Eagles Hoping to Make Believers Out of Beavers
Ranked 4th in FCS, Eastern opens 2013 season against nationally-ranked Oregon State after near-misses previous two seasons versus Pac-12 foes
Eastern Washington Univ. “Eagles”
Oregon State University “Beavers”
Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013 • 3:07 p.m.
Reser Stadium (45,674) • Corvallis, Ore.
EWU Coach: Beau Baldwin (Central Washington ‘96)
School Record: 44-19/30-10 Big Sky Conference (6th Season)
Career Record: 54-22 (7th Season -- was 10-3 at CWU in 2007, 6-5 at EWU in 2008, 8-4 at EWU in 2009, 13-2 in 2010, 6-5 in 2011, 11-3 in 2012)
2013: 0-0/0-0 Big Sky
2012: 11-3/7-1 Big Sky Conference (co-champ; FCS Playoffs semifinals)
Last Game: Sam Houston State 45, Eastern 42 (Dec. 15 in Cheney, Wash.)
TV: Pac-12 Networks. Talent: Roxy Bernstein, Anthony Herron.
Radio: 700-AM ESPN in Spokane. Larry Weir returns for his 23rd season calling the play-by-play, with analysis handled by Paul Sorensen and sideline commentary by Keith Osso. Osso will also serve as host of the Washington Trust Bank Tailgate Show, starting 1 1/2 hours prior to kickoff.
Internet Radio: www.700espn.com or www.tunein.com
Radio iPhone App: Search for “700 ESPN” and download app. An app is also available for tunein radio.
Live Stats: http://www.osubeavers.com
Weekly Coaches Show: Mondays 6 p.m. at “Epic” at Northern Quest Resort & Casino (formerly the “Q”) . . . 700-AM ESPN, www.700espn.com & via iphone app. (search for “Spokane Radio” and download app).
Watch Parties: Eagle Watch Parties will take place at “Epic” at Northern Quest Casino and Resort in Airway Heights, the Swinging Doors in North Spokane and at Eagles Pub in Cheney.
Like they did against the Huskies and Cougars, the Eagles are trying to make believers out of the Beavers.
The Eastern Washington University football team opens its 2013 season against Oregon State University this Saturday (Aug. 31) in a game that begins at 3:07 p.m. Pacific time and is televised by the Pac-12 Networks.
The Eagles are a member of the Big Sky Conference and ranked fourth in the Sports Network preseason top-25 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision poll, and are third by the coaches. The Beavers are from the Pac-12 Conference, and are ranked 25th in both the Associated Press and USA Today (coaches) polls in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.
This is the third-straight year the Eagles have played teams from the Pac-12 Conference, and the previous two years Eastern had last-possession chances to take the lead and possibly pull off the upset. Eastern fell 24-20 at Washington State last Sept. 8, and 30-27 to Washington on Sept. 3 in 2011.
“I love being in those environments competing, fighting and putting it all out there,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who enters his sixth season at the helm. “Our players love it. Our guys grew up hoping to get recruited by a Pac-12 school, so when they get a chance at Eastern Washington to play a team from that conference, they want to show that they are right there with them.”
In 2012, the Eagles finished 11-3 overall and advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs. A total of 48 returning letterwinners are back for EWU, including seven starters on offense and five on defense (not counting injured safety Jordan Tonani).
In 2012, Oregon State was 9-4 overall and 6-1 in the Pac-12 Conference, and finished the year ranked 19th nationally. The Beavers ended the season by losing 31-27 to Texas is the Valero Alamo Bowl, but OSU returns 15 starters and a combined 302 career starts. By contrast, EWU returns 12 starters and has 33 players returning with 301 career starts between them.
This is the 10th time Eastern has played a current member of the Pac-12 Conference, and Eastern came away winless in the first nine. Included was a 56-17 loss at Oregon State in 2006 when the Eagles fell behind 35-0, as well as a narrow 21-19 loss in 2000 in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. In that first meeting, Eastern pulled to within two points with 3:16 to play, but Oregon State picked up a first down on the ensuing possession and was able to run out most of the remaining time on the clock before punting on the final play of the game.
Since the early 1980’s when it began the move to become a member of FCS (in 1984), Eastern is now 8-20 all-time versus FBS teams. A 20-3 win at Idaho to open the 2012 season snapped a 10-game skid.
