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EWU depth chart has five freshmen as possible starters on defense

Talk about stepping up in class.

Nine months ago, Keenan Williams was wrapping up his high school football career on the grass field at Cheney High School.

Four days from now, the true freshman defensive end could be starting for Eastern Washington in its season opener at Oregon.

Based on the EWU depth chart released Monday afternoon, Williams is one of five underclassmen who could start for an Eagles defense that looks to slow one of the most prolific offenses in college football, an offense that’s led by none other than former EWU All-American quarterback Vernon Adams Jr.

Coach Beau Baldwin released the depth chart two days after the Eagles scrimmage held Saturday at Roos Field.

“Everybody is ready to go play somebody else and we’ll be ready to do that on Saturday,” Baldwin said.

The Eagles offense is loaded with experience, with only upperclassmen projected to start against the seventh-ranked Ducks. Eastern will start an all-senior offensive line – averaging 298 pounds – in front of redshirt junior quarterback Jordan West.

Starting on a talented and deep receiving corps are FCS All-American Cooper Kupp, Kendrick Bourne and Shaq Hill. Senior Jake Withnell will start at tight end and juniors Jabari Wilson and Jalen Moore are listed as co-starters at running back.

All told, that adds up to seven seniors and four juniors on the starting offense.

That contrasts with the projected defensive starters; among the seniors, rover Todd Raynes is the only certain starter.

On the line, the experience will come from end Samson Ebukam (240 pounds) and tackle Matthew Sommer (310 pounds). Andre Lino, a 265-pound redshirt sophomore out of Seattle, will start at the other tackle, while the 260-pound Williams shares the top spot at the other end with Jonah Jordan, a 250-pound redshirt freshman from Mead High School.

At linebacker, junior Miquiyah Zamora holds down the middle, while 215-pound redshirt sophomore Jake Gall is listed as the starter on the strong side, ahead of redshirt freshman Alek Kacmarcik.

In the secondary, redshirt freshman Nzuzi Webster is back at corner a year after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the third game of the 2014 season at Washington. At the other corner, senior transfer Rashad Wadood is listed as a co-starter along with redshirt sophomore Victor Gamboa.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the emergence of redshirt freshman Mitch Fettig as the starter at free safety, while junior Zach Bruce out of University High will start at strong safety.

Washington State transfter Jordan Dascalo will handle punts and kickoffs while Tyler McNannay retains his job kicking field goals and extra points.

Kupp and Hill will returns punts and kickoffs, respectively.

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