Eastern Washington University
Defensive Coordinator John Graham
After spending 13 seasons at Central Washington University, Graham enters his fourth season as EWU’s defensive coordinator, and his third as associate head coach. He also coached EWU’s linebackers in fall 2010 as EWU went on to win the NCAA Division I Championship.
Eastern’s defense in 2010 ranked first in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in interceptions (total of 26) and turnovers gained (47), and finished 17th nationally in turnover margin (.80 less turnovers per game than its opponents) after ranking sixth in 2009 (1.25 less). The Eagles were also 26th in passing efficiency defense (134.8) and finished sixth nationally in red zone defense, as they allowed just 38 scores in 58 opponent trips inside the EWU 20-yard line. Eight of those scores were field goals, including two in the first half of the national championship game.
One of the linebackers Graham coached in 2010 was J.C. Sherritt, who won the Buck Buchanan Award presented by The Sports Network to the top defensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Sherritt was also selected to six different All-America teams as a first-team selection, and was the College Sporting News Defensive Player of the Year and the Big Sky Defensive MVP. He broke his own league and school records by finishing his senior season with 176 tackles, which ranks sixth in FCS history. He closed his career with a school-record 432 tackles in his 47-game career (35 as a starter) to rank second in Big Sky history and 10th all-time in the FCS.
In 2009, Eastern’s defense helped the Eagles finish sixth in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in turnover margin, averaging 1.25 less turnovers per game than its opponents. Along the way, Eastern had a 16-0 shutout against Northern Colorado, which was EWU’s first shutout at Roos Field since 1983. Individually, Sherritt was named to all six All-America teams and was second in the voting for the Buck Buchanan Award.
In his first season at the helm, Eastern's defense overcame a rocky start to hold five-straight opponents form Oct. 11 to Nov. 15 to 19 points or fewer. That was something EWU has never done since becoming a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in 1984. In 2009, his defensive unit held 6 opponents under 14 points and included more stretches of dominance. That unit was anchored by All-American JC Sherritt.
A graduate of nearby Reardan High School, Graham spent his final 12 seasons at Central as the defensive coordinator while coaching defensive backs and linebackers. He served as secondary coach in 1995, and in 1997 served as interim head coach for a three-month period. He also served as recruiting coordinator, travel coordinator and camp coordinator at different times during his tenure, as well as serving as an assistant to the athletic director in charge of fundraising and the department's alumni golf tournament.
As a defensive coordinator, Graham has a 103-60 overall record with five conference championships and an NAIA national title in 1995. As a defensive backs coach, he has had one national player of the year in 2008 Buchanan Award winner Greg Peach. 4 of his athletes have earn All-America honors, four were named conference defensive players of the year and 19 earned first team all-conference accolades.
Graham spent two previous seasons (1993-94) as head coach at DeSales High School in Walla Walla, Wash., where his teams compiled a 13-6 record overall and 8-2 mark in league play. In 1993, his team was undefeated in the league and advanced to the semifinals of the State B Playoffs as he earned Southeast District 9 coach of the year honors. He also served as athletic director and as an assistant basketball and track and field coach at DeSales. In addition, he spent one year (1992) as an assistant coach at Kent-Meridian High School in Kent, Wash.
Graham is a 1992 graduate of CWU, earning a bachelor of science degree in business education. He played as defensive back for the Wildcats in 1990 and 1991, earning honorable mention all-conference honors as a senior.
Offensive Coordinator Aaron Best
Aaron Best enters his 15th year as an Eagle, including four years at Eastern (1996-99) as an All-America center and 10 previous seasons as an assistant coach (2000-2006, 2008-2010). An academic honor student as an undergraduate at Eastern, Best also handles the team’s academic coordinator duties.
As offensive coordinator for the 2010 NCAA Division I champions, he helped Eastern’s offense rank 22nd in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in yards per game (397.1) and 18th in scoring (31.5). The Eagle offense featured a trio of All-Americans, including running back Taiwan Jones, wide receiver Brandon Kaufman and junior center Chris Powers.
Four of the offensive linemen he coached earned All-Big Sky honors – Powers (first team), junior tackle Gabriel Jackson (second team), senior guard Nikolai Myers (honorable mention) and freshman guard Steven Forgette (honorable mention). Eastern quarterbacks were sacked only 24 times, including just seven times in four playoff games.
In 2009, Best placed three offensive players on the All-Big Sky first team and two on All-American teams, with quarterback Matt Nichols, running back Taiwan Jones, and tight end Nathan Overbay combining for one of the most dynamic attacks in the nation. Best’s offense led the country in passing efficiency and Jones found himself in the top ten for rushing yards, all-purpose yards, and scoring. Both Nichols and Overbay played in the East-West Shrine Game and are positioned to be taken in the 2010 NFL Draft.
In 2008, three Eastern offensive linemen earned honorable mention All-Big Sky honors. Senior center Charlie Wullf was joined by a pair of underclassmen in tackles Chris Thomas and Brice Leahy. As offensive coordinator in 2009, he added a pair of first team Big Sky Offensive players and All-Americans in Taiwan Jones and Matt Nichols.
