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Eastern signs Oregon State’s Cole to add spark to backfield

Eastern Washington University’s stable of running backs got a little bit deeper this week when the Eagles signed Oregon State University transfer Ryan Cole.

Cole, a 233-pounder, rushed for 333 yards in two seasons as a backup for the Beavers, including 251 last season. He joins a football team that lost two running backs but few other players from a 9-4 season that included a share of the Big Sky Conference championship and a berth in the I-AA quarterfinals.

“We need an experienced veteran,” Eagles coach Paul Wulff said. “We lost two veteran backs in Darius Washington and Reggie Witherspoon. We feel we have two very capable players returning in (junior) Desmon Cole and (sophomore) Teko Kefu. Both are talented, but they’re still young. Every year we rely on at least three running backs to carry the load. To bring in a guy with experience and maturity will help.”

Cole was considered the No. 3 prospect in Washington coming out of South Kitsap High in 2002. He rushed for 4,698 yards on 508 carries (9.3 yards per carry) and scored 71 touchdowns in his prep career. He had back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons as a junior and senior that included a career-high game of 365 yards as a junior.

“He’s a big, physical presence,” Wulff said. “He has a great work ethic. He’ll fit into our program. He’s a blue-collar kid.”

Cole was recruited to OSU by Dennis Erickson, but after Cole’s redshirt season Erickson left for the NFL and Mike Riley returned to Corvallis.

“He was behind another kid and they wanted to use him as a tailback and fullback,” Wulff said. “They are also changing their offense. With two years remaining, he wanted a chance to be a big factor carrying the football. There will be great competition at that position.

With OSU also on the quarter system, Cole will enroll at Eastern for the spring quarter.

“At least two other schools were in involved in the recruiting process, but I don’t know any of the details,” Wulff said. “We told him who we are and what we offered and let him make the decision.”

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