“Luckily, we have a lot of veterans who have been a part of our games at the University of Washington and WSU, and playoff games last year and in 2010,” said Baldwin, who coached the Eagles to the 2010 NCAA Division I title. “Younger players who have not been a part of that can lean on the older guys to see how they are reacting to every situation.
Official Social Media Sites
Facebook:EWU Football, EWU Athletics
PDF Link to Fact Book
The complete version of the 2013 EWU football fact book may be
More Eagle Football Links and Headlines
EWU Football Web Page - http://goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/index
EWU Football News & Notes - http://www.goeags.com/sports/m-footbl/2013-14/news
Link to Football Ticket & RV Parking Information: http://www.goeags.com/tickets
Big Sky Conference Football - http://www.bigskyconf.com/index.aspx?tab=football&path=football
Spokane Spokesman-Review EWU Football Page - http://www.spokesman.com/eagles
700 ESPN – http://700espn.com
The Sports Network (FCS Football) - http://www.sportsnetwork.com/merge/tsnform.aspx?c=sportsnetwork&page=cfoot2/indexpic.htm
NCAA FCS Football - http://www.ncaafootball.com/DivisionIFCS.aspx
NCAA Statistics (2013) - http://web1.ncaa.org/mfb/mainpage.jsp?year=2013
NCAA Statistics (2012) - http://web1.ncaa.org/mfb/mainpage.jsp?year=2012
College Sporting News - http://www.collegesportingnews.com
College Sports Journal - http://www.college-sports-journal.com
College Football Performance Awards – http://www.collegefootballperformance.com
College Sports Madness - http://www.collegesportsmadness.com/fcs-football
* The Eagles have eight former players who previously spent time on rosters of Pac-12 teams. Included is UCLA transfer Tevin McDonald, who had 135 tackles in 27 career games (24 starts) the past two seasons for the Bruins. Offensive tackle Jake Rodgers started all 12 games at Washington State last year. Running back Demitrius Bronson and Andru Pulu both saw action previously at Washington, while the others – Zackary Johnson (WSU), Derek Weston (UW), Blair Bomber (WSU) and Jake Miller (WSU) were on Pac-12 squads but never played.
* Freshman redshirt wide receiver Cooper Kupp spent part of the summer in 2013 working at the Manning Passing Academy as a college counselor/coach. While in high school he previously attended the camp, which is run by Archie Manning, the father of NFL quarterbacks Eli and Peyton Manning. Archie is a former New Orleans Saints teammate of Cooper’s grandfather, Jake Kupp.
* Sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. and several other Eagles helped at the Russell Wilson Passing Academy in Spokane this past summer. Adams and Wilson – the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks -- are similar in stature and ability, and will continue to draw comparisons as Adams’ career progresses. Adams, in fact, is now wearing jersey No. 3 for the Eagles – the same number Wilson wears -- after donning No. 16 as a freshman redshirt last season. The switch is unrelated to Wilson -- Adams wore No. 3 in high school and asked for that number after it became available when wide receiver Greg Herd graduated.
* If Eastern’s depth chart holds true, only three or four positions will have players making their first starts as Eagles this week – and two of the three positions could be manned by former starters in the Pac-12 Conference. Redshirt freshman Cooper Kupp is expected to start at wide receiver. Jake Rodgers, a 12-game starter at Washington State last season, is slated to start at right tackle and would be making his Eagle starting debut. The other Eagle starting debut will be by safety Tevin McDonald, who started 24 games the past two seasons at UCLA. At right guard, sophomore Aaron Neary is competing for the starting assignment.
* Besides starting wide receiver Cooper Kupp, five other redshirt freshmen are currently on Eastern’s two-deep and are expected to make their Eagle debuts this week. They include linebacker Miquiyah Zamora, who is also expected to see extensive action on special teams, as well as safety Zach Bruce. Running backs Jabari Wilson and Jalen Moore could also see their first action in Eagle uniforms this week. Will Boule is also on the two-deep as a backup at left offensive tackle. In addition, redshirt freshman Zach Wimberly could see action as a tight end after moving to that position on Aug. 22.
* As many as seven true freshmen could possibly play for the Eagles this season. They include linebackers Albert Havili and Jake Gall, defensive linemen Matthew Sommer, Samson Ebukam and Joe Douglas, wide receiver Kendrick Bourne and kicker Christian Fanning. Some of those five may also redshirt this season, along with the other 11 true freshmen on EWU’s roster.
