If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
This was not the case with Eastern starting free safety Deonta Birdsong and sophomore corner back Chasen Walker, but it could be.
The newly acquired transfers from the now-defunct Cal State Northridge program have jumped ship, north, to Cheney as part of the mature recruiting class the Eagles have put on the field this spring.
Both Birdsong and Walker were part of the Matador team that was ravaged by Jesse Chatman’s 277 rushing yards and a school record six touchdowns in the 28 point win. Eastern’s offense was Division I-AA’s most productive in 2001. However, Eastern’s defense – the Eagles’ Achilles heel last season – also relented 35 points in that game.
Birdsong, Walker and a cast of nine junior college signees were brought on this spring in part to restructure the defense, while the offense thrives with a highly touted transfer of its own – Josh Blankenship from the University of Tulsa.
Blankenship was a blue chip quarterback coming out of high school four years ago, recruited by Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, but the strong-armed right-hander decided to stay close to home. He thrived on the field at Tulsa, however, he choose to transfer to Eastern last year.
What quarterback wouldn’t want to join former NFL quarterback, Timm Rosenbach, who is now the Eagles offensive coordinator, head coach Paul Wulff and the high-scoring Eagle offense?
In the past, Eastern has thrived with additions from junior colleges. Shaylon Reed, a starting wide out the past two seasons transferred from Sac City College, former starting quarterback Fred Salanoa signed from Snow Junior College in Utah, and honorable mention All-America kicker Troy Griggs broke nine school records in just two years with the Eagles. This year again, Eastern has another kicker that should add impact instantly. Rich Heintz was named All-American both years for two-time national junior college champion City College of San Francisco.
Blankenship, too, will be called on to start in his final college season. So far he has built on his impressive resume with strong outings the past month.
In the previous three scrimmages Blankenship has completed 27-of-42 passes for 358 yards and four touchdowns and no interceptions.
But the defense needed redressing after letting opponents rack up 31.7 points per game in 2001.
Ceased by injuries and poor play, Eastern now has a defensive backfield that has held the offense in-check during past scrimmages.
The annual Red and White Game will be played on Saturday with Blankenship behind the No. 1 offense, and Birdsong and red shirt sophomore Jesse Hendrix, a transfer from Fullerton Junior College, in the defensive backfield of the No. 1 defense.
The retooled defense won’t face Blankenship and the No. 1 offense. The No. 1 offense will play the reserve defense, and the No. 2 offense will play the No. 1 defense.
Whether the defense’s sufficiency is up the offense is yet to be seen. But one thing is for certain – two players will be playing football.
Even though it’s for a team they felt loss to last fall.