At Eastern Washington, spring football is all about fresh starts – and starting over.
Spring ball is even more poignant for Eagle safeties Tevin McDonald and Jordan Tonani, who are still on the comeback trail after injuries and surgeries in 2013.
Tonani saw the field as a redshirt freshman in 2012 but missed last season after hip surgery last summer. McDonald started most of last season, but was felled by a broken fibula in his left leg at Idaho State on Oct. 26.
Both were back at Roos Field this weekend for the opening of spring ball, more or less.
“It’s what we live for, as football players,” Tonani said Saturday morning before practice. A redshirt sophomore from Ferris High School, Tonani pronounced himself “almost 100 percent recovered.”
“I’m just excited to be back, to get back into reaching playing form,” said Tonani, who watched from the sidelines last year as the Eagles were hit hard by injuries at safety.
The most costly of those struck McDonald, a transfer from UCLA. The Eagles had already lost Allen Brown when McDonald went down in Pocatello. The initial prognosis was encouraging – some thought McDonald might return for last year’s FCS playoffs – but the healing process took longer than expected.
Still hobbled through the winter, McDonald is participating in spring drills – to a point.
“I’m right on schedule (for a full return in the fall),” McDonald said, “but I have to get used to putting the same pressure (on the leg) that I was putting on it last year.”
Likewise, the Eastern running back corps will be replenished by the return of redshirt freshmen Jabari Wilson and Jalen Moore. Both saw action early in the season before being injured.
“I’m just getting my body right and competing and focusing on staying healthy,” said Wilson, who started the season opener at Oregon State before suffering a shoulder injury the following week and playing only sparingly.
For many of the other players, spring offers more than a new start; it’s a chance to become a starter.
Opportunity abounds on a team that lost 11 starters from last year, and senior center Jase Butorac is ready. An understudy to Chris Powers and then to Ashton Miller, Butorac said that “now it’s time to show what I learned.”
In contrast, cornerback D’londo Tucker saw the field as a true freshman last season behind departed seniors T.J. Lee and Ronald Baines. Now he wants more.
“I’m taking it one day at a time, just working hard every day and progressing,” said Tucker.
Meanwhile, Miquiyah Zamora, a sophomore from Pasco, is looking to make a bigger impact at linebacker after moving from safety following his redshirt season in 2012.
“The biggest thing I learned was the discipline of the entire school year – taking care of schoolwork and communicating with my teammates,” Zamora said.
Another redshirt freshman is perfectly content with being number two on the depth chart.
“This year has definitely been a growing experience,” said quarterback Jordan West, who hopes to back up All-American Vernon Adams.
“My goal is to be second string, have that spot in the fall and be ready when my number is called,” said West, from Maple Valley, Wash.