* Eastern has nine players from the state of Oregon on its roster, and six more just across the border in Vancouver, Wash. Among the players from Oregon are six returning letterwinners -- senior kicker Kevin Miller (Portland/Centennial HS), senior offensive guard Brandon Murphy (Albany/West Albany HS), senior tight end Cody Humphrey (Hermiston/Hermiston HS), sophomore linebacker Jordan Talley (Portland/Jesuit), sophomore cornerback Miles Weatheroy (Portland/Jesuit) and sophomore tight end Jake Withnell (Salem/South Salem HS). Newcomers from Oregon in the Eastern program are defensive lineman Samson Ebukam (Portland/David Douglas HS), wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (Portland/Milwaukie Arts Academy) and defensive lineman Matthew Sommer (Salem/West Salem HS). Interestingly, Sommer moves from playing on the first black artificial turf field in the nation at West Salem to the first red turf field at EWU.
* Team co-captains for the 2013 season include a quartet of seniors from high schools in the state of Washington -- center Ashton Miller, senior wide receiver Ashton Clark, senior safety Allen Brown and junior linebacker Ronnie Hamilton. The players were selected by a vote of their teammates.
* Eastern’s offensive units piled up 795 yards in 147 plays (5.4 per play) in two preseason scrimmages. Sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams accounted for 285 of the yards – 242 passing and 43 rushing – with five touchdown passes and one TD rushing.
* A total of 15 Eastern players were honored on preseason All-America lists, All-Big Sky Conference teams and positional rankings released this summer by NCAA Football Championships Subdivision media outlets. Preseason All-America accolades were received by cornerback T.J. Lee III offensive lineman Steven Forgette and linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, who was also named to the watch list for the Buck Buchanan Award presented by The Sports Network to the top defensive player in FCS.
* Eastern, which ranked fourth in the final regular season Sports Network Top-25 poll and was seeded second in the playoffs, finished the 2012 season 11-3. It was the fourth 10+ win in school history (joining the 2010, 1997 and 1967 squads), and came on the heels of EWU’s sixth Big Sky Conference Championship in football. Eastern entered the 2013 season ranked fourth in The Sports Network preseason Top-25 poll, and was ranked third by the coaches.
* The Eagles are one of just five schools in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision to advance to the playoffs six times in the last nine seasons (2004-2012), and EWU hopes to add to that this year. Eastern’s 2012 season ended with a 45-42 loss to Sam Houston State in the semifinals, denying the Eagles a repeat trip to Texas to play for the NCAA Division I title they won in 2010.
* Among the returning letterwinners are seven starters on offense and 5 1/2 on defense, as well as the school’s punter and kickoff specialist. Three All-Americans (linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, cornerback T.J. Lee, offensive guard Steven Forgette) and three others who earned Freshman All-America accolades (quarterback Vernon Adams, safety Jordan Tonani and return specialist Shaquille Hill) are among the returning players. Tonani, a seven game starter in 2012, will miss the 2013 season because of hip surgery.
* The Eagles lost all three of their starting wide receivers, three of four starting defensive linemen and a pair of starting linebackers. But at each position, EWU has plenty of returning letterwinners, plus a strong group of redshirt freshmen waiting in the wings.
* A total of 33 players with 301 career starts return for the 2013 season, including 174 starts by 19 players on offense and 127 starts by 14 players on defense. A year ago, the Eagles returned 40 players with a combined 348 starts between them entering the 2012 season. In 2011, the Eagles returned 30 players with a combined 335 starts. In EWU’s national championship season in 2010, a total of 24 players with starting experience (total of 196 starts) returned.
* Eastern lost three wide receivers who all earned All-America accolades and had 1,000-yard seasons in their careers. The top returning receiver is senior Ashton Clark, who has 83 catches for 1,091 yards and nine touchdowns in his career. He finished the 2012 season third on the team with 49 grabs for 650 yards and five scores, including a career-high 11 catches versus Southern Utah (10/27/12). Eastern also returns a trio of other returning letterwinners – senior Daniel Johnson, junior Cory Mitchell and sophomore Shaquille Hill – as well as redshirt freshman Cooper Kupp. The trio of Nicholas Edwards, Greg Herd and Brandon Kaufman combined for 139 games worth of experience (103 starts), and had collective totals of 601 catches for 8,713 yards and 83 touchdowns. Edwards and Herd were All-Americans in 2011 when they both went over the 1,000-yard mark. Kaufman earned All-America accolades in 2010 when he had over 1,000 yards and in 2012 when he finished with a FCS record 1,850 receiving yards.
