Sure there are the stars, and the chips and the All-State performers and the stats, but this year's Eagle class of signees is highlighted by "EKG" – "Eastern Kind of Guys."
That's the recruiting mantra new Eastern Washington University head football coach Aaron Best used at his introductory media conference in January, and now he announces the signing of 19 high school players on Wednesday (Feb. 1) to letters of intent to attend EWU and play for the Eagles.
"When we set out we are looking for the total package – Eastern kind of guys who are good people, good students and good players," explained Best. "When you mix those things together we've coined the phrase EKG. Every one of them fits that mold based on what we've seen thus far."
"They have infectious personalities," Best continued. "They have the big smiles when you see them – they are just pleasant individuals and have been raised in a great structure. I'm excited to see them incorporated into our locker room. They are good football players as well."
The class includes 15 players from the state of Washington, as well as two from the California alma mater of former Eagle All-America quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. Locally, Eastern signed Gonzaga Prep defensive end Matthew Simpson, the co-Defensive MVP of the 4A Greater Spokane League as a senior.
All-State selections included defensive back Anfernee Gurley from Everett, Wash., and Archbishop Murphy High School, and cornerback Darreon Moore from Pasco, Wash., and Kamiakin High School. Both led their respective teams to state championships in a year Associated Press elected to no longer select All-State teams. Moore earned All-State honors from both the Seattle Times and the Tacoma News Tribune, and Gurley was honored by the TNT. In addition, the Seattle Times picked Gurley as one of the top 18 prospects in Washington.
In Oregon, Eastern signed All-State linebacker Mitchell Johnson from West Linn High School. Johnson had 170 tackles in leading the Lions to a perfect 14-0 season and State 6A title in 2016.
Eastern also signed a highly-regarded linebacker in Cale Lindsay from Lakes High School in Tacoma, Wash. He received votes in the balloting for State 3A Player of the Year as chosen by the Associated Press after the 2016 season when he had 121 tackles in nine regular season games. He earned All-State honors as a tight end by AP following his junior season.
The Eagles also signed a quarterback with NFL lineage, Nick Moore, from Hart High School in California. Moore accounted for 36 touchdowns with 2,815 yards of total offense as a senior. His older brother Matt Moore is a former Oregon State quarterback who played versus EWU, and is a 10-year NFL veteran now playing for Miami.
Moore's Kamiakin teammate, offensive lineman Wyatt Musser, also signed, as EWU inked four sets of teammates. Wide receiver Marques Hampton and safety A. Pasesa Leiato were teammates at Steilacoom High School near Tacoma, Wash., and Lindsay and linebacker Xavier Banner were teammates at Lakes, also near Tacoma. The other set – wide receiver Johnny Edwards IV and linebacker Chris Ojoh – were graduates of California's Bishop Alemany High School where Adams graduated from in 2011. Interestingly, Leiato's older brother plays for Oregon and Banner's older brother is at USC.
The Eagles also signed one other wide receiver (Andrew Boston) and another quarterback (Gunner Talkington), as those two positions were among the recruiting priorities in 2017. Although Eastern has plenty of other offensive skill players already in the their program, Eastern replaces three senior receivers – Cooper Kupp, Kendrick Bourne and Shaq Hill -- who combined for an astonishing 817 catches for 12,412 yards and 132 touchdowns in a combined 160 games of experience (109 starts).
"Quarterback always will be a recruiting priority for an Eastern Washington offense," said Best. "The receiver position was important too after losing three senior standouts at that position. It's not necessarily three for three, as much as you want to find the best fit and the best players for those positions. We are just fortunate to sign those three individuals. But we're also always trying to fit all positions with the best players available that fit our system."
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