Best spent the 2007 season as an offensive line specialist for the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League. Best helped the Argonauts win the Eastern Division championship with an 11-7 record before losing in the first round of the playoffs. Although Toronto was last in the league in total offense, Best's offensive line ranked third in fewest sacks allowed with 40. Eastern Hall of Fame member Bill Diedrick Jr., was also an offensive coach for the Argonauts.
In his previous stint at Eastern, Best had the opportunity to coach two All-Americans in the 2004 season and another in 2005. He was the school's primary offensive line coach from 2002-2006 after previously helping coach that unit as a graduate assistant in 2001 and as a student assistant in 2000.
Matt Alfred earned All-America honors in 2005, and he was recognized on the All-Big Sky squad along with Kraig Sigler and Rocky Hanni. All five of Eastern's starting offensive linemen earned All-Big Sky Conference honors in 2004, including first team selections Michael Roos and Rocky Hanni. Both players went on to earn All-America honors, with Roos also being selected as the Lineman of the Year by I-AA.Org.
Roos played in the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game, and was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. He became the highest NFL draft choice in school history when he was chosen in the second round - 41st overall - by the Tennessee Titans in 2005. Including 35 starts to end his EWU career, Roos enters the 2010 season having made 133 consecutive starts as an offensive tackle. His last 98 starts have come as a Titan (two AFC playoff games, 64 regular season games and 16 pre-season contests). He was a starter in his first-ever Pro Bowl on Feb. 8, 2009.
Eastern's offensive lines helped the Eagles rank fourth in NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in total offense in both 2004 and 2005. In 2005 the Eagles averaged 477.8 yards per game, and were 14th in scoring (35.0). A year earlier the Eagles averaged 475.5 yards and 37.5 points per game to rank sixth.
In 2003, Eastern averaged 380.0 yards per game and ranked 21st in FCS in passing offense (247.3). In 2002 the Eagles finished third nationally in passing offense (317.6) and were sixth in total offense (447.6) a year after leading FCS in total offense (514.5) and scoring (41.9) in 2001.
Best started 22 straight games at center for Eastern in 1998 and 1999, earning honorable mention All-Big Sky honors as a junior and first team honors as a senior. He also earned honorable mention All-America honors his final season.
Linebackers Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jeff Schmedding
The 2011 season will be Jeff Schmedding’s seventh year on the Eastern Washington coaching staff. He will coach safeties for the second year after coaching linebackers the previous two seasons. He will also continue as coordinator of EWU special teams and as video coordinator.
In 2010, he coached All-America safety Matt Johnson, who earned first-team All-Big Sky Conference honors after finishing the season with 105 tackles, five interceptions and eight passes broken up. Schmedding also groomed a pair of inexperienced players for the other safety position – sophomore Jeff Minnerly (honorable mention All-Big Sky) and freshman Allen Brown – as EWU won the NCAA Division I title. Eastern led the NCAA Championship Subdivision in interceptions with 26.
On special teams, junior Darriell Beaumonte earned first-team All-Big Sky Conference honors, senior Jesse Hoffman returned three kickoffs for scores and ranked seventh in the FCS (28.5 per return), and punter Cameron Zuber earned honorable-mention all-league accolades after ranking 29th nationally (40.3 yards per punt).
The linebackers he coached in 2009 included junior J.C. Sherritt, who was named to all six FCS All-America teams and was second in the voting for the Buck Buchanan Award given to the top defensive player in the FCS. He set school and Big Sky records with 170 total tackles as he led the FCS with an average of more than 14 stops per game. Sherritt earned first-team All-Big Sky honors and senior Makai Borden earned honorable mention.
Schmedding coached safeties in 2007 -- including two-time All-Big Sky performer Bryan Jarrett -- and is in the process of completing his master's degree in sports psychology. He previously worked with linebackers (2005) and the secondary (2004) as a graduate assistant in his first two seasons at EWU.
He graduated in 2002 from Eastern with his bachelor's degree in health education and a minor in physical education/coaching. He was a health and fitness teacher at University High School in Spokane Valley for two years, and coached football. He was defensive coordinator and coached linebackers for the Titans in 2002 and 2003.
Defensive Line Coach Ryan Sawyer
Having seen both sides of the experience see-saw in his first three seasons as Eastern’s defensive line coach, Ryan Sawyer enters his fourth season as an assistant in Eastern Washington’s program. This is also his third season as recruiting coordinator for the 2010 NCAA Division I champions.
In 2010, an experienced defensive line helped Eastern lead the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in turnovers gained (47) and finished with 33 sacks in 15 games. The Eagles were also sixth nationally in red zone defense, as they allowed just 38 scores in 58 opponent trips inside the EWU 20-yard line. Eight of those scores were field goals, including two in the first half of the national championship game. All-America junior tackle Renard Williams earned first-team All-Big Sky Conference honors, and senior tackle Tyler Jolley received honorable mention.
Sawyer’s defensive line had three new starters in the lineup in 2009, but Williams – the lone returning starter – earned first-team All-Big Sky Conference honors after finishing the season with 9 1/2 sacks. Senior Jacob Kragt earned honorable mention from the league as the Eagles finished with 29 total sacks and ranked sixth in the FCS in turnover margin (plus 1.25 per game).
In his