* In 2012, the Eagles had a quartet of linebackers who had combined for 165 games of experience (107 starts) in their careers, with a collective total of 960 tackles. Zach Johnson (39 games played/39 starts) had 324 tackles in his career, Tyler Washburn (51/36) had 259 and Grant Williams (50/10) had 156, as that trio were among the six letterwinners lost from the 2012 linebacker corp. But back is senior All-American Ronnie Hamlin (25/22), who has 221 tackles in his career thus far. Junior Cody McCarthy (19/5, 88 tackles) and senior J.C. Agen (9/4, 33 tackles) are EWU’s other linebackers returning with starting experience, but a pair of redshirt freshmen and two true freshmen are also expected to contribute.
* Despite losing three starting defensive linemen from its 2012 team, a total of nine letterwinners return to the tackle and end positions. The lone 2012 starter back is senior tackle Andru Pulu, but Anthony Larry returns for his senior season after starting eight games as a defensive end in 2011.
* All of Eastern’s running backs return in 2013, and the Eagles hope to continue the improvement made in its running game in 2012. The Eagles ranked 90th in FCS with an average of 123.1 yards per game, but in 2011, Eastern was just 112th out of 120 FCS teams with an average of 79.0 per game. Three of Eastern’s returning running backs – senior Demitrius Bronson, junior Mario Brown and junior Quincy Forte – have started at least five games in their careers and have combined for 1,842 yards and 16 touchdowns rushing, and have caught 72 passes for another 637 yards and three TDs. Brown, who was Eastern’s starting running back in the 2010 NCAA Division I Championship Game, redshirted the 2012 season. And those statistics don’t even include the numbers for Jordan Talley – 631 yards and eight TDs rushing, and 33 catches for 241 yards receiving – who was converted to linebacker in the spring.
* Eastern returns four of its five starting offensive linemen, including a pair of players who were injured early and lost for the 2011 season. Seniors Ashton Miller (ruptured Achilles) and guard Steven Forgette (broken fibula) returned to start all 14 games in 2012, as did senior Brandon Murphy. The fourth returning starter is sophomore Clay DeBord, who started 13 games as a redshirt freshman. In all, Eastern has nine returning letterwinners on the offensive line.
* Another area with abundant experience is in the secondary, where three senior starters, another seven-game starter and five other returning letterwinners are back. Safety Allen Brown has started 26 career games, All-America cornerback T.J. Lee has started 20 and cornerback Ronald Baines has 14 career starts heading into their senior seasons. Jordan Tonani, a freshman All-American in 2013, started seven games at safety in his redshirt freshman season, but will miss the 2013 season with a hip ailment.
* Eastern also entered the season experienced at tight end, with senior Zack Gehring returning as a 21-game starter. He has caught 25 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns in his career, and is joined by a trio of returning letterwinners – junior Ryan Seto, senior Cody Humphrey and freshman Jake Withnell. Humphrey, however, suffered a preseason knee injury and is out indefinitely.
* Other starters returning in 2013 include sophomore Vernon Adams, a nine-game starter at quarterback who was the FCS Freshman of the Year on the College Sporting News “Fabulous 50” All-America team. Senior Kevin Miller, Eastern’s kickoff specialist two of the past three seasons, is also back, as well as two-year starting punter and current school record holder Jake Miller.
* Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin is back for his sixth season at the helm after being selected as one of 20 coaches on the voting list for the 2012 Eddie Robinson Award, given to the national coach of the year in FCS. He finished fifth in the voting, and was also the Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year for the first time. Baldwin has now been a part of four Big Sky Conference championships as either an Eastern assistant coach (2004, 2005) or head coach (2010, 2012). In addition, he has been a part of five FCS Playoff berths – two as an assistant (2004, 2005) and three in four seasons as head coach (2009, 2010, 2012). In receiving the Big Sky Coach of the Year honor for the first time, Baldwin is the fourth coach in school history to win the award. His predecessor, Paul Wulff, won in 2001, 2004 and 2005. Current Idaho State head coach Mike Kramer won in 1997 and Dick Zornes was Eastern’s first in 1992. The Eagles won league titles and advanced to the playoffs in all of those years except for 2001. Baldwin coached in his 100th Eastern game when the Eagles rallied to beat Montana 32-26 earlier in the 2012 season. He is now 44-19 in four-plus seasons as a head coach (2008-12), and was 25-22 as EWU assistant coach for four seasons (2003-06), for a collective total of 69-41. His .750 winning percentage in Big Sky Conference games (30-10) is the best-ever by an Eastern head coach and currently ranks eighth in the 50-year history of the Big Sky Conference. His .698 percentage overall is 11th.
