The Eastern Washington football team said goodbye last weekend to 20 seniors, including 10 starters. The Eagles will lose starters at three positions on offense, five on defense and two on special teams.
That’s a lot, until you consider that many of those players shared time with underclassmen.
Here’s an early look at how the Eagles should line up this spring:
Offense: Two-time All-America quarterback Vernon Adams (251 of 380 for 3,843 yards, 35 TDs and eight interceptions) will return, and so will his backup, Jordan West. Also back are the top three wide receivers, Cooper Kupp (1,431 yards), Kendrick Bourne (814) and Shaq Hill (756). Nic Sblendorio, a late-season bloomer, also returns. The tight end corps returns intact.
On the line, the Eagles lose center Jase Butorac and right guard Jake Rodgers, but everyone else returns, including the top backups. At left tackle, Clay DeBord will return, backed up by Jerrod Jones. All-American Aaron Neary will return at left guard, along with top backup Jay Deines. At center, T.J. Boatright is expected to replace Butorac. Thomas Gomez is back at right guard, and Cassidy Curtis will be the front-runner to replace Rodgers. Even better, all the top backups return.
The biggest hit comes at running back, where the Eagles lose dynamic Quincy Forte and steady Mario Brown. Juniors-to-be Jabari Wilson and Jalen Moore have plenty of talent and experience, but depth will be lacking.
Defense: The losses are heavy, but at least they’re spread across the lineup, with two on the line, two more in a deep linebacking corps and one in the secondary.
Up front, the introduction of six true freshmen should pay dividends next season. Tackle Dylan Zylstra and top backup Ashton Boothroyd are gone, but 315-pound Jay-Tee Tiulu showed promise. There’s a wealth of talent and experience at nose tackle with starter Matthew Sommer and backups Patiole Pesefea and Dylan Donahue, one of whom could move to tackle. There’s also oft-injured Jordan Pulu, who will be a junior. Andre Lino and Conner Baumann will compete to replace Zackary Johnson at field end, while Samson Ebukam and Marcus Saugen are the top returnees at buck end.
At linebacker, the Eagles lose school career tackles leader Ronnie Hamlin on the strong side and Cody McCarthy in the middle, but Miquiyah Zamora has blossomed on the weak side and Albert Havili has seen plenty of action backing up McCarthy. Hamlin’s likely replacement is Jake Gall, who was a true freshman this year.
In the secondary, it will be tough to replace Tevin McDonald, one of the most talented safeties in Eastern history; the top returnees are Todd Raynes, Zach Bruce and Jordan Tonani, although Tonani suffered several concussions this year and missed the last month of the season. At cornerback, key returnees include Rashad Wadood, Victor Gamboa and Jake Hoffman.
Special teams: Kickers Tyler McNannay and Roldan Alcobendas return, but punter Jake Miller and long snapper Cory Alcantar must be replaced. McNannay has collegiate experience as a punter, however.
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