Quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. is picked to repeat as the league's offensive MVP after directing EWU to a 15-1 Big Sky record as a starter
Fifteen-and-one says a lot.
That's the record as a starter of Eastern Washington University junior quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., who was selected along with five other Eagles to the 2014 preseason All-Big Sky Conference team released Monday (July 14) at the Big Sky Conference Summer Football Kickoff in Park City, Utah.
Eastern garnered six of the 30 selections, which were picked by a panel of media representatives and sports information directors. Adams, who is Eastern's player representative in Park City, was selected to repeat as the league's offensive MVP.
Other Eagles honored included sophomore wide receiver Cooper Kupp, junior offensive tackle Clay DeBord, senior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, senior safety Tevin McDonald and senior defensive tackle Dylan Zylstra. Adams, Kupp, Hamlin and DeBord have earned preseason All-America honors already, with Adams, Kupp and Hamlin named to Watch Lists for national awards.
Adams enters his junior season 20-4 as a starter, including a near-perfect Big Sky mark of 15-1. Twice he has led the Eagles to the league title and the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs, and a year ago he was the league MVP, won numerous All-America honors and was the runner-up for the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in FCS.
His lone losses as a starter have come against Southern Utah in 2012, and Toledo, Sam Houston State and Towson in 2013. The Pasadena, Calif., product already has 7,902 yards of total offense and 75 touchdown passes in his career, with a passing efficiency rating of 176.3 (64.2 percent, 6,955 yards, 75 TD, 23 INT), which currently ranks as the school and Big Sky record ahead of former Eagle Erik Meyer (166.5 from 2002-05).
Kupp joined Adams as a first team All-Big Sky selection a year ago, and recently attended the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana for the second-straight year. He accounted for numerous school, conference and FCS records in 2013 with a sensational debut season of 93 catches for 1,691 yards and 21 touchdowns. The 2012 graduate of Davis High School in Yakima, Wash., was selected as the recipient of the Jerry Rice Award given by The Sports Network to the top freshman in FCS, and was first team selection on all nine FCS All-America teams.
DeBord, a 2011 graduate of Asotin (Wash.) High School, earned second team All-Big Sky honors a year ago after starting 14 games at left offensive tackle. He 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 fourth in total offense (533.5 per game), fourth in passing (349.8), 41st in rushing (183.7) and seventh in scoring (39.5).
Hamlin was also an All-American last season and is a candidate for the Buck Buchanan Award given by TSN to the top defensive player in FCS. The 2009 graduate of Timberline High School in Lacey, Wash., received his sixth year because of two previous seasons wiped out because of injuries, and finished the 2013 season with 140 tackles to rank fourth in school history. He enters the 2014 season with 361 career tackles, just 71 from the school record of 432 set by 2010 Buchanan Award winner J.C. Sherritt (2007-10).
McDonald, who transferred to EWU from UCLA a year ago and is from Fresno, Calif., had 43 tackles and an interception in nine games to earn third team All-Big Sky accolades in his debut as an Eagle. But a leg injury cut McDonald's season short, and he enters the 2014 season with 178 tackles in 36 collegiate games (4.9 per game), with five interceptions and 16 passes broken up.
Zylstra is a two-time honorable mention All-Big Sky selection and is EWU's most experienced interior lineman back. He finished the 2013 season with 42 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and three quarterback hurries. He is a 2010 graduate of Kentridge High School in Kent, Wash., and has 86 tackles with a pair of sacks in his 35-game EWU career.
Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin and Adams will remain in Park City until Tuesday (July 15) when the league's media and coaches preseason polls will be announced. Fans can follow the event via twitter via the hashtag #BigSkyKickoff.
2014 Big Sky Preseason All-Conference Team
Offensive MVP – Vernon Adams, Jr., QB, Eastern Washington
Defensive MVP – Zack Wagenmann, Sr., DE, Montana
*QB – Vernon Adams, Jr., Eastern Washington
RB – Kristaan Ivory, Sr., Cal Poly
RB – Gabe Manzanares, Sr., UC Davis
FB – Nick Butier, Jr, Northern Arizona
TE – R.J. Rickert, Sr., Northern Arizona
OG – Trevor Poole, Sr., Montana
OG – Cornelius Edison, Sr., Portland State
OG – JP Flynn, So., Montana State
*C – Roy Garcia, Sr., Northern Arizona
*OT – Clay DeBord, Jr., Eastern Washington
OT – Jacob Julian, So., Northern Arizona
*WR – Cooper Kupp, So., Eastern Washington
WR – DeAndre Carter, Sr., Sacramento State
WR – Ellis Henderson, Jr., Montana
*PK – Brady Stuart, Jr., UC Davis
Returns – Shawn Johnson, Sr., Montana State
*DE – Zack Wagenmann, Sr., Montana
DE – James Cowser, Jr., Southern Utah
DT – Tonga Takai, Sr., Montana
DT - Dylan Zylstra, Sr., Eastern Washington
LB – Ronnie Hamlin, Sr., Eastern Washington
LB – Austin Hasquet, Sr., Northern Arizona
LB – Nick Dzubnar, Sr., Cal Poly
LB – Leilon Willingham, Sr., Northern Colorado
CB – Deonte Flowers, Sr., Montana State
CB – Deon'tae Florence, Sr., Weber State
S – Matt Hermanson, Sr., Montana
S – Tevin McDonald, Sr., Eastern Washington
P – Kyle Loomis, Sr., Portland State
Special Teams – Chad Newell, So., Montana State