* Ronnie Hamlin’s long hair has been a trademark of his, and a friendly wager between teammates lasted three years. During the 2010 season, Hamlin and safety Jeff Minnerly challenged each other to see who could go the longest without cutting their hair. Linebacker Zach Johnson was also in on the wager, but dropped out after EWU won the NCAA Division I title. Minnerly eventually cut his hair on Dec. 17, 2012 -- just two days after his career and the 2012 season concluded -- and donated the hair to Locks of Love.
* Eight of the 10 largest crowds Eastern has ever played in front of have now occurred since 2006. Eastern’s game at Oregon State on Aug. 31, 2006, drew 38,071 and is eighth, and the crowd of 30,782 at OSU on Sept. 2, 2000, is 11th. The most EWU has played in front of was 64,522 at Brigham Young in 2007.
Quoting Coach Baldwin
On Oregon State Environment: “We try to create enough situations at practice that are loud, more up-tempo and almost stressful. We have done it all the way back to when we brought the speakers out in practice five. We try to put our players in situations at camp where they are stressed and they are a little on edge, so by the time they reach Corvallis they don’t feel (the pressure) as much. There is nothing that can replace being in a hostile crowd in a Pac-12 stadium against a great team like Oregon State, but you do everything you can during the week to try to create those high-stress situations.”
On Opportunity at Oregon State: “Whether it is game one, two or whenever it is, it is an opportunity. For us to go to a Pac-12 stadium is an opportunity. I love the idea of a challenging schedule. Even though we have come up short the past two years, I would not trade getting the chances to compete against WSU or the University of Washington. That is not to say that playing teams like Western Oregon or Central Washington are not opportunities for us. They are opportunities, and they are going to look at it as an opportunity for themselves. Western Oregon is going to come in here guns a blazing, and they are a quality football team. (When we play them) we better be ready.”
On Traveling More Players: “We get to travel 70 players, so it allows us a chance to keep evaluating before we get into Big Sky play -- especially with some special teams. It is a tremendous advantage at the beginning of the year with our non-league games to have a roster that is a little bit more expanded before you get into league play.”
On Freshman Linebackers: “Havili has been great all camp, and I am excited to see him. He is definitely going to go to Oregon State, and we still have to make decisions on other players such as Jake Gall and John Kreifels. Those are personnel decisions we can talk about all through this week. Even in 2009 we were not sure if we were going to redshirt Greg Herd or Brandon Kaufman until it was close to game two or three, and they played as freshmen. It gives us more time to evaluate and make decisions. As of right now, you could see one to three of those guys playing, and we are going to watch film and talk some more about our depth and where we are.”
On Running Game: “We have improved a lot in that area. I think our run defense has also improved. I also think our physicality on both sides of the ball has improved a lot.”
On Timing: “It keeps improving, but it is going to keep improving. My goal is to be better in communication and timing come week four than in week one. Last year with three veteran receivers and two new quarterbacks, we were under 50 percent for the first couple of games and about 50 percent through three or four games. It takes time, and I am fine with that as long as we are working towards better timing. My expectation is that it will continue to grow throughout the year.”
On Receivers: “I think you could see the production spread out more. I could see it spread out to six guys instead of one guy with 90 catches like Brandon Kaufman. We have already adjusted some things to their strengths too. Some of it may be more underneath than over the top. But if the defense thinks we are not going over the top, then that is what they are going to be giving us. No matter who we have on the field, we can go over the top. Eric Kimble was only 5-foot-10, and we went over the top to him. Shaquille Hill is still going over the top. Cooper Kupp is still going over the top. Daniel Johnson went down the middle and Kendrick Bourne went down the field in our last scrimmage. We will never stop going vertical no matter who we have on the field at the receiver position. There just might be certain areas and situations where we don’t go over the top as much.”
