Eastern Washington University’s latest football recruiting class not only kept with the school’s interests in signing potential talent from inside the state but it may have produced talent to fill some of the holes the Eagles will have in 2013.
In officially announcing the names of the 17 new Eagles, head coach Beau Baldwin hinted along the way that some of the new faces coming to Cheney might be able to replace some of the old familiar ones fans have watched for the past few years.
“We lost a lot of seniors at the linebacker and wide receiver positions, and we were able to address those in this class,” Baldwin told the audience in the Kalispel Ballroom at Northern Quest Resort Feb. 6. “We were able to fill that void.”
Of the 17 recruits, 11 are from the state of Washington, three more come from Oregon and the remainder out of California. The signees include seven All-State selections from Washington and two from Oregon.
While each of the new Eagles stand out, there were a number of players who might stand out more than others.
Included are D.J. Martin, a highly-rated running back from Stockdale High School in Bakersfield, Calif. “He’s probably the highest profile player we recruited and deservedly so,” Baldwin said. “He’s been productive all the way back to his sophomore season.” At one point, the recruiting website 24/7 ranked Martin as high as a four-star prospect (94 grade) and the No. 14 running back in the nation.
Locally, the Eagles signed defensive back/wide receiver Jake Hoffman out of North Central High School in Spokane. “It’s always exciting to sign somebody local and a player with his talent,” Baldwin said. Named by the Seattle Times as a "White Chip" selection Hoffman was projected as one of the top 100 prospects in the state of Washington.
Eastern lost a trio of wide receivers who all earned All-America honors and had 1,000-yard seasons at EWU in Brandon Kaufman, Nicholas Edwards and Greg Herd.
To fill that void the Eagles signed a trio of wide receivers – Nic Sblendorio from State 4A champion Skyline High School in Sammamish; Victor Gamboa from Washington High in Tacoma; and Kendrick Bourne from Milwaukie Arts Academy in Portland. Hoffman may also play as a receiver.
“We need another group of young receivers,” Baldwin said. “We’re excited about our next wide receiver group.”
At linebacker, the Eagles lost a pair of starters, plus four other seniors who contributed mostly on special teams. The Eagles signed Albert Havili from Federal Way High School; Jake Gall from Cle Elum/Roslyn High School; and John Kreifels out of Thomas Downey High School in Modesto, Calif.
“On paper, we lost six linebackers,” Baldwin said. “There is a potential that one, two or even all three of those guys could play right away,” he said of the new recruits. “That’s not taking away from anybody already in our program, but with special teams and how physical the position is, you play anywhere from six to eight linebackers. That was a position of need.”
Saying you can never have enough defensive linemen, Eastern signed four. Joe Douglas comes out of Richland, Wash. and Hanford High School; Samson Ebukam attended David Douglas High School in Portland; Andre Lino is a Bishop Blanchet High School product; Matthew Sommer come to Eastern from West Salem High in Oregon.
“Defensive line jumps out, but that jumps out every year,” Baldwin said of the recruiting class. “We play a lot of defensive linemen during the year, and that gives us a huge benefit at the end of the season.”
On the offensive line William Lopez is from Vancouver, Wash. and Skyview High along with Joe Miles from Auburn, Wash. and Auburn-Riverside High.
D’londo Tucker from Federal Way and Sylmar (Calif.) High School’s Keonte White are a pair of promising defensive backs. “He’s a true, true cornerback, but he also has the ability to help us on special teams in our return game,” Baldwin said of Tucker.
“By stature, he’s probably the biggest cornerback we’ve signed at Eastern, which is intriguing to me, Baldwin said of White. “He not only has the ability to get his hands on receivers and make life miserable for them, but he also has the speed and athleticism to run with the faster receivers in our conference.”
Roldan Alcobendas from Camas, Wash. will hopefully help fill the shoe and foot of placekicker Jimmy Pavel. “We’re excited to sign a kicker with his talent,” Baldwin said of the first team 4A All-Greater St. Helens League selection.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.