For years, the Eastern Washington receivers had someone to look up to. Ashton Clark and Cory Mitchell hope they still do.
Brandon Kaufman, Nick Edwards and Greg Herd all stood 6-foot-3 or taller, but it wasn’t their height that made an impression on Clark, the top returning receiver for the Eagles.
“They taught me to work hard and to take your opportunity,” said the 5-foot-11 Clark. “Those guys work so hard, that it definitely made me work harder.”
And not just on the field. “They really taught me how to watch film,” Mitchell said. “All three of them were great at being students of the game.”
As the torch is passed to a new generation, they don’t want to drop the ball. “It feels good to be in a leadership role,” Mitchell said.
Despite the departure of “The Trio,” the Eagle receiving corps is in good hands. Clark, a senior-to-be from Vancouver, Wash., was Eastern’s third-leading receiver last year, grabbing 49 balls for 650 yards and five touchdowns, including the game-winner against Montana.
Other returnees include Shaquille Hill (seven receptions for 66 yards and one TD), Daniel Johnson (5-81, 1 TD), Nick Lenoue, plus redshirts Cooper Kupp and 6-foot-6 Keylin Huddleston.
The group is boosted with the addition of two transfers, Blair Bomber from Washington State and Austin Ehlo from Whitworth.
“Any time you have some change, you’re excited about the new guys,” head coach Beau Baldwin said before Friday’s practice. “There’s still a good mixture of new guys and guys who have been here awhile.”
For receivers coach Junior Adams, “it’s always fun to get back on the field. We got guys like Clark and Cory and Daniel and, they showed these guys how to attack.
“They’re putting in the time and mastering the craft,” Adams said. “These guys can run the whole route tree. They all make plays, and they’re hungry.”
Especially the players who haven’t had college game experience.
“You always want to come out with the intention that you can get a spot,” said Kupp of Yakima. “You just want to be the best you can be on the field.”
Even for Kupp, the departed receivers “were huge for me. They went above and beyond what you need to succeed at this level.”
No matter who catches the ball, there will be plenty to go around.
Last year the Eagles threw for 4,469 yards, and redshirt sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams only figures to get better after starting nine games last year.