On Atmosphere in the Locker-room: “They are excited and they are ready. The way student-athletes work in the summer and how they work on their own, camp becomes a little bit longer than it needs to be. Every coach around the country will tell you that. When I was a player, we used to sit around all summer and then needed all 29 days of camp to get back in shape. Players now work all summer, so they get to that point where they are ready for a game week like Oregon State and other schools are.”
On Cooper Kupp: “He has been as consistent as any young player I have seen. That is a tribute to his mental toughness. A lot of young players will show flashes, but they don’t have the consistency. That’s what we like about Cooper. We know he has talent and makes plays, but we like that he has consistent work ethic.”
On Vernon Adams: “He has taken a leadership role. He progresses every day in camp, and he is getting better. He is going to be hard on himself. He may end up with a great stat line, but he will think he should have been better or he should have done something else. I love that about him. He is never satisfied. He has stepped up as a leader. I have watched him inspire people even when the situation doesn’t go great. That is the definition of a leader. He can bring people up, bring people going forward and keep their heads up when things are not going well. That is the true definition of a leader. I am seeing him do that more and more with the group.”
On Receivers: “We teach our receivers that we don’t call you just a C, an X or a slide -- you learn everything. Some guys may play more slot than anything else, but I want them to learn the entire offense and the concept of each play. It makes the receivers better than just memorizing their single position and it lets us move our receivers so we can change their positions game to game. We will get in different groupings of personnel. I want Cooper and all our receivers to progress to that point. Our older guys are at that level, and the younger guys are getting to that level. You are learning each play as a concept, not memorizing what your position is when you hear the call.”
On Ronnie Hamlin: “Ronnie comes to work, brings his lunch pail and does his deal. He leads by example. He will say stuff when he needs to, but for the most part it is about his work ethic and how hard he plays (that the guys learn from). He is that type of leader, and we are lucky to have him. He is great for the other guys to go against because they are going against one of the best backers in the country. When you go against that every day you get better. That is why I love seeing Ronnie on the other side of the ball.”
On Coaching Eagle Players: “The best part about coaching to me is working with 18 to 23-year-old student-athletes and getting a chance to make an impact in their lives. We get to watch them grow, and it’s fun to be a part of that process. The culture and attitude that has been built over the years has grown to a new level. We’ve had great players and leaders here before, but this group has learned from past teams and players on how to prepare in the offseason and what to do in the summer. The makeup and mental attitude of our players has grown. If you have that, you have a chance to be successful and the more enjoyable it is to coach.”
Defense (127 starts by 14 players): Allen Brown 26, Ronnie Hamlin 22, T.J. Lee 20, Ronald Baines 14, Andru Pulu 13, Anthony Larry 8, Jordan Tonani 7, Cody McCarthy 5, J.C. Agen 4, Evan Day 3, Will Katoa 2, Dylan Zylstra 1, Miles Weatheroy 1, Christian Hudnell 1.
Offense (174 starts by 19 players): Steven Forgette 31, Brandon Murphy 23, Zack Gehring 21, Ashton Miller 15, Clay DeBord 13, Demitrius Bronson 9, Jordan Talley 9, Vernon Adams 9, Drew Reynolds 8, Ashton Clark 7, Ryan Seto 7, Quincy Forte 6, Mario Brown 5, Jake Withnell 3, Cody Humphrey 2, Daniel Johnson 2, Jase Butorac 2, Cory Mitchell 1, T.J. Boatright 1.
Senior tight end Cody Humphrey suffered a dislocated patella in practice on Aug. 21 and may be out for the season depending on ligament damage to the knee. Also out with a knee injury is defensive lineman Jordan Pulu, who is scheduled to have arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 29. Pulu played last year as a true freshman and has a redshirt season available. Another tight end, Zach Chapman, is recovering from a broken foot and will be out until probably October. As a result, defensive lineman Zach Wimberly has been moved to tight end, and Ryan Seto will play as both a wide receiver and tight end. Before the season began, freshman All-America safety and Ferris HS graduate Jordan Tonani began surgical treatment for a hip ailment that will cost him the 2013 season. Tonani’s painful hip injury is called hip joint acetabular impingement, and the ailment requires surgery to both hips with six months of rehabilitation required for each. His first surgery on his left hip took place on July 29, and also included a labral tear that was repaired. He will undergo the second surgery on his right hip in early September. He would have competed for a starting position at safety, but should return fully healthy in spring 2014.
