In perhaps the most high-profile football signing in Eastern Washington history, the Eagles landed one of the top high school running backs in the nation Wednesday.
D.J. Martin, a 5-foot-10, 210-pounder from Bakersfield, Calif., was described by Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin as “a complete running back who can do it all.”
“He’s one of those guys who’s that every-down back,” Baldwin said Wednesday during Eastern’s signing day event at Northern Quest Casino.
“D.J. has the ability to do everything at a very high level.”
Martin rushed for 4,624 yards and 57 touchdowns in his high school career, including 1,824 yards and 23 TDs as a senior.
Martin was named Cal-Hi Sports State Sophomore of the Year and was an ESPN sophomore All-American in 2010 after rushing for 1,900 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Martin committed to California last spring and at one time was pursued by elite programs such as Alabama and Oregon.
California later revoked the scholarship because Martin struggled in the classroom and is projected as a Prop 48 qualifier, which means he could sit out one year before becoming eligible.
Former Eastern star running back Taiwan Jones also was a Prop 48 athlete.
Martin had more recent offers from Fresno State and San Diego State, but said he chose Eastern largely because of the coaching staff and a positive experience during his official visit on Jan. 25-26.
“From talking to coaches Mac (running backs coach Kiel McDonald) and Baldwin, they seemed like a family – very straightforward,” Martin said Wednesday from Bakersfield.
“And they win a lot.”
Martin was the only backfield player in Eastern’s 17-man class, which includes four wide receivers, three defensive linemen and three linebackers.
Eastern lost six linebackers through graduation, but Baldwin said three recruits was the “ideal” number because of the desire to stagger players by class to prevent losing too many players at once.
Baldwin said that linebacker is the position where a new player is most likely to make an immediate impact in the rotatio. Baldwin said Albert Havili, a 6-2, 240-pounder from Federal Way, Wash., is “probably the most physically ready at this moment.”
At wide receiver, the Eagles lose standouts Brandon Kaufman, Nicholas Edwards and Greg Herd, but hope to continue the trend of taller wideouts with Milwaukie, Ore., standout Kendrick Bourne. In his senior year, the 6-3 Bourne caught 54 balls for 1,292 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Other wideout recruits include Victor Gamboa of Tacoma and Nic Sblendorio of state champion Skyline of Sammamish.
“He’s a very complete player, and runs a great variety of routes,” Baldwin said of Sblendorio.
North Central star Jake Hoffman may play at receiver or defensive back.
Baldwin said each receiver brings a different style.
The four defensive line signees will keep the Eagles deep at a position where up to 10 players see action in each game.
“I think that’s helped us, staying fresh and healthy,” Baldwin said.
The class includes no quarterbacks even after the surprise departure of junior Kyle Padron on Jan. 8. The Eagles have three returnees, including presumptive starter Vernon Adams, who will be a redshirt sophomore next season.
“Had it been the same situation, there’s no way we wouldn’t have pursued a QB,” Baldwin said.
As it was, the Eagles “got in late” on two prospects, with no results. Then again, Baldwin said he “didn’t want to fill the position for the sake of filling it.”
Baldwin held open the possibility of pursuing a walk-on or transfer at quarterback.