Total of 19 Eagles are honored on All-Big Sky Conference team, including seven first team selections from the Big Sky co-champions
With seasons that defined Eastern Washington University’s football success on both sides of the ball, senior linebacker J.C. Sherritt and junior running back Taiwan Jones have been selected as Big Sky Conference Players of the Year in voting by the league’s nine head coaches, it was announced on Tuesday (Nov. 23).
It was the third time since 1997 that Eastern players have been honored with both player of the year honors in the same year. Quarterback Harry Leons and defensive tackle Chris Scott were honored in 1997, and quarterback Erik Meyer and linebacker Joey Cwik won in 2005.
Eastern players have now earned the offensive award eight times -- including seven of the last 10 seasons since 2000 -- and five have been honored on defense.
“They worked hard for those two honors,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. “Individual honors are in direct relation to your team’s success and the players around them. Even though they honored J.C. and Taiwan as players of the year, they would be the first to say that in a way, those are still team honors. Everybody is excited for those two players.”
Both players were among the seven Eagles who earned first team All-Big Sky Conference honors, including junior defensive tackle Renard Williams, who also earned first team accolades as a sophomore. The others were sophomore wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, junior center Chris Powers, junior safety Matt Johnson and junior special teams standout Darriell Beaumonte.
Johnson’s twin brother, linebacker Zach Johnson, was among the trio of second team selections. The others were junior offensive tackle Gabriel Jackson and senior cornerback Dante Calcote. Eastern’s 12 honorable mention selections included offensive guard Steven Forgette, senior wide receiver Ashton Gant, senior tight end Matt Martin, quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, offensive guard Nikolai Myers, senior defensive tackle Tyler Jolley, sophomore safety Jeff Minnerly, senior punter Cameron Zuber and senior return specialist Jesse Hoffman.
A total of 19 players were honored. The Eagles continue their season in the NCAA Football Subdivision Playoffs on Dec. 4 when Eastern hosts Southeast Missouri State at 1:05 p.m. Pacific time at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash. The Eagles will take a seven-game winning streak into that game.
“It’s amazing and well-deserved,” said Baldwin of having 19 players honored. “These players have worked hard all year, and a lot of time more players are honored when your team has success. All of these honors are a reflection of what the team did.”
Jones has 1,344 yards this season to rank as the fourth-best performance in school history, ahead of the 1,216 he had last season. He has recorded the 15th 1,000-yard rushing performance in school history this season, including 11 in the last 16 seasons (1995-2010).
Jones enters the NCAA FCS Playoffs with a string of five-straight 100-yard rushing performances, with a total of 778 yards (155.6 per game), an 8.3 average per rush and eight touchdowns in those five games. He now has 13 100-yard rushing performances in 22 career games as a running back, and seven this season. After rushing for 455 yards in his first three games, injuries limited him to 111 in the next two games he played (in addition to one game missed).
He now has an average of 134.4 yards per game that ranks fourth in the NCAA Championship Subdivision. After leading the nation in all-purpose yards per game for several weeks early in the year, Jones is currently second with an average of 195.1 yards (rushing, receiving, returns) per game. He is also 15th in scoring (8.49 per game with 14 total touchdowns).
Jones, who averaged an impressive 7.5 yards per carry as a sophomore, was named to the initial 2010 Walter Payton Award Watch List this past summer by The Sports Network and is on the voting list. He’s lived up to that billing with a current average of 7.6 yards per rush to lead FCS (among the top 44 rushers averaging at least 75 yards per game), giving him a 7.6 average per rush in his career.
Sherritt is EWU’s leading tackler thus far with 125 for the season, an average of 11.36 per game that ranks 10th in FCS. Last season, the 2006 graduate of Pullman, Wash., High School led FCS with an average of just over 14 per game.
Sherritt is second in school history in career tackles with a total of 381, and the senior strong-side inside linebacker needs just 19 more to break the school record of 399 held by Greg Belzer (1997-2000). Sherritt already holds school and league records with 170 tackles in the 2009 season and 24 tackles against Weber State on Oct. 10, 2009. He also has six career interceptions to go along with 11 passes broken up, five forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and a pair of sacks, with a total of 31 1/2 tackles for loss totaling 72 yards in losses.
