What to watch for with No. 1-ranked Eastern Washington
Eastern Washington, which has five Clark County players on its roster, is ranked No. 1 in the Sports Network preseason FCS poll released Friday.
Eastern has reached the FCS national semifinals in three of the past four seasons. Three-time defending national champion North Dakota State is ranked No. 2.
Eastern Washington will be in the first nationally televised game of the season when it hosts Sam Houston State on Aug. 23 on ESPN.
This is fourth time in five seasons Eastern has earned a No. 1 ranking by The Sports Network, a poll of sportswriters, broadcasters and sports information directors. The Eagles are No. 2 in the FCS coaches poll behind North Dakota State.
In junior quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., Eastern has perhaps the best player in FCS. He finished second in voting for last season’s Walter Payton Award (the FCS equivalent of the Heisman). It was won by Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo, now with the New England Patriots.
Adams already ranks third in school history with 75 TD passes, fifth with 6,955 passing yards and third with 7,902 yards of total offense.
The Eagles also have a returning first-team All-American in sophomore receiver Cooper Kupp, who set a number of FCS freshman records.
Eastern returns most of its key offensive playmakers from last year. The biggest losses are Heritage graduate Ashton Clark at receiver and three starters on the offensive line. Those include Vancouver natives Ashton Miller at center (first-team all-Big Sky) and guard Steven Forgette (second-team all-Big Sky).
On defense, Eastern lost six of its top eight tacklers to graduation. That said, most of the starting defensive line is back including Dylan Zylstra and Evan Day, who both were honorable mention all-Big Sky last year.
Four of five local players on Eastern’s roster are freshman. Union grad T.J. Boatright, a junior, is listed as backup left tackle.
Clark County players on Eastern Washington’s roster
* — has used redshirt year.