* Currently on the 2013 Buck Buchanan Watch List, senior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin earned All-America honors in 2012 from Phil Steele Publications (fourth team) and was a first team All-Big Sky Conference selection. He had 136 tackles in 2012 to rank fifth in school history, and his average of 9.71 per game ranked 31st in FCS and fourth in the Big Sky. A 22-game starter for the Eagles, Hamlin has 221 tackles already in his 25-game EWU career to rank 22nd in school history. Despite being listed as a senior, Hamlin will eventually apply to the NCAA to receive his sixth year. After redshirting the 2009 season because of the bum knee, the injury also kept him from playing during Eastern’s national championship season in 2010. If he does get the extra year back, he could challenge the school record of 432 tackles set by 2010 Buck Buchanan Award winner J.C. Sherritt.
* Junior cornerback T.J. Lee earned All-America honors in 2012 from The Sports Network (second team), and was also honored on the College Sporting News “Fabulous 50” All-America squad. He piled up some impressive statistics in 2012, ranking third on the team with 90 tackles and finishing with 11 passes broken up to rank 10th in school history. His average of 6.4 tackles per game ranked 29th in the Big Sky and his total of 11 passes broken up were second. The two-time first team All-Big Sky selection also had 2 1/2 sacks, nine total tackles for loss, an interception, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Lee now has 140 tackles, three interceptions, 14 passes broken up and 2 1/2 sacks in his 34-game career (20 starts). He is just 51 tackles from becoming the 34th Eagle in school history to finish with 200 career tackles. He needs just four passes broken up to rank on EWU’s top 10 list in that category. As a sophomore in 2011, Lee was a first team All-Big Sky selection, finishing the season with 48 tackles, a pair of interceptions and one pass broken up.
* Senior offensive guard Steven Forgette earned honorable mention All-America honors in 2012 from the College Sports Journal and second team All-Big Sky accolades. He was also named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team. Despite missing most of the 2011 season because of an injury, Forgette’s 31 career starts are the most among all returning players. The only game he didn’t start in his 32-game career was to allow a senior to start on Senior Day in 2010. Forgette helped EWU rank seventh in the FCS in 2012 in passing yards per game (318.9), 14th overall in total offense (442.0) and 17th in scoring (33.7). He started all 14 Eastern games at left offensive guard a year after breaking his fibula against Montana (9/17/11) and missing the rest of the season. He earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors as a redshirt freshman in 2010 when the Eagles won the NCAA Division I title.
* The Eagles finished seventh in FCS in passing offense (318.9 per game) in 2012, as returning starter Vernon Adams combined with Kyle Padron to lead EWU to the school record for passing yards. The Eagles finished with 4,469 yards, breaking the previous record of 4,102 yards in 2005. Adams was selected as the Freshman of the Year on the College Sporting News “Fabulous 50” All-America team, and was also on the College Sports Journal Freshman All-America squad. Adams was also one of 20 players on the ballot for the Jerry Rice Award, given to the top freshman in FCS by The Sports Network (he finished sixth in the voting, which occurred prior to the playoffs). Adams ranked fourth in FCS in passing efficiency (160.80), and was the only freshman in the top 24 of the rankings. His efficiency rating also ranked fourth all-time in school history. In nine games as a starter and three as a sub, he completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 1,961 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Padron started the other five games and played six others as a sub, and completed 59.1 percent of his passes for a team-leading 2,491 yards, 17 TDs and seven interceptions, and ranked 29th in FCS in passing yards per game (226.5). In back-to-back games in the FCS Playoffs, each had a school-record six touchdown passes -- Padron versus Illinois State (12/8/12) in the quarterfinals and Adams against Sam Houston State (12/15/12) in the semifinals. Adams completed 14-of-26 passes for 364 yards – all after intermission --- as EWU scored 42 points in the second half to rally from a 35-0 halftime deficit and nearly pull off an improbable rally.
* Despite standing just 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, senior safety Allen Brown finished second on the team with 91 tackles in 2012 to help him earn second team All-Big Sky honors. He was also second on the team with seven passes broken up to go along with a pair of forced fumbles. Brown has played in 39 games in his career (26 as a starter), with totals of 181 tackles, two interceptions and 12 passes broken up. He is just 19 tackles from becoming the 34th Eagle in school history to finish with 200 career tackles. He needs six passes broken up to rank on EWU’s top 10 list in that category. He enters 2013 with 26 career starts, ranking first on the defense and second overall (Steven Forgette has 31). At the end of spring practices, Brown was the recipient on defense of the “Iron Eagle” Award for achievements in the off-season in strength and conditioning and the classroom. His average of 6.5 tackles per game in 2012 ranked 28th in the Big Sky. He was also second on the team with seven passes broken up to go along with a pair of forced fumbles.
