The Eastern Washington wide receivers aren’t faster this year; it only seems that way.
“I don’t know what it is, but they’re definitely quicker,” Eagles quarterback Vernon Adams said before Tuesday’s practice at Roos Field.
Adams paused to reconsider the question.
“They’re shorter guys, so they make their cuts quicker and get out of their breaks faster, That’s why they’re getting open a lot.”
“I can throw them a quick bubble screen and they can go to the house,” Adams said.
That’s the idea, and always has been at Eastern Washington, but last year the ball often arrived at the house – or at least the doorstep – at the same time as the receiver. Brandon Kaufman epitomized the long-ball approach of last year’s offense, catching 93 balls for 1,850 yards and 16 touchdowns.
“It’s still the same offense,” Adams said, “but (last year) Kauf was always going deep, so I wanted to throw it deep.”
They will do their best to replace “the trio” of Kaufman, Nicholas Edwards and Greg Herd. All three were All-Americans during one season or another in the last three, and last season helped the Eagles average 14.4 yards per catch.
“Going deep” will take on a new meaning this season. The depth is in the personnel: at least six capable receivers, includ- ing returning seniors Ashton Clark, Daniel Johnson and Cory Mitchell. If the torch is being passed, they are the torch-bearers.
“They taught us how to be students of the game and to put in the extra work and watch film,” said Mitchell, brother of former Eastern All-America quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.
Clark was the Eagles’ third-leading receiver last year with 49 receptions for 650 yards and five touchdowns, including the game-winner in a 32-26 win over Montana.
Johnson (five catches, 81 yards and a TD) and redshirt sophomore Shaquille Hill (seven catches, 66 yards) figure to see plenty of playing time, along with promising redshirt freshman Cooper Kupp of Yakima, Washington State transfer Blair Bomber and converted tight end Ryan Seto (nine catches, 109 yards and one TD).
Assessing this group, receivers coach Junior Adams said, “These guys have the ability to do the same thing, just in a different way. We have the ability to go over the top, and also with short, quick passes that can turn into long gains.”
It all comes back to speed, quickness, and timing, which the Eagles have been perfecting since spring ball.
“In top-end speed they’re all the same (as last year),” quarterack Anthony Vitto said. “Maybe they’re breaking earlier and getting quicker separation.”
The team announced its team captains for the upcoming season. By a vote of the players, they are Clark, center Ashton Miller, linebacker Ronnie Hamlin and safety Allen Brown. Said Miller, “I love my team and it’s a true honor – I’m always here for my team, and when they need something, I’m going to do it.” … The Eagles will hold two more two-a-days – today and Friday, with a single 3 p.m. practice on Thursday. … Final scrimmage is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. on Saturday at Roos Field.