wisconsin, Illinois, and all over the place, just to come for seven-eight hours to come to a junior day three hours. You know, that only happens in parts of the country where football is king. We didn't quite have that in my last stop at Colorado. So I'm pleased to be back somewhere where football is. It just makes your job more fun and more satisfying."
Under-promise and Over-deliver
Although the Chippewas are experiencing turnover in multiple areas going into the 2022 season, no absences are as glaring as that of Raimann and Goedeke.
However, in their absence, Vlachos believes senior center Jamezz Kimbrough has taken over the reins of the offensive line.
“It's (Kimbrough's) show," Vlachos said. "He has played the most. He has experienced the most.”
With Kimbrough leading the way, Vlachos feels the talent in the offensive line room could result in another highly attended pro day in Mount Pleasant.
"I believe in under-promising and over-delivering," Vlachos said. "I'm not gonna promise you the world relative to how we'll replace those two tackles. But I feel pretty good about the guys we've got in there. (Brayden) Swartout and (Davis) Heinzen, as long as they can stay healthy, there might be a pro day or two, a couple of years down the road, with similar attendance. Those guys are talented players, have been working hard, and really bought in some of the techniques and schemes we're teaching. But (Kimbrough), to me, is the one that makes the whole thing go."
In addition to feeling secure in his bookends, Vlachos has been impressed with the play of his guards during spring camp.
"(Deiyantei) Powell-Woods has been outstanding," Vlachos said. "Tyden Ferris is a guy who has been here a long time and played a lot of football. We had some hungry young pups that are under development in a hurry."
Vlachos hopes to produce ‘tough and smart’ players and he believes Martin Koivisto fits that mold.
Hailing from Shakopee, Minnesota, the 6-foot-7 311-pound freshman took part in CMU’s spring camp after enrolling early.
"(Koivisto's) done a really good job," Vlachos said. "He's gonna be a good player. He's swimming a little bit, especially in the periods where we go, one defense versus two offense. Where (Koivisto's) going against (Bristol) and (Incoom). That's been a great learning opportunity for him, trial by fire if you will, but he's had a great attitude.”