For almost a year, the game of football has been pulling at J.C. Agen.
So was a torn pectoral muscle that kept him on the sidelines – until now.
“It’s hard to sit out a whole season,” said Agen, a senior linebacker at Eastern Washington University who’s one of several young local players who hope to make an impact this year.
The depth chart isn’t finalized, but figures to be deep in local talent, especially if the word “local” stretches to Yakima and the Tri-Cities.
The Eagles roster includes 19 players from east of the Cascades, including 12 from Spokane County. Some are sure-fire starters, including offensive lineman Clay DeBord of Asotin and punter Jake Miller of Spokane; most of the others figure to see plenty of playing time.
Agen, out of Spokane’s Central Valley High School, appears to be a key player, if not a starter, this year, on a rebuilding unit that’s also getting a boost from redshirt freshman Miquiyah Zamora.
Every year, Zamora is moving closer to the line of scrimmage. Two years ago, he was an all-state cornerback at Chiawana High of Pasco. Last year he was a safety on the scout team.
The move may be a good one all around. For head coach Beau Baldwin, Zamora is a great example of forecasting during recruiting, of projecting a player’s physical growth and a possible position change.
“Some of our best linebackers were DBs in high school, then they put on size and move to linebacker,” Baldwin said, noting one success story in All-Big Sky Conference linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, who was a defensive back at Lacey, Wash.
Moving to linebacker “has had a few rough spots, but I like it in there,” Zamora said. “I’ve had some good teachers.”
That includes linebackers coach Josh Fetter, who, according to Zamora, is “really encouraging us and always being enthusiastic, no matter what you did right or wrong, as long as you hustled after the ball.”
For Zamora and wide receiver Cooper Kupp, all that hustling – for almost two years – has been confined to practice. Neither can wait for “the real bullets,” as football players are fond of putting it.
“I’m stoked,” said Kupp, a promising redshirt freshman out of Davis High in Yakima. “To get back in front of people, it’ll be nice. You really miss out on that experience.”
Cupp has been impressing coaches for a year now. In Wednesday’s practice, Cupp made a nice adjustment against tight coverage on an underthrown ball, made the catch and then made it to the end zone.
“He’s a great young player who’s a little ahead of his years in studying the game, and that puts him in position to play early,” Baldwin said.
Then there’s Trevor Moles, a junior from Spokane’s East Valley High who’s gone unnoticed in three years mainly because he’s been the backup long snapper behind the graduated Jake Potter.
“He was a great snapper,” said Moles, acknowledging that the best long snappers go unnoticed until something goes wrong.
“Trevor’s been working hard since he got here,” said Baldwin, who personally supervised the punters and long snappers at Friday’s practice. “We’re looking for consistency, that’s the most important thing.”
Moles is competing with transfer Cory Alcantar.
“It’s pretty much the same thing every day,” Moles said. “And yeah, people take us for granted, but it is a hard position.”