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EWU recruit Jason Talley a big find for Eastern

Jesuit running back Jason Talley runs the ball against Central Catholic. Talley has decided to play for Eastern Washington next season. (Beth Nakamura / The Oregonian)
Jesuit running back Jason Talley runs the ball against Central Catholic. Talley has decided to play for Eastern Washington next season. (Beth Nakamura / The Oregonian)

Jason Talley is following the path of his older brother, but he could leave an even bigger footprint.

For one thing, the running back from Portland is a bigger version of Jordan Talley, who played for three years at Eastern Washington. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Jason Talley is a big back who can move the pile – or avoid it.

Certainly, Talley has a head of steam as he looks forward to a career in Cheney. His senior-year stats were head-shaking: 2,633 yards and an average of 8.6 per carry along with 45 touchdowns as he led Jesuit to a state big-school title.

But even as he commited to Eastern because of the “family atmosphere” in the Eagle lockerroom, Talley had another reason: Eastern’s varied offensive scheme.

“I just felt it was a place where I would have fun playing the sport,” said Talley, who was the go-to tailback in Jesuit’s run-heavy offense.

“It puts me in a little different situation,” Talley said. “It gives me a lot of opportunites to be in open space, where’s it’s one-on-one instead of one on three or four.”

Talley, who has run the 40 in 4.5 seconds, is eager to prove his versatility, and his high school coach backs him up.

“He runs with such velocity, such force, but he also has good vision, runs hard and he’s a tremendous blocker,” Ken Potter said. “He does a very good job when he sees a hole – he turns his shoulders, steps down and goes.”

Talley had to wait for the limelight at Jesuit, playing fullback as a sophomore and junior while Potter encouraged him by recalling that NFL Hall of Famer Marcus Allen got his start at fullback.

“He’s a really humble kid who knows himself well and handles pressure and stress very well,” Potter said.

Talley has another incentive: the sting of rejection.

Even as he accepted the scholarship from Eastern, he was disappointed at not getting an offer from bigger schools. Oregon wanted him to walk on, but after discussing the options with family, friends and coaches, Talley decided to come to Cheney.

“I always kind of felt like if you’re a player that get offers from top schools in (the FCS), that’s when schools in (FBS) ask you to walk on – they just feel like you’re good enough but they can get you for free. At least that’s how coaches explained it to me.”

Poor grades in his sophomore year were part of the problem, “but that was fixed last year and has only gotten better since,” he told The Oregonian last month.

“Also, I think it’s because a lot of West Coast backs have to be able to do it all, and since I (played for) Jesuit they really only get to see me be a power back. Coaches never really said why,” Talley said.

Talley has a comfort level in Cheney that goes back several years. He figures he’s played at least half a dozen pickup basketball games with Eastern players during family trips to Cheney when Jordan was playing.

During those games, Jason Talley was impressed with the Eagles’ demeanor on the field. A recent run of three straight Big Sky Conference titles was only part of the reason.

“It wasn’t the winning, but why they win,” Talley said. “Even if they’re losing, they never seem to freak out – they just executed.”

And if Talley wanted another reason, he got it from All-American wide receiver Cooper Kupp’s recent decision to play a fifth season for Eastern.

Said Talley: “I have dreams of playing in the NFL and so does he, but for him to want to come back here for his senior year, that means it be something special.”

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