A year after finishing second in the voting, Sherritt was selected to the 20-player watch list for the 2010 Buck Buchanan Award awarded by The Sports Network to the top defensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. He is on the voting list for this year’s award.
Williams, who had nine sacks to earn first team All-Big Sky Conference honors a year ago, had his first sack of the season against Weber State on Oct. 2. He added another versus Southern Utah on Nov. 13 and Idaho State on Nov. 20, and has 3 1/2 for the season.
He now has 14.5 in his career as he nears Eastern’s all-time leaders list. Currently 12th, with 15.5 sacks, is Brandon Moore (1999-02). Constantly drawing double teams from opposing teams, Williams has 95 tackles in his 34-game career, including 29 for losses totaling 167 yards.
The Johnson twins have had big games for seven consecutive weeks. In those seven -- all victories -- they have combined for 119 tackles, four interceptions and eight passes broken up.
Matt now ranks fourth in school history in interceptions with 14, and he is now just four interceptions away from the school record of 18 set by Mike Richter from 1971-75. The only other players ahead of him are former NFL 10-year veteran Kurt Schulz (EWU letter winner 1988-91) and long-time Canadian Football League standout Jackie Kellogg (1990-93) with 17 each.
Matt now has 257 tackles in his career to move into ninth all-time at Eastern, and has had four interceptions this season to help Eastern rank second in FCS (20). So far this season, Zach is second on the team with 96 tackles and Matt is right behind with 73. Zach currently has 192 tackles in his 22-game career for an average of 8.7 per game compared to the 7.6 average for his brother (34 games).
Kaufman is proving to be Eastern’s go-to receiver, catching a team-leading 55 passes for 922 yards and 12 touchdowns thus far. He has caught touchdown passes in nine of 11 games this season, including his last seven with a pair of fourth-quarter game-winners.
He ranks 20th in FCS in receiving yards per game (83.8), is 46th in receptions per game (5.00) and his 12 touchdown catches are the fourth-most in FCS. Kaufman has had 100-yard receiving performances against Montana on Sept. 18 (five catches for 119 yards), Weber State on Oct. 2 (five catches for 138 yards), Northern Arizona on Oct. 9 (five catches for 117 yards) and Southern Utah on Nov. 13 (nine catches for 192 yards).
Powers represents the 19th time an Eastern offensive lineman has earned All-Big Sky Conference honors in the last 18 years since 1993. Eastern currently ranks 20th in FCS in total offense (404.3 yards per game), as well as rankings of 22nd in passing (245.6), 46th in rushing (158.6) and 23rd in scoring (30.6). Three of his linemates -- Jackson, Myers and Forgette -- were also honored by the league this year.
Beaumonte was once a blocking fullback in Eastern’s offense, but now he’s doing a different kind of blocking. After leading 28-10 at intermission against Portland State on Oct. 30, the Eagles turned a blocked punt by Beaumonte into a recovery for a touchdown by T.J. Lee to increase the advantage to 18. He also had a huge special teams play in EWU’s 36-27 victory over Montana on Sept. 18 by blocking a punt that he returned himself six yards for a score to wipe out Montana’s last lead of the day. It was EWU’s first blocked punt returned for a TD since 2004.
Also a kickoff and punt coverage special teams standout, Beaumonte has been credited with 23 tackles in his career. He had three in 2008, eight in 2009 and 12 thus far in 2010.
A former quarterback, Minnerly had a team-high eight tackles in his starting debut and debut as a safety versus Nevada on Sept. 2. He then had four tackles, a forced fumble and his first career interception in a 21-14 win over Northern Arizona on Oct 9. His other interception came on Oct. 23 versus Sacramento State.
Mitchell, a Southern Methodist University transfer Bo Levi Mitchell has completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 2,583 yards, 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, and a passing efficiency rating of 134.7. In NCAA Football Championship Subdivision statistics, he ranks 20th in passing offense (234.8 yards per game), 27th in total offense (239.0) and 27th in efficiency (134.7).
Martin is the only senior to have played in all 47 games for the Eagles in the past four seasons, helping the Eagles to a 32-15 record overall and 24-8 Big Sky Conference mark. He has started 16 games at tight end, and has 13 catches for 116 yards this season to go along with career totals of 39 receptions for 349 yards and three touchdowns.
