T his is the sixth of an eight-part series on spring football at Eastern Washington. Today: the linebackers
The teacher-student ratio at Eastern Washington looks even better these days, especially at Roos Field.
Minor shoulder injuries have kept senior linebackers Ronnie Hamlin and Cody McCarthy out of contact drills this spring, but the Eagles’ top returning tacklers are helping any way they can.
Before they pass the torch next year, the two seniors are eager to pass on their wisdom.
“We just want to help these younger guys,” said McCarthy, a fixture for two years at middle linebacker.
That’s just fine with assistant coach Josh Fetter. “We all know what Ronnie and Cody can do, and now they’re doing a heck of a good job helping me,” said Fetter, whose main focus this spring is to find the right fit for 11 talented players.
In other words, the two-deep won’t be decided until fall camp.
Here’s how the Eastern linebackers are shaping up this spring:
The strong inside linebacker usually lines up inside on the tight end side, and is often responsible for covering the tight end in a passing situation. Hamlin has been a fixture here for three seasons, and his 361 tackles rank third in school history.
Hamlin, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound senior from Lacey, Wash., “has great football instincts, and a lot of that comes from the hard work he puts into the game as a student,” Fetter said.
Last year, Hamlin finished 12th for the Buck Buchanan Award but somehow didn’t earn first-team All-Big Sky despite a season that also included six tackles for loss and a pair of interceptions, including a game-changing, 61-yard return for a score at North Dakota.
The Mike, or middle linebacker, is primarily a run-stopper, backing up the interior line. Last year that job fell to McCarthy, a 6-1, 230-pound senior from Boise who logged 115 tackles last year, including 11 for loss.
Numbers don’t tell the whole story: Two years ago, McCarthy was diagnosed with diabetes, but impressed Fetter and the Eastern coaches with his perserverance and toughness. “He’s battled through a lot of things, and he’s still here – he’s a great kid,” Fetter said.
The Will, or weak outside ’backer, often must cover a slot receiver, so foot speed and direction change are crucial. What better spot for Miquiyah Zamora, who arrived in Cheney as an oversized safety and started 10 games at Will after J.C. Agen went down to injury? Now Agen is gone, leaving the 6-1, 220-pound Zamora as the favorite at this position.
Says Fetter, “He’s the type of kid you have to have on the field. He continues to get better.”
Unlike last spring, when the Eagles had just four linebackers in spring camp, the Eagles have the luxury of numbers. At the top of the chart is probable “Will” backup Albert Havili, a 6-2, 250-pound true sophomore whose redshirt was burned last year. Havili responded with 61 tackles – fifth most on the team – and a memorable 77-yard interception return for a score that clinched an FCS quarterfinal win over Jacksonville State.
The Eagles also return converted running back Jordan Talley, a 5-10, 210-pound junior from Portland who according to Fetter “has grown tremendously but is not quite there.”
Fetter also has hopes for redshirt freshmen Joe Kreifels, a 5-9, 215-pounder from Modesto, Calif., and Jake Gall, a 6-1, 220-pounder from Cle Elum, Wash. who according to Fetter “can flat-out run.”
Also in camp is redshirt sophomore Gaven Deyarmin, a 6-1, 205-pound former quarterback from Central Valley High School.
Coming Saturday: part seven, the defensive backs