April 10, 2012 in Sports

EWU overflows with quality receivers

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Eastern Washington University has three of the best receivers in the FCS: from left, Nicholas Edwards, Brandon Kaufman and Greg Herd.
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Eastern Washington wide receivers coach Junior Adams doesn’t have the easiest job on campus. Really.

It’s just the opposite, said Adams, who in four years has crafted a unit that should be the best in the Big Sky Conference, if not the entire Football Championship Subdivision. The Eagles’ receiving corps is headlined by “The Trio” of Nicholas Edwards, Greg Herd and Brandon Kaufman, all of whom have won All-America honors.

“They challenge me every day,” said Adams, whose career at Eastern has mirrored the growth of his stars. “I can’t walk into a meeting half a step off or walk onto the field half a step off, because they’ll call me on it.”

Off the field, “they’re exercise junkies,” Adams said. “I’ve never had anyone like this. They don’t really compete against the corners from Weber State or Montana State. They compete against each other.”

But this fall, it will those opposing defensive staffs who must find a way to compete against The Trio as well as a deep, talented receiving corps that also includes Ashton Clark (33 catches last year for 496 yards and four touchdowns), Cory Mitchell (19 catches, 310 yards and two TDs), plus Tyler Hart, Daniel Johnson and a solid group of tight ends.

“Heck, that’s seven guys, and we’re only going to travel six,” Adams said. “These guys are fighting for reps, all of them.”

“As a corps, I feel like we a very diverse group. There are different ways we can beat you – over the top and underneath.”

That will be easier with the return of Kaufman, who underwent ACL surgery in October and is still not 100 percent.

“He’ll get his burst back,” Adams said.

“The younger guys and the others, they’re able to learn from these guys,” Adams said. “You need to see what these guys are doing. Hard work pays, and it’s evident.”

Head coach Beau Baldwin appreciates that, too.

“This group has taken to an extreme the idea of understanding every position, not just their own,” Baldwin said. “They understand what the quarterback is doing, and they memorize more than just their own routes.”

Kaufman said rehabilitation has been easier with “two of my best friends working almost every single night” in the weight room.

“They support me 100 percent,” and at the same time “no one’s afraid to say something, and no one takes offense.”

With the help of All-American quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, the Eagles had 4,052 yards and 34 touchdowns - gaudy stats for sure - but they finished 6-5 and out of the FCS playoffs.

“That completely negates the whole feeling (of having a big game),” Herd said. “That’s not a win in my mind.”

To change that, the receivers are doing all they can to encourage young quarterbacks Anthony Vitto and Vernon Adams. With Kaufman back, “we’ll have more chemistry and get the offense where it needs to be,” Edwards said.

All are looking ahead to challenging FBS programs Idaho and Washington State, and confidence is high. In last year’s opener, the Eagles torched Washington for 510 yards – all but 37 of them through the air – but lost 30-27.

“It’s definitely going to be good playing the local schools,” Herd said.

Edwards looks forward to torching a few more secondaries this fall, but is more eager to pass the torch to a new group, including freshmen-to-be Cooper Kupp and Dalis Bruce.

“At this university, we build a receiving corps, and we’re going to take them through the ropes.”

All of which won’t make coach Adams’ job any easier.

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