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EWU linebackers battle through setbacks

An injury has forced EWU linbacker Miquiyah Zamora to sit out spring practices, but he has been involved coaching teammates. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
An injury has forced EWU linbacker Miquiyah Zamora to sit out spring practices, but he has been involved coaching teammates. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

This is the sixth in an eight-part series on spring football at Eastern Washington. Today: the linebackers.

The Eastern Washington linebackers are an adaptable group. Not that there’s any choice.

In the last year, they’ve learned a new defensive system – from new coordinator Jeff Schmedding – and lost one of their top players to sudden retirement. Now they’re going through their paces without their top returnee.

But one thing’s for sure – they’re not going through the motions.

“They had a great winter and now a great spring,” said Eagle linebackers coach Josh Fetter, who has eight players in camp.

Fetter figured to have 10, but strongside ’backer Jake Gall – the team’s second-leading tackler last year with 78 – opted to leave the program and train to become a firefighter.

“He decided that he’d had enough – and that’s life,” Fetter said. “He’s doing well.”

Meanwhile middle linebacker Miquiyah Zamora is sitting out spring ball while recovering from shoulder surgery.

Here’s how the Eastern linebackers are shaping up this spring:

Middle linebacker (‘MIKE’)

Zamora is being held out of contact drills, but the senior from Pasco is doing everything else this spring – including helping Fetter. “Sometimes I think he’s harder on the guys in the field than I am,” Fetter said. “He’s giving the guys a lot of tips.”

The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Zamora has already given his teammates a lesson in toughness; last year, playing with what Fetter termed “one arm,” Zamora registered a team-high 101 tackles while starting all 11 games.

“I couldn’t be happier with him,” Fetter said.

Ketner Kupp, the younger brother of All-American wide receiver Cooper Kupp, is getting reps at both linebacker positions. “That’s tough to do, but he can handle it,” Fetter said of the 6-1, 210-pound sophomore from Yakima. “He also a football junkie,” Fetter said.

Also in the mix is Trevor Davis Jr., a 6-1, 210-pound redshirt freshman from Tumwater, Washington. “Things are starting to pick up for him, and he’s worked his tail off,” Fetter said.

Strongside linebacker (‘SAM’)

Suddenly, the other Eastern Washington linebackers are looking up to Alek Kacmarcik, who’s only a redshirt sophomore but gained a lot of seniority last fall.

One of the rising stars on the defensive side last year, the 6-1, 205-pound Kacmarcik played nine games last year and had 54 tackles, including four for loss, plus two sacks.

“The biggest thing is, he’s starting to master the position,” Fetter said. “He understands the concepts, and his eyes are better.”

For Kacmarcik, the leadership role “is a great responsibility – I love it. I’m trying to set a good example and be as vocal as I can.”

The Eagles also figure to get a strong contribution from Kurt Calhoun, a 6-2, 225-pound redshirt sophomore from Zillah, Washington. “His winter was outstanding, probably the best of the group – he’s continuing to get better,” Kacmarcik said.

Other linebackers in camp in include four freshmen: Andrew Katzenberger, a 6-2, 220-pounder from Lynwood, Washington; Kody Beckering (6-0, 190, Sunnyside, Washington); Jack Sendelbach (6-3, 215, Seattle); and Roy Hyatt, (6-2, 200, from Mead High School).

Coming Thursday: part seven, the secondary

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