LA GRANDE — Football is right around the corner for Eastern Oregon University.

Following an altered 2020 spring season in which the Mountaineers went 3-1 and won a share of the Frontier Conference title, Eastern has a new group of recruits joining the team. Ten true freshmen signed national letters of intent to join the roster for this coming fall season and look to build upon the team’s recent success. With fall camps starting in August, the recruits will officially begin their collegiate careers at Eastern next month.

“We were specific in recruiting addressing team needs and making sure we bring in Eastern Oregon kind of guys,” head coach Tim Camp said in a press release.

The Mountaineers welcome in five recruits from Oregon and five from out of state.

The overall list of 2021 recruits is currently based on the NAIA National Signing Day results and is subject to change as walk-ons join the program.

Stacking the offensive, defensive lines

Out of the 10 recruits, seven have experience playing on the offensive or defensive lines during their high school careers. Nearly every recruit in this year’s class played both sides of the ball in high school, giving the Eastern staff versatility within the roster.

The Mountaineers secured two defensive linemen from Banks High School who will look to battle in the trenches for years to come. Ramsey Hering and Tyler Exline are both three-year letter winners who guided Banks to an OSAA 4A state championship in 2018 and a runner-up finish at state in 2019, when the Braves lost to La Grande.

Hering, a 6-foot-2 defensive lineman weighing in at 265 pounds, brings exceptional size to EOU. Based off of last season’s measurements, Hering would already clock in as one of Eastern’s biggest defensive linemen.

“He immediately adds size and strength to our defensive line and has shown huge growth from his junior season,” Camp said.

Hering’s high school teammate Exline brings a smaller, more dynamic approach on the defensive line. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound player is quick for a lineman and can play multiple positions, making him a candidate to fill in at defensive end or outside linebacker.

Trey Darden is another big body that could contribute to the defensive line following a versatile career in high school. At 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, Darden played tight end, defensive line and linebacker at Dufur High School. The athletic player could either create size mismatches and be a valuable blocker as a tight end or slot in as added defensive-line depth for the Mountaineers.

Eti Ena Jr. is a 5-foot-10, 220-pound lineman from Cheney, Washington, who can add depth at either the defensive or offensive line. Son of former Eastern Washington linebacker and current defensive coordinator Eti Ena Sr., Ena Jr. will likely contribute at the defensive end position for the Mountaineers.

The Mountaineers added 6-foot, 215-pound defensive lineman Max Prazer out of Eastmont High School in Orondo, Washington. Prazer helped lead Eastmont to league championships in 2018 and 2019. The recruit played defensive line, defensive tackle and middle linebacker in high school, providing Eastern with another versatile player on the defensive side of the ball.

Working on protecting the passer

In addition to three defensive lineman who also played on the offensive line in high school, Eastern is bringing in two prospects specifically to fortify the O-line.

Hayden Bass is a forceful presence on the line, measuring in at 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds. Playing for Sheldon High School in Eugene, Bass helped the Irish win two conference championships and finish as 6A state runner-up in 2018.

“Hayden is a big powerful young man and has the athleticism to play multiple positions on the line of scrimmage,” Camp said.

The Mountaineers added another piece to the offensive line in 6-foot-5 Tanner Nett. The 300-pound lineman is committed to play football and compete in track and field at Eastern next fall. Nett is a two-time all-state selection at Borah High School in Boise, Idaho, and he also lettered in basketball and track. Only four current Mountaineers outweigh Nett, as Camp and the Eastern coaching staff look to strengthen their run-and-pass blocking.

Adding skill some positions

Eastern reached into the state of Washington for another recruit, securing skill player Caden Beazley from Manson High School. Beazley rushed for 1,350 yards and had 1,685 all-purpose yards in his junior year and was named all-league at linebacker and running back. As a three-sport athlete, Beazley brings versatility and speed to either side of the ball at EOU.

The Mountaineers acquired another potential contributor in the rushing attack, signing Anthony Peterson out of Lowry High School in Winnemucca, Nevada. The 5-foot-11 running back and linebacker was a two-time all-league selection at running back the last two seasons. As a two-time state champion in wrestling, Peterson contributes an aggressive and powerful running style to the Mountaineers’ offense.

Quarterback/defensive back Tristan Lee rounds out the current 2021 recruiting class, coming out of Klamath County’s Mazama High School. At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, Lee has a strong arm as a pocket passer and displayed his athleticism in basketball and track during his high school career. The two-time Skyline Conference offensive player of the year has a chance to compete for the quarterback spot at Eastern in years to come.

“Tristan has great knowledge of the game from the quarterback position and athletically will compete with anybody,” Camp said.

Regular season outlook

Following a shortened four-game season, the Mountaineers are set to kickoff a standard 10-game season in 2021. Eastern opens its season on the road at Montana Tech on Saturday, Aug. 28, and plays its first home game of the year on Saturday, Sept. 4, against Montana Western. Off-season training camps get underway on Thursday, Aug. 5, with recruits set to begin their careers at the collegiate level.

The Mountaineers won the first Frontier Conference title in program history last year and Camp was named co-Coach of the Year. Looking ahead to a more normal 2021 season, this season’s Eastern recruits will look to help the Mountaineers repeat as conference champions.

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