August 9, 2012 in Sports

Young Eagles learn lessons from top players

By The Spokesman-Review
 
The Spokesman-Review photo

Eastern Washington University logo.
(Full-size photo)

The college football learning curve is steep, but it’s easier if your classmates include a trio of All-Americans.

Freshman wide receivers Keylin Huddleston and Cooper Kupp stepped on the practice field this week alongside 17 other true freshmen, all of them trying to earn some respect while not being overawed by the talent already here.

That goes double for Huddleston, from Puyallup, Wash., who at 6-foot-6 is looking down on the other receivers but definitely looks up to Nicholas Edwards, Greg Herd and Brandon Kaufman along with the rest of a stellar receiving corps.

“They know the pace of the game, the routes, and everything,” said Huddleston, who was not in Cheney for voluntary conditioning this summer. “It was harder because I didn’t know the plays, and I had to ask, ‘How many steps? Hard cut or not?’ and they helped me a lot.”

Kupp, a 6-2, 180-pounder out of Yakima, has an even bigger advantage after attending conditioning sessions, “learning how a receiver is supposed to compete and how to make the transition to college ball.”

Mostly that transition is earned, said head coach Beau Baldwin, by players “Busting their tails off. The more they do that and do their job, the more we’re going to say ‘Welcome to our family.’”

Another freshman, safety Miquiyah Zamora out of Pasco, may already be in the family portrait after getting his third interception in two days of 7-on-7 and full-team drills. The feat didn’t go unnoticed on the sidelines, but Zamora credited senior safety Jeff Minnerly with a pointing him in the right direction on one of his picks.

“I’ve got a lot of good guys looking after me,” said Zamora, who played corner at Chiawana High School, but looks more like an outside linebacker after gaining 20 pounds since last season.

Yet another Washington product, defensive lineman Zach Wimberly of Tumwater, said camp was great, even with the pace of practice picking up Thursday, and credited the veterans, especially senior Evan Cook, with “helping me along.”

Highly touted running back Jabari Wilson, a 200-pounder from Carson, Calif., embraces the challenge: “I’m just trying to do my role. It’s a big transition, actually, and it’s a lot more intense, a lot more dedication.”

Notes: The pace was definitely quicker than on Wednesday’s, partly because, as Baldwin said, “You can step it up with the pads on because you’re not afraid of hitting the ground.” … Baldwin supervised the first kicker competition of camp between senior Jimmy Pavel and junior Kevin Miller. The result: “Not what I’d hoped for, but it’s only Day 1,” said Baldwin, noting that last year’s kicker, Mike Jarrett, was typically 20 percentage points better in game situations than in these situations. “Hopefully, these guys will step it up as we put them in more competitive situations.” … Three quarterbacks – returnees Anthony Vitto and Vernon Adams along with transfer Kyle Padron – split time running 7-on-7 “skeleton” drills and full-team passing drills, with Padron getting about half the snaps. … Senior linebacker Zach Johnson, coming off a knee injury last year, participated in about half the practice as a precautionary move. “I’m fine,” he said on the sideline. … EWU will hold its first morning practice at 9 today, then shifting to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday before the first two-a-day on Monday (9 a.m. and 3 p.m.)


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