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EWU football: Jabari Wilson, Jalen Moore provide physical inside rushing attack

The power of Eastern Washington running back Jabari Wilson gives the Eagles a strong inside attack. (Dan Pelle)
The power of Eastern Washington running back Jabari Wilson gives the Eagles a strong inside attack. (Dan Pelle)

When asked about this season’s running back corps, Eastern Washington assistant coach Kiel McDonald paused, smiled and got straight to the point of attack.

“We’re a little different this year … bigger, heavier and we’re going to be real physical,” McDonald said before putting his backs through their paces Tuesday morning at Roos Field.

Whether that means a different feel to the EWU offense remains to be seen, but the straight-ahead power and speed of redshirt juniors Jabari Wilson and Jalen Moore should give the Eagles a solid inside running game.

Added McDonald: “They have nice feet in traffic and an affinity for the big play.”

What Wilson and Moore don’t have is an affinity for the passing game; that role was filled last year by the departed Quincy Forte and Mario Brown. But if Wilson and Moore are the two-headed Mr. Inside, the Eagles may have found Mr. Outside in true freshmen Malcolm Williams Jr. and Sam McPherson.

Williams, in particular, has made a big impact in fall camp, rushing for 33 yards on three carries in last week’s scrimmage. No final decisions have been made on redshirts, but coach Beau Baldwin indicated that both McPherson and the 175-pound Williams have a good chance to play this year.

“Both doing good thing things … you see them getting better with every practice,” Baldwin said “Malcolm, as he gets stronger, he’ll have even more explosion.”

Also in the mix is redshirt freshman Ashanti Kindle, a 200-pounder from Puyallup, Washington, who looked strong in spring camp.

In the meantime, the underclassmen are looking to Wilson and Moore for leadership.

“It’s the same thing that Mario, Quincy and (Demitrius) Bronson told me: make sure that you’re focused as you’re going to practice,” Wilson said Tuesday morning as he did just that.

It’s easy to forget that Wilson, a 5-foot-11, 200-pounder from Carson, California, was the starting back for the Eagles’ epic win at Oregon State in 2013. A week later, he was sidelined by a pulled hamstring.

Last year, injuries limited him to 12 carries in the first 12 games. Then, in the regular-season finale at Portland State, he ran for a career-high 132 yards and three touchdowns to help the Eagles clinch the Big Sky Conference regular-season title.

Likewise, the 5-10, 195-pound Moore shrugged off injuries to rush for 133 yards and two scores last year at Southern Utah.

“This is Jabari’s time, Jalen’s time,” McDonald said.

Notes: Smoky skies were no problem for the Eagles on Tuesday. The Air Quality Index was barely above 100, well below the 150 threshold considered unhealthy for strenuous exercise. Eastern will hold it last two-a-day session today, at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Single practices on Thursday and Friday will preceded Saturday’s 9:45 a.m. scrimmage at Roos Field.

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