With four days left before the season opener at Oregon State, Eastern Washington’s football players are duly – but not unduly – impressed with the 25th-ranked Beavers.
That includes the youngest players. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp’s first game in almost two years will come Saturday afternoon in 45,674-seat Reser Stadium, by far the largest venue in which he’s played. His family will be driving down from Yakima for the event.
“We haven’t really talked about it (the crowd factor),” said Kupp, a redshirt freshman who may get his first start against the Beavers. “When you get into the game, you don’t think about anything else. Your focus is what your job is.”
For the Eastern offensive line, it promises to be a full-time job against a stout Beavers defensive line that includes preseason all-everything candidate Scott Crichton.
Crichton, a first-team All-Pac-12 selection at right end who forced six fumbles last season, was a freshman All-American in 2011. Seniors John Braun and Mana Rosa man the inside and quick junior Dylan Wynn is at the other end.
“They’re definitely a good unit and they work very hard,” said Eastern left guard Steven Forgette, an All-American candidate. “We’re just looking to do our assignments and work as hard as we can against them.”
In one respect, the workload will be a bit lighter for Forgette and his linemates. Braun (288 pounds) and Rosa (282) could be easier to move than their practice opponents, Eastern starting tackles Andru Pulu (320) and Will Katoa (295).
If the Eagles can accomplish that, the load will lighten for the rest of the offense.
“When they think we’re a pass-only team, we’ll hit them with the run,” Eagles running back Mario Brown said.
The Beavers return four starting offensive linemen, the lightest being 290-pound senior and three-year letterman Grant Enger. The Eagles expect to be tested early as sophomore running back Storm Woods looks for running room.
“They’re very balanced, very physical up front,” said Eastern middle linebacker Cody McCarthy, who figures to be in the middle of it all.
The latest depth chart, released Tuesday, offers a few revisions. At right offensive tackle, Washington State transfer Jake Rodgers, a junior out of Shadle Park High School, is listed ahead of redshirt sophomore Cassidy Curtis. At right guard, redshirt sophomore Aaron Neary is competing with senior Brandon Murphy, who’ll be playing not far from his hometown of Albany, Ore. The picture at running back cleared up a bit, as Quincy Forte was back in pads and practicing after suffering from a pulled hamstring last week. On defense, the projected starters are unchanged, but the depth chart at linebacker shows redshirt freshman Miquiyah Zamora backing up Ronnie Hamlin at strong inside linebacker and McCarthy in the middle. At weak outside linebacker, former running back Jordan Talley is second behind J.C. Agen. … The Eagles will practice again today and at 3 p.m. Thursday before leaving Friday for the team hotel in Salem. The team walkthrough at Reser Stadium is scheduled for 4:15 p.m. Friday.