* Returning players Ashton Miller and Jordan Talley were selected to the 2012 Capital One Academic All-District VIII squad, which is selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA). They joined Eastern senior safety Jeff Minnerly, who “three-peated” on the squad. Miller, a senior offensive center, has a 3.67 GPA and is majoring in business administration. Talley is a sophomore running back, and is a pre-medicine major with a 3.55 GPA. Eastern football players have now been honored 56 times since 1989 on the All-District VIII squad, and eight players have gone on to win 10 Academic All-America honors. The District VIII university division includes all NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams from nine western states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
* Redshirt freshman Shaquille Hill was a member of the College Sports Journal Freshman All-America team and earned honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference honors in 2012. Hill, who had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against North Dakota (10/6/12), finished ranked 17th in FCS with an average of 26.8 yards per kickoff return. On EWU’s single season leaders lists, he finished the 2012 season ranked in the top 10 in kickoff returns (third, 34), kickoff return yards (second, 912) and kickoff return average (10th, 26.8). As a backup wide receiver, he caught seven passes for 66 yards. Hill would have had another TD in the FCS Playoffs against Illinois State (12/8/12), but the video replay official determined he dropped the ball a yard shy of the end zone and it became a non-scoring 93-yard return. He earned honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference honors. As a team, Eastern was 14th in FCS with a 23.5 average, as Cory Mitchell added a non-scoring 67-yard return in the Illinois State (12/8/12) game.
* The 43.8 career punting average of sophomore Jake Miller currently ranks as a school record, placing him ahead of the 42.3 average of Jesse Nicassio (2002-03). He has had 16 punts of 50 yards or more in his career, including a school-record 74-yarder. He owns five of the top 33 punts in school history, with boots of 74, 59 and 57 (three times). Named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team in 2012, Miller had a school-record 74-yard punt versus Washington State (9/8/12), breaking the previous record of 71 set in 2006 by Ryan Donckers. Miller’s average of 43.3 yards per punt in 2012 ranks third all-time in EWU history, just behind his No. 2 ranking with a 44.2 average in 2011 (the school record is 44.4). Of his 40 punts in 2012, six were for at least 50 yards and 15 were downed inside the opponent 20-yard line.
* Junior safety Tevin McDonald had 135 tackles in 27 career games at UCLA, plus four interceptions and 14 passes broken up. He is the son of six-time NFL All-Pro safety Tim McDonald, who is currently the defensive backs coach for the New York Jets where he coaches former Eagle Isaiah Trufant (2002-05). Tevin’s brother, Tim, Jr., (goes by T.J.), was a senior All-America safety at USC in 2012 and was drafted in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft by St. Louis. Tevin was with Eastern during 2013 spring practices after getting dismissed from UCLA’s squad for violating team policy.
* Another talented transfer joining the Eagles in 2013 is offensive lineman Jake Rodgers, a 12-game starter at Washington State last fall. He started at right guard in the team’s season-opener at BYU, then started at left guard in WSU’s 24-20 win over Eastern Washington. He started a total of three games at right guard (BYU, UNLV, Colorado), one at left guard (EWU), five at right tackle (Oregon, Oregon State, California, Stanford, Utah) and the final three games of the season at left tackle (UCLA, Arizona State, Washington).
* Lost for the 2013 season with a painful hip injury that required surgery to both hips, Jordan Tonani had a sensational redshirt freshman season for the Eagles in 2012. As an injury replacement for senior safety Jeff Minnerly, Tonani earned a spot on the College Sports Journal Freshman All-America squad and was awarded with honorable mention All-Big Sky honors. He started seven games and finished the year sixth on the team with 68 tackles, and also had a team-leading three interceptions with five passes broken up and a fumble recovery. In one of many impressive performances during his debut season, Tonani’s 21-yard interception return for a touchdown with 11:15 to play became the winning points in a 27-24 victory over second-ranked Montana State (10/13/12). He also had eight tackles, and as a result, was selected as the College Sports Madness National FCS Defensive Player of the Week, as well as their same honor for the Big Sky Conference.