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Cheney football star commits to EWU

It’s as official as it can get two weeks before national letter-of-intent day: Cheney High School football star Keenan Williams will enroll at Eastern Washington this fall.

“He’s been recruited pretty heavily by a lot of mid-major schools, but he just decided to stay home,” said his father, Cheney coach Bryan Williams.

The 6-foot-3, 262-pound defensive end and tight end had soft-verballed to the Eagles some time ago, but wanted to leave no doubt.

Here are highlights of Williams on offense and on defense

Williams,a three-star prospect according to rivals.com, had offers from Eastern, Idaho and Wyoming, and was approved for admission to Harvard. He has a 3.45 grade-point average.

Other schools showing interest were Washington, Montana State, Montana, Portland State, Colorado, Boise State, BYU, Armyu, Yale, Cornell, Air Force, Puget Sound, Whitworth, Arizona and North Texas.
In his last two years as a Blackhawk, Williams was first-team all-Great Northern League on both offense and defense.

EWU quarterback Adams rebuts Oregon rumors

Rumors that Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. could transfer to Oregon next year are just that, Adams said Wednesday afternoon.

“I haven’t talked to anybody over there," Adams said in reaction to reports a pair of websites, including fishduck.com and bleacherreport.com , that he is could be candidate to replace departed Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.

The rumors were repeated Wednesday in this column from the Oregonian.

“I keep hearing that too,” Adams said Wednesday. “I don’t know, maybe they just need a quarterback.”

Adams, a redshirt junior at Eastern, is scheduled to earn his degree this spring. Theoretically, he could transfer to another school for his final year of eligibility.

Adams has led the Eagles to three straight Big Sky Conference titles. He is a two-time runner-up for the Walter Payton Award, the Football Championship Subdivision equivalent of the Heisman.

Adams threw for 35 touchdowns in 10 games last season after throwing 55 in 15 games in 2013. He’s also rushed for 10 touchdowns over the past two years and has completed 66 percent of his passes along the way.

Ironically, EWU and Oregon will face each other in the season opener on Sept. 4 in Eugene, Oregon.

 

 

A way-too-early look at 2015: EWU and the FCS

The college football season is finally over, which gives us a chance to look ahead to next year.

And we’re not talking about the big boys.

On Tuesday, The Sports Network announced its early-early favorites in the Football Championship Subdivision. Eastern Washington (11-3 last year) is picked third, surrounded by some familiar company: No.1 North Dakota State, No.2 Illinois State and No. 4 Sam Houston State.

Even more interesting, here’s what they say about the Eagles:

“What quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. can accomplish as a senior is a scary thought. But the two-time runner-up for the Walter Payton Award and All-American wide receiver Cooper Kupp (pictured above) are going to have to keep scoring in bunches until the Eagles defense proves it is much improved. Allowing 59 points to Illinois State in the national quarterfinals left some doubt. The schedule is as difficult as ever for the three-time defending Big Sky champions, including Oregon, Northern Iowa, Idaho State and Montana on the road, and Montana State (as a non-conference matchup again) and Cal Poly at home.”

That’s hardly surprising, but the defense may still be an issue next year unless Eastern effectively replace five starters, including two of its best in linebacker Ronnie Hamlin and safety Tevin McDonald. On the other hand, I expect to see all those young defensive linemen emerge bigger and badder come spring.

TSN is right about the offense, which shouldn’t miss a beat despite the departure of running backs Quincy Forte and Mario Brown along with All-American right tackle Jake Rodgers.

And the schedule? It’s as tough as ever, especially when you consider the game at Northern Iowa, which seldom loses at home. On

the other hand, ISU must replace All-Big Sky quarterback Justin Arias.

And what about Montana? The Griz don’t even merit a mention in the TSN rankings.

Eagles soar to No. 13 in mid-major poll, 63rd in RPI

More than six weeks after the big win over Indiana, Eastern Washington is still getting people's attention.

The Eagles are ranked 13th in this week's Collegeinsider.com mid-major poll and 63rd in the NCAA RPI rankings. That's by far the best in the Big Sky Conference: Sacramento State is the next league team at No. 193.