Jolley has played in 43 games in his career, including 27 as a starter. He has 44 tackles with a team-leading 4 1/2 sacks this season, giving him career totals of 126 tackles, 10 sacks, three blocked kicks and nine passes broken up.
Gant, a former high school teammate of Sherritt’s at Pullman High School, is second on the team with 36 receptions for 321 yards and four touchdowns. In his 33-game career, he has 52 receptions for 529 yards and five scores.
Zuber has a 40.52 average this season to rank 23rd in FCS, with 18 of his 50 punts downed inside the 20. Zuber currently has a 40.2 career average, good enough to rank fifth in EWU history. Last year he had a 39.9 average with 14 of his 43 punts downed inside the 20.
Hoffman has returned a pair of kickoffs for scores this season and would rank second in FCS in average per kickoff return (32.17) if he had enough attempts (1.2 per game) to qualify. Hoffman’s career average of 26.3 yards on 24 career returns now ranks fourth in school history. Hoffman also has four passes broken up, giving him nine for the season. He added six total tackles and ranks fifth on the team with 49 stops.
Co-Offensive Player of the Year
22 - Taiwan Jones - Running Back - 6-1 - 200 - Jr. - 2L* - Antioch, Calif. (Deer Valley HS ’07)
Defensive Player of the Year
4 - J.C. Sherritt - Linebacker - 5-10 - 220 - Sr. - 3L* - Pullman, Wash. (Pullman HS ’06)
22 - Taiwan Jones - Running Back - 6-1 - 200 - Jr. - 2L* - Antioch, Calif. (Deer Valley HS ’07)
1 - Brandon Kaufman - Wide Receiver - 6-5 - 205 - So. - 1L - Denver, Colo. (Heritage HS ’09)
78 - Chris Powers - Center - 6-2 - 270 - Jr. - 1L* - Black Diamond, Wash. (Tahoma HS ’07)
5 - Matt Johnson - Safety - 6-2 - 220 - Jr. - 2L* - Tumwater, Wash. (Tumwater HS ’07)
4 - J.C. Sherritt - Outside Linebacker - 5-10 - 220 - Sr. - 3L* - Pullman, Wash. (Pullman HS ’06)
98 - Renard Williams - Defensive Tackle - 6-2 - 300 - Jr. - 2L* - Port Orchard, Wash. (South Kitsap HS ’07)
30 - Darriell Beaumonte - Special Teams - 5-11 - 205 - Jr. - 2L* - Lakewood, Wash. (Clover Park HS ’07)
60 - Gabriel Jackson - Offensive Tackle - 6-4 - 275 - Jr. - 2L* - Tacoma, Wash. (Mount Tahoma HS ’06)
28 - Dante Calcote - Cornerback - 5-8 - 160 - Sr. - 3L* - Seattle, Wash. (Renton HS ’06)
10 - Zach Johnson - Outside Linebacker - 6-1 - 225 - Jr. - 1L* - Tumwater, Wash. (Tumwater HS ’07)
70 - Steven Forgette - Offensive Guard - 6-4 - 280 - Fr. - HS* - Vancouver, Wash. (Heritage HS ’09)
2 - Ashton Gant - Wide Receiver - 5-10 - 180 - Sr. - 3L* - Pullman, Wash. (Pullman HS ’06)
82 - Matt Martin - Tight End - 6-2 - 240 - Sr. - 3L* - La Crosse, Wash. (La Crosse-Washtucna HS ’06)
9 - Bo Levi Mitchell - Quarterback - 6-2 - 210 - Jr. - TR - Katy, Texas (Katy HS ’08 & Southern Methodist)
72 - Nikolai Myers - Offensive Guard - 6-4 - 295 - Sr. - 2L* - Seattle, Wash. (Ingraham HS ’06)
49 - Tyler Jolley - Defensive Tackle - 6-3 - 285 - Sr. - 3L* - Nine Mile Falls, Wash. (East Valley HS ’06)
7 - Jeff Minnerly - Safety - 6-1 - 190 - So. - 1L* - Spokane, Wash. (Ferris HS ’08)
45 - Cameron Zuber - Punter - 6-0 - 180 - Sr. - 1L* - Chehalis, Wash. (W.F. West HS ’06)
21 - Jesse Hoffman - Return Specialist - 6-2 - 210 - Sr. - 3L* - Seattle, Wash. (Shorecrest HS ’06)