Hamlin, McDonald and Zylstra are captains on defense, while Mitchell and Butorac get the nod on offense
Eastern Washington University has announced the five players who will serve as co-captains for the 2014 football season, as selected by a team vote recently.
That group, plus the rest of the Eagles, will be on hand at Roos Field on Saturday (Aug. 16) when EWU has its final scrimmage of preseason practices. The scrimmage is free and open to the public, and will begin at approximately 9:50 a.m. Head coach Beau Baldwin said it will consist of about 50 plays, and backups and freshmen will see most of the action.
Three of the captains are from the state of Washington – Hamlin is a 2009 graduate of Timberline High School in Lacey, Wash.; Zylstra graduated from Kentridge HS in Kent, Wash., in 2010 and Butorac is a 2010 graduate of Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash. McDonald is from Fresno, Calif., and Mitchell is from Katy, Texas.
Hamlin, who received a year of eligibility to replace two others wiped out because of knee injuries, was 12th in the voting last season for the Buchanan Award presented to the top defensive player in FCS. He earned second team All-America and second team All-Big Sky accolades after finishing with 140 tackles to rank fourth in school history.
One of three returning starters at linebacker for EWU, Hamlin also had a pair of sacks and two interceptions – one he returned for a game-turning touchdown – in 2013. He enters the 2014 season with 361 tackles, just 71 from the record of 432 set by 2010 Buchanan Award winner J.C. Sherritt (2007-10).
McDonald, who transferred to EWU from UCLA, had 43 tackles and an interception in nine games to earn third team All-Big Sky accolades in his debut as an Eagle.
Zylstra is a two-time honorable mention all-league selection, and is the most experienced interior lineman back for the Eagles. He finished the 2013 season with 42 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and three quarterback hurries.
Butorac takes over the starting center position held last year by All-American Ashton Miller. As a backup, Butorac helped Eastern set Big Sky and school records with 592 points, 83 touchdowns and 8,002 yards of offense in the 2013 season. As a team, EWU led FCS in passing efficiency (school record 182.6), and was fourth in total offense (533.5 per game), fourth in passing (349.8), 41st in rushing (183.7) and seventh in scoring (39.5). Eastern's offensive line was selected as the FCS Offensive Line of the Week by Beyond Sports Network twice during the season.
Mitchell caught 47 passes for 699 yards and three scores a year ago. An honorable mention All-Big Sky selection in 2010, he also owns a 17.6 average on 26 career kickoff returns.