Want more numbers? The  Eagles are ranked 15th in Division I scoring offense (80.4 per game), 17th in field goal percentage (49.0 percent), seventh in 3-pointers made per game (9.6) and seventh in 3-point percentage (41.2 percent). The Eagles are also 13th in blocked shots (6.0 per game) and are 20th in fewest turnovers per game (10.7).

"With each road win you gain more confidence," coach Jim Hayford said after the Eagles won 89-86 at Idaho to improve to 3-0 in the Big Sky and 12-4 overall. "I think the Idaho win was a big confidence-builder."

 

 

 

Eastern finishes fourth in final FCS poll

The Eastern Washington football season ended a bit sooner than usual, but the Eagles and their strength of schedule were rewarded Monday with a No. 4 ranking in the final Football Championship Subdivision poll.

Thanks to a schedule that included six top 25 teams - plus a narrow 59-52 loss at Washington - the Eagles (11-3) finished behind only FCS champion North Dakota State, runner-up Illinois State and semifinalist New Hampshire. It didn't hurt that Eastern won the Big Sky Conference title for the third straight year.

 

EWU football recruits show their stuff

Depending on what web site you're perusing, Eastern Washington has anywhere from two to nine verbal commitments for 2015. We won't know for sure until Feb. 4, but until then, here are highlight videos of several recruits who've given verbals:

Here's offensive lineman Codi McGuire,  a 6-foot-4, 275-pounder from Kelseyville, California, who also received offers from UC Davis, San Diego, Princeton, Princeton, Harvard, SJSU and SDSU

Here's cornerback Savion Simms, a 5-7, 160-pounder from Fresno (offers from Idaho, Montana St. and NAU)
  

Eastern football links

Good morning from chilly Flagstaff, where it's 38 degrees outside, so I just hightailed it back to my hotel room to compile these links. First, here's my feature from yesterday on offensive lineman Jake Rodgers - a former Shadle Park star - and my preview of today's game. Want more? Here's the official release from EWU sports information director Dave Cook. … Eastern's next opponent, North Dakota, is still looking for a road win this year…. Apart from EWU-NAU, the biggest game is the Big Sky today pits Montana against Cal Poly; here's a preview from the Missoulian. … Portland State football is in crisis mode, according to these stories in the Oregonian.

Eastern sports links

Eastern Washington running back Mario Brown handles more than a football. Here's my feature on Brown, plus a link to yesterday's live chat. …  There's also some interesting basketball news out of Eastern. … Back to football: Here's all you need to know about Northern Colorado. …Northern Arizona faces a big test at Portland State. … Montana's defense is getting a lot of praise.

Eastern football links

The Eagles are back home this weekend, facing an improving Northern Colorado program that leads the nation in turnovers.. Here's our weekly notebook, a report from practice, and a link to today's live chat, where we can discuss all of it. …. Want more? Here's a preview of the game. courtesy of EWU sports information director Dave Cook. .. Don't have a ticket? Better make some friends. … Elsewhere, Northern Arizona is at Portland State in a game that both sides need to win. … Montana is concerned about UC Davis' improving offense. … MSU quarterback Dakota Prukop is added to the Payton watch list (what, he wasn't already?)

Eastern sports links

That's right, this morning's blog isn't confined to football. I caught up with basketball coach Jim Hayford, whose team opened practices last weekend amid a lot of optimism. … On the football front, Eastern's  next opponent, Southern Utah, also has faced a quarterback crisis the season. Those are just two items up for discussion in today's live chat at noon, right here at sportslink. …Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson will be back this week. … The Billings Gazette has an interesting analysis of changing offensive philosophies at Montana and Montana State….North Dakota has one of the most versatile players in the Big Sky.

Eastern football links

For several weeks, it will be Jordan West's football team at Eastern Washington. Here's our look at West, who will start Saturday at Southern Utah in place of the injured Vernon Adams. … We'll have a chance to discuss that and more during Thursday's live chat, but in the meantime, here's an early look at the game from EWU.

Eastern and Big Sky links

You want tough? Meet Cody McCarrthy. the starting middle linebacker at Eastern Washington and the subject of this feature story. The Eagles are at home this week against Idaho State, and here a look at the game from EWU and from ISU. We also had a live chat yesterday, and here is the replay. …How good are the Bengals? Better than in years past, according to this article in the hometown Idaho State Journal. … Southern Utah has a big game this week at Cal Poly.

