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Eastern Washington starting offensive tackle Nick Ellison leaves program for personal reasons

UPDATED: Wed., Aug. 16, 2017, 4:38 p.m.

EWU offensive lineman Nick Ellison during a practice in 2016. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
EWU offensive lineman Nick Ellison during a practice in 2016. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Eastern Washington offensive lineman Nick Ellison, a projected starter at left tackle, has left the team for personal reasons, coach Aaron Best said Wednesday.

“The passion, the drive that he had before just weren’t there,” Best said as the Eagles gathered at Roos Field for their annual team picture.

“He’s done this for the last three falls, and it’s a long season, especially when you get into the playoffs every year,” Best said.

Ellison, a junior from Moscow, informed Best of his decision late last week, but the team made no announcement at the time. Ellison will remain on campus this fall and work toward his degree.

“He wants to focus on school. He felt that his schoolwork was suffering a bit,” Best added.

Two weeks ago, Ellison was a second-team preseason Big Sky Conference selection, as chosen by College Sports Madness.

His departure throws the Eagles’ depth chart into disarray. A fixture on the right side last year, Ellison was moved to the left last spring while former left tackle Tristen Taylor shifted to left guard to beef up the running game.

Sophomore Chris Schlichting is the projected starter at right tackle. The top reserves at left tackle – the blind slide protector for quarterback Gage Gubrud – are freshmen Brett Thompson and Nick Blair.

Their inexperience could send right tackle Chris Schlichting, a junior, to the left side. Junior Kaleb Levao and sophomore Dylan Smith also could see more action because of Ellison’s departure.

“We have some parts we can move around,” Best said, without going into detail. “However, moving four is harder than moving one.”

Ellison is the second high-profile player to leave the program recently. Starting linebacker Alek Kacmarcik, a two-year letter winner who had 82 tackles last year, quit during the summer, also for personal reasons.

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