There weren’t too many opportunities for Ryan Cole to stand out during the first day of spring football practice at Eastern Washington University. But stand out he did.
Cole stood out even when he was standing around waiting for his turn in drills or plays.
The junior transfer from Oregon State is 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, taller and heavier than any other running back on the Eagles roster, and more experienced.
After two years with the Beavers, the 2001 Washington Gatorade Player of the Year out of South Kitsap decided to move on.
“I just didn’t like my situation at Oregon State,” he said Monday afternoon. “I talked with my coach and we just didn’t see eye to eye with my position. I just wanted an opportunity to go to another school and get a fresh start and get a chance to display my abilities.”
Cole checked out several I-AA schools once he decided to transfer, settling on Eastern for a number of reasons.
“When I took my recruiting trip up here one thing that impressed me a whole lot was the team unity, the bonding and how the players got along with one another,” he said. “Also, I liked how they run the ball. They’re more of a downhill attack; that’s what I am. It’s also in the state of Washington so my family can come see me. But for the major part I wanted to be involved with a team that it was just about team, not individuals. That’s what the program was that I came from, it was lacking that team.”
Leaving the Pac-10 behind doesn’t bother Cole.
“Obviously, there’s that gap of different talents or there wouldn’t be different levels of play,” he said. “That crossed my mind, but it doesn’t make me think any less of the players out here because there are obviously a lot of great athletes on this field. … The defense moves really well, Erik Meyer is a great quarterback … Eric (Kimble) is a star on offense. I’m just trying to fit in.”
Though there was a bone-chilling wind, the Eagles had a spirited practice Monday.
“I’m very pleased with the first day,” head coach Paul Wulff said. “We’re excited just to be out here. Like everybody else we have our weaknesses we have to work on. That’s what we’re out here to do.
“On both sides of the ball there are some things we need to add, subtle changes. We did that last year and it helped us improve. We’re doing that again.”
Though there is much emphasis on filling two spots on both the offensive and defensive line, Wulff said there is concern with the special teams as well.
“Obviously, our kicking game is an emphasis,” he said. “We’ll have a great competition. Hopefully we’ll come up with the guy. We’ll see how it goes. And we have to find a long snapper.”
Last year Skylar Allen and Sheldon Weddle shared the kicking as redshirt sophomores, neither particularly distinguishing himself. Now redshirt freshman Patrick LaValla is joining the competition.
Long-snapper Will Haas, a backup tight end, decided not to play any more.
“We have confidence in (walk-on redshirt) freshman Mark Lathim,” Wulff said. “But there are some others in the mix – Johnny Hanson, Charles Wulff and Keith Grennan.”
A couple of other players have decided not to continue, non-lettering junior defensive lineman Anthony Nunnley and redshirt freshman wide receiver Derek Nesbitt, a Central Valley grad. Also, defensive lineman Larry Raynes, who started seven games as a redshirt freshman, “is cleaning up some academic issues,” from winter quarter, according to Wulff.
“We had a lot of guys missing for class,” Wulff added, “so we were pretty thin in some spots. That’s spring ball.”
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