With remarkably few pressing needs coming off a national championship season, Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin had the luxury of being highly selective during a recruiting process abridged by his Eagles’ riveting run to the 2010 NCAA Division I football title last fall.
As a result, Baldwin and his staff targeted their recruiting efforts on one or two top prospects at nearly every position, signing 20 high school players to national letters of intent on Wednesday.
Among those were six offensive linemen, a pair of big-play running backs and linebacker Cody McCarthy, a two-time all-stater, who was named Idaho’s Gatorade Player of the Year after leading Boise’s Bishop Kelly High School to the 4A State championship and an unbeaten record.
Baldwin’s latest recruiting class also includes Vernon Adams, a coveted quarterback from Alemany High School in Pasadena, Calif., and a pair of sophomore transfers – running back Demitrius Bronson and defensive lineman Andru Pulu – from the University of Washington, who have both signed financial aid agreements with EWU.
Pulu is already attending classes at EWU, and Bronson, a former prep standout at Kentwood High in Kent, is expected to enroll at the start of the spring quarter.
“I feel really good about this class,” Baldwin said. “One of the areas I wanted to increase our overall numbers at was in the offensive line. We were able to sign six, which should really improve the overall depth and competition for starting spots up there.
“And then we were also able to sign some guys who are just good, tough football players.”
Perhaps the best of those is McCarthy, a 6-foot-1, 233-pounder who was a four-year starter for Bishop Kelly and finished his career with a school-record 377 tackles.
“In some ways, he’s a lot like our linebackers who are already here,” Baldwin said of McCarthy, who also played fullback in high school and rushed for 603 yards and seven touchdowns last fall. “The only difference between him and some of the great players we’ve had at linebacker – and still do – is that he’s doing it while carrying 15 or 20 more pounds, which give him an added dimension against teams that like to pound the football at you.”
Adams, a 6-foot, 180-pounder who runs a sub-4.6 second 40, was the only high school quarterback on Eastern’s recruiting radar and the first prep signee at that position in two years.
“We got our guy,” Baldwin said of Adams, who threw for 5,234 yards and 49 touchdowns while also rushing for 1,263 yards and 19 additional TDs in his final two prep seasons. “I like the fact that he not only has the arm to make every throw necessary in our offense, but also possesses amazing athleticism and the ability to throw on the run, or tuck it and go if he needs to.
“He can put a lot of pressure on defenses with the way he plays.”
With junior All-American running back Taiwan Jones having opted to skip his senior year and declare for the NFL, the Eagles went looking for potential replacements and found a couple of good ones in Jordan Talley, a 5-10, 180-pounder out of Jesuit High School in Portland, and Quincy Forte, a 5-11, 185-pounder out of Vacaville High in Fairfield, Calif.
Talley rushed for 2,660 yards and 34 touchdowns last fall, while Forte ran for 1,248 yards and 15 TDs.
Among Eastern’s best gets on the offensive line are Cassidy Curtis, a 6-7, 250-pounder from Cherry Creek High School in Denver, and Clay DeBord, a 6-6, 250-pounder from Asotin. Both, according to Baldwin, have the potential to add weight to their long frames – without sacrificing mobility – and develop into hard-to-find tackles capable of protecting a quarterback’s blind side.
And the Eagles added to their stable of big receivers by signing a pair of 6-5 tight ends – Vancouver’s T.J. Boatright and Jake Withnell, from South Salem (Ore.) High School – along with projected wideout Jason Boyce, a 6-4, 225-pounder from Kentwood High and the brother of former Eastern standout wide receiver Aaron Boyce.