The college football season opens in a month when Washington State plays host to the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers in Seattle on Aug. 28.
When the Cougars take the field, a pair of Spokane Valley athletes will figure prominently: West Valley’s Mitch Peterson and University’s Joe Dahl.
Peterson’s career in Pullman blossomed in the spring. Initially a walk-on, Peterson earned a scholarship as a junior a year ago, when he appeared in eight games. His prospects for increased playing time soared after he was shifted from safety to linebacker after the Cougars’ bowl game.
Shifting a safety to linebacker isn’t uncommon – especially as defenses look to improve their ability to cover sophisticated passing attacks.
Peterson has taken to the switch and earned praise for his understanding of the defensive scheme and ability to get to the ball and tackle as well of his lack of mental mistakes.
WSU linebackers coach Ken Wilson told reporters during the spring that Peterson had improved more than any member of his unit since returning from the loss to Colorado State.
Peterson will battle Cyrus Coen for a starting spot and he’s expected to see plenty of playing time.
Joe Dahl also is in the midst of a position switch. The U-Hi grad started at left guard a year ago, but prior to the bowl game the coaching staff shifted him to left tackle and moved starting left tackle Gunnar Ecklund to Dahl’s former spot.
The shift means that Dahl will be responsible for protecting Connor Halliday’s blind side in pass protection – a bigger responsibility for Dahl becaue he’s been the quarterback’s roommate the past two seasons.
College of Idaho
Football returns to the College of Idaho this fall, and former East Valley quarterback Taylor Watkins was part of the ‘Yotes’ first recruiting class a year ago.
The redshirt freshman is one of four players in the battle for the starting quarterback job when the season opens Sept. 6 in Forest Grove, Ore., against Pacific.
Head coach Mike Moroski, who once served as Joe Montana’s backup with the San Francisco 49ers, tapped junior quarterback Teejay Gordon, a transfer from Modeseto Junior College, “… the guy to beat.”
But Watkins is in the mix, especially after throwing a 43-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andy Forse in the spring game.
Hartvig Bondo, an All-Great Northern League kicker as a junior at East Valley, also is on the C of I roster and will vie to become the team’s kicker.
Four Spokane Valley players are returning starters on offense at Whitworth, but no one has a lock on a position as the Pirates open the season under first-year head coach Rod Sandberg, who was hired after John Tully stepped down after 19 seasons.
Whitworth opens its season Sept. 6 at home against conference rival Lewis and Clark, and the team figures to look different this season.
Sandberg hired former Shadle Park coach Alan Stanfield to bring a more up-tempo, wide-open offense to the Pine Bowl and the Pirates have three-year starter Bryan Peterson, Mitch Peterson’s older brother, back at quarterback.
In front of Peterson, offensive lineman Kyle Cosby, a 6-foot-6 U-Hi grad, is a returning starter. Carroll College transfer Drew Clausen was Peterson’s favorite target a year ago at wide receiver. Central Valley grad Anthony Brommer moved into the starting tight end job a year ago following an injury to the team’s starter.
Sandberg has made it clear that every position is open heading into the start of fall practices, and the coach will welcome 45 new recruits to start the season.
University of Idaho
Central Valley grad Austin Rehkow made a big splash as a true freshman, leading the nation in punting by averaging 47.8 yards per kick. That accomplishment landed him on the preseason All-Sun Belt first team list.
Incoming freshman Jordan Rose, will battle for playing time on the offensive line after helping Freeman to its first state Class 1A football championship a year ago.
Jake Miller, who preceded Rehkow as the starting punter at Central Valley, enters his senior season as Eastern Washington’s all-time record holder at his position with a 43.8 yards-per-kick career average.
Sophomore safety Zach Bruce, a U-Hi grad, collected 11 tackles in the spring game.
Former CV quarterback Gaven Deyarmin redshirted the 2012 season while earning Scout Team Player of the Week honors at linebacker, then sat out the entire 2013 season with a shoulder injury. He returned to the field for spring drills.
Former U-Hi wide receiver Austin Flynn hopes to break into the EWU rotation at wide receiver in his second season in Cheney.