Eastern football links

It's Hall of Fame weekend at Eastern Washington, but for one player, it's Homecoming - and he doesn't even play for the Eagles. Here's our story on former Ferris High star Cody Sorensen, now with the Idaho State Bengals. .. I also wrote a story on sportscasters that includes his father Paul as well as Mike Peterson, who calls Whitworth games for SWX. .. Today, look for our weekly live chat, which begins at noon. … Want more on the game? Here's a preview from Eastern and one from ISU. … The hometown Idaho State Journal offers this story on an improving Bengal defense. … Next week's EWU opponent, Southern Utah, is hoping to build some momentum this week. …Northern Colorado has a banged-up quarterback.

Eastern Game Day football links

The Eagles are here in (mostly) sunny California, playing tonight at UC Davis in a game that perhaps won't come down to the wire - and perhaps it will. Here's my preview, along with a feature in the Sacramento Bee that examines the game as well as the Eastern program.  Want more? Here's a complete pre-game package from Eastern sports information director Dave Cook. … Elsewhere, Idaho State could sure use some momentum heading into next week's game at Eastern, and a win over Sacramento State would do wonders. … Weber State and Southern Utah are both 0-4, but something's gotta give today. … In Missoula, the Montana Grizzlies are looking to bounce back from a loss at North Dakota State. … Perhaps the most intriguing Big Sky opener is Cal Poly at Northern Arizona, as both teams have postseason hopes.

Eastern football links

Eastern safety and California native Tevin McDonald is playing in California this weekend for first time since joining the Eagles a year and a half ago. Here's my feature story on McDonald, who is coming off a huge day at Montana State. .. We also had a nice live chat on Thursday, and here's the replay. … Want more on the game? Go to the EWU athletic site… and the UC Davis site. … It's been a tough year so far at Northern Colorado. …and now my computer is freezing and I have a plane to catch - adios!

McDonald fitting in just fine at Eastern

It wasn’t easy trading Westwood for the West Plains, but former UCLA safety Tevin McDonald has done just that - and he's fitting in just fine at Eastern Washington.

The native Californian still dreams of following his father and older brother into the National Football League. He’s merely taking a different path, one smoothed for many players by the stability and success of the Eagle program under coach Beau Baldwin.

Here's the full story: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2014/sep/25/ewu-transfer-tevin-mcdonald-excels-completely-diff/

Eastern football links

It's game day here in Bozeman, where No. 2 Eastern Washington visits No. 14 Montana State. Here's my game preview, and, in case you missed it, the replay from Thursday's live chat. … The hometown Bozeman Daily Chronicle has a big package on the game, including a reprise from last year's EWU win, a profile of EWU coach Beau Baldwin and a game preview highlighting new MSU quarterback Dakota Prukop…. In other games, Montana faces a huge challenge at top-ranked North Dakota State. Here's a preview from the Missoulian. … Interestingly, Eastern's next two opponents, UC Davis and Idaho State, have the week off. … Southern Utah is hoping to rebound, but that won't be easy at Fresno State. …

Eastern football notes

Has it really been two weeks since we chatted about Eastern Washington football? We'll do it again today at noon, right here at SportsLink. One topic of conversation should be new Montana State quarterback Dakota Prukop. who's the subject of today's Big Sky notebook. …MSU's underdog status is personified by Bobcat lineman Taylor Dees, according to this article  in the Billings Gazette, which also has a preview of Saturday's Montana game at North Dakota State. … Two weeks from now, Idaho State will bring a veteran offensive line against Eastern. …Suddenly, the Eagles' win over Sam Houston State doesn't look so impressive.

Eastern football links

Second-ranked Eastern Washington is rested and ready for No. 14 Montana State, but in this series, being favored isn't necessarily a good thing. Here's my story from Tuesday's practice, and here's a link to the game preview from the EWU Sports Information Office. … New MSU quarterback Dakota Prukop is off to a great start, and earned a big honor this week. Of course, that won't help the Bobcat defense, which is still looking for answers on how to stop EWU QB Vernon Adams and company. … You'd think No. 2 vs. No. 14 would be the biggest game in the Big Sky this week, but you'd be wrong: No. 4 Montana is at top-ranked North Dakota State. The Missoulian is rising to the challenge with this early look at the task confronting the Griz. … Look out: UC Davis has two weeks to get ready for a Sept. 27 home game against the Eagles. … Idaho State receiver Broc Malcolm enjoyed a career day last weekend. … Fresh off a blowout Homecoming loss to South Dakota State, Southern Utah will have a tough time bouncing back at Fresno State.

Eastern Washington, the morning after

SEATTLE – A few reflections off Lake Washington as I prepare to head back to Spokane this morning…

The entertainment value of Saturday’s 59-52 loss at Husky Stadium wasn’t lost on the Eagle coaches and players, who lingered a bit as they exited to the claps of the hundreds of Eagle fans near the visitor’s lockerroom.

It’s a team game, and the cheers were as loud for the defense as they were for Vernon Adams after his record-setting game that included 475 passing yards and a school-record seven touchdown passes.

Just like their Husky counterparts, the Eagle defenders will roll up their sleeves this week, treat the bye week like any other and work

Q-and-A with Tacoma UW beat writer Christian Caple

SEATTLE - I posed five questions about the Washington Huskies to Christian Caple, who covers the Dawgs for the Tacoma News Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter: @ChristianCaple

1) Coach Sarksian is gone, but what do you see as his major contributions in upgrading the program since these teams met in 2011?

The overall talent level is quite a bit higher. If you look at Washington's defense, you probably see four players — defensive linemen Danny Shelton and Hau'oli Kikaha, linebacker Shaq Thompson and cornerback Marcus Peters — who could reasonably expect to be drafted in 2015, with other guys around them who have played a lot and put up some numbers, too. That level of depth wasn't there in Sarkisian's first couple years (though the Huskies did have a pretty remarkable amount of NFL talent in 2009 for a team that had just gone 0-12). I think it really started to show up last season, with an offense run by a fifth-year senior quarterback (Keith Price), a proven junior

Eastern football links

One Eastern Washington player's career will be coming full-circle when the Eagles play in Husky Stadium. Here's my story on center Jase Butorac, plus the full transcript from Thursday's live chat. Want more? Here is a preview from the game produced by EWU Sports Information Director Dave Cook. … UW nose tackle Danny Shelton - all 339 pounds of him - is getting even better, according to this story in the Seattle Times., which also offers this blog. … Apparently the game will not be a sellout, according Christian Caple of the Tacoma News Tribune. … The Bozeman Daily Chronicle looks ahead to Montana State's game against Black Hills.

UW (and Eastern) football links

It's a fact of life: the big football schools get more media attention - hence my headline above. This week, Vernon Adams has settled into the role of "the other quarterback," no matter that he's an FCS All-American and that the other guy has started one game his entire college career. But that other guy plays for the Washington Huskies; even I had to write a story on Cyler Miles, and we can talk about him at today's live chat. The Seattle Times has a report on Miles' impact at UW practice, plus an interview with Eastern coach Beau Baldwin. Meanwhile, the Tacoma News Tribune has this Husky blog. … Moving on, the Eagles have a bye next week, then travel to Montana State, which was routed last week at Arkansas State but found a kicker in the process…. Montana is gearing up for a game with Central Washington. … Courtesy of the Idaho State Journal, here's a primer on the Utah State-Idaho State game.

Eastern football links

Eastern is doing its best to treat Washington as just another game, but that's hard to do, as my story shows. … Lots of news on the Huskies (as always), including a Seattle Times feature on speedy receiver John Ross III, and news that linebacker Travis Feeney has reclaimed his starting role. … Christian Cape of the Tacoma News Tribune has a nice feature on Eastern quarterback Vernon Adams, plus an interview with the UW defensive coordinator. … From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, here's a better-late-than-never reprise of Montana State's loss at Arkansas State. … After getting blitzed by Stanford, the UC Davis players step down a few notches this week. … Not so for Idaho State, which has to bounce back from a loss at Utah by going to Utah State. … A close loss at Wyoming burnished the reputation of Montana's defense.

Eastern football links

Sorry this is so late, but I just had to stay up watching the Cougs. … In happier news, here's my story on former WSU (and current Eastern Washington) wide receiver Blair Bomber. … In case you missed it, we had a lively live chat yesterday, and here is the transcript. … The Eagles host Montana Western on Saturday night, and here's all you need to know (until my own preview comes out tomorrow, of course!). …In the better-late-than-never category, here's a recap of MWU's win last week over Montana Tech. courtesy of the Dillon Tribune. … Husky receiver Kasen Williams says he's "ready to go" against Hawaii. …So is Christian Caple of the Tacoma News Tribune, who files this report from Honolulu. …Montana State isn't intimidated by FBS team Arkansas State, according to this story in the Bozeman Daiy Chronicle. That's a good thing, since four Big Sky teams got mauled last night. Cal Poly lost a relatively close one at New Mexico State, but Idaho State was whipped at Utah, Weber State was steamrolled at Arizona State, and North Dakota was routed at San Jose State.

Eastern football links

Don't forget, it's Thursday, which means we will be chatting at noon on all things EWU sports. … Saturday's game against Montana Western offers one of the visitors a chance for a memorable homecoming. … Want more on Saturday's game? Here is the official release from the Eagles, plus the MWU football home page. … The Washington Huskies are preparing for their opener Saturday at Hawaii. The Tacoma News Tribune has more on the Dawgs, who leave this afternoon for Honolulu. … Here is the latest on Montana State, courtesy of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. … The Billings Gazette offers a look at the future of FBS vs. FCS games. … UC Davis has perhaps the toughest opening-week assignment of any Big Sky  team. … I also don't envy Idaho State, which is at Utah tonight. …

Eastern football links

The way the Eastern Washington players and coaches were talking Tuesday, you wouldn't know the Eagle were coming off a three-touchdown win last weekend. Up next: Montana Western, an NAIA school, and here's the early scoop from EWU and also from Montana Western. … One UW player offers an interesting blend of culture, as this Seattle Times story  explains. The Tacoma News Tribune profiles Husky defensive back Budda Baker. … Montana has a big opener Saturday at Wyoming.

Eastern and Big Sky links

Game day is almost here, and I'm as excited as anyone. I love my job, especially when I have a chance to write feature stories on Eastern players. Ever wonder what it's like to be Vernon Adams? This morning's story offers a glimpse behind the helmet. … We had a great live chat yesterday, and here is the full transcript. … Want all the details on Saturday's EWU-Sam Houston State game? Eastern has it all right here. … The Eagles are also hosting a kickoff celebration tonight in downtown Spokane. I'll be there, but not until I interview a certain national sports radio personality (and EWU alum) who's flying into town this afternoon - look for that tomorrow, along with my game preview. Did I mention that I love this job? … Elsewhere, Montana Western has updated its football home page, but that's all for now. … The Washington Huskies get a tad more media coverage, including this Seattle Times story on the Husky freshmen. … Montana State names a kicker and punter - and it's the same guy.

Eastern football links

Warmup question: You really know it's football season when …..? For me, it's today, when we publish our annual college section. This year, it's devoted to the players and coaches who put so much into the game. At Eastern, we chose defensive lineman Dylan Zylstra, who also is on the cover. I also have a quick look at some talking points for the upcoming Eagle season. Speaking of talking points, we'll have our weekly live chat today at noon, right here on Sportslink.  In the daily section, a feature on new Sam Houston (and former Delaware) coach K.C. Keeler. Also, the Eagles will be sporting new uniforms on Saturday. … From the SHSU web site, everything you want to know about the Bearkats. … Next week's Eagle opponent, Montana Western, is a member of the NAIA Frontier Conference, which has some useful info. … Washington needs to improve its pass protection, according to this story in the Seattle Times. The Huskies have some new faces on special teams, says this article in the Tacoma News Tribune. … Montana State coach Rob Ash isn't overly concerned about his banged-up secondary. …The Montana tight ends are finding their role.

Eastern football links

The Eastern Washington cornerbacks might face their toughest test of the season this morning at Roos Field. Here's my story on a talented by inexperienced group, along with a look at the entire EWU defense, courtesy of sports information director Dave Cook. …  Nothing new out of Sam Houston State, but here's the Bearkats' home page. …  UW coach Chris Petersen is trying to make the program friendlier, according to this story in the Seattle Times. … The Tacoma News Tribune has a blog on the Huskies. … Past struggles have made some Montana State players better, according to this story in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, which also previews today's MSU scrimmage.