The young linebackers at Eastern Washington are counting on some run support this season.
The moral support is already in place, just ahead of them in the depth chart, in the form of veterans Ronnie Hamlin, Cody McCarthy and J.C Agen.
“They’re just smart, they’re great leaders and they’re always happy to fill me in,” said Jordan Talley, who in turn will be expected to fill in on Saturdays.
The key, according to Eastern linebackers coach Josh Fetter, is “reps, lots of reps. There’s a learning curve where you’re making mistakes, but by watching film, you learn from your mistakes.”
Fetter has some able assistants in his three veterans. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Hamlin is a preseason All-Big Sky Conference selection at the strong outside position, as well as a team captain. McCarthy (6-1, 230) will start in the middle, while the 6-2, 210-pound Agen mans the weakside position.
“We just try to lead by example and being available and get to know them not just as football players but as young men,” McCarthy said. “And being there for them with anything they need.”
Besides more reps, Hamlin said, that means help with coverages, run fits and what to look for in the film room. “If any of them have any questions, they are welcome to talk to me about it.”
Of the 19 players from last year who were lost to graduation, six were linebackers. Among the 11 ’backers on the roster, Hamlin, McCarthy and Agen are the only ones who’ve played the position in college.
Talley, a 5-10, 200-pound former running back, and Miquiyah Zamora a 6-1, 205-pound redshirt freshman who came to Cheney as a safety, moved to linebacker in the spring. Both are “in the mix” to make the two-deep.
Saturday’s scrimmage gave Talley an opportunity to “see a lot of live looks that I hadn’t seen.” Talley, though, said his learning curve is flattened by his experience as a running back, because in that position “You have to see where the linebacker is.”
Four true freshmen are in camp, and head coach Beau Baldwin said there’s a good chance that one or two will see action.
“It’s been fun to watch so many freshmen out there competing,” Baldwin said. “It hasn’t always been great, but it’s not going to be all the time.
“The veterans are doing a great job leading,” Baldwin said.
With 10 days left before the opener at Oregon State, Baldwin said practices are increasingly about “getting your game stuff and your scout stuff – the guys need it and they want it. I’m sure Oregon State is doing the same thing. When you hit the third week, that picks up the group a little bit.” … Baldwin said Saturday’s scrimmage will include fewer “situations” and include more full possessions. “After the first 15 minutes, it’ll be set the ball down and drive,” said Baldwin, who also expects to put more young players on the field to see how they respond. … The competition on special teams will carry into the season, implied Baldwin, who said that both kickers (senior Kevin Miller and true freshman Christian Fanning) and both long snappers (junior Trevor Moles and junior college transfer Cory Alcantar) probably will travel to Corvallis, Ore. … Ashton Clark still tops the depth chart at punt returner, but safety Tevin McDonald and wide receiver Cooper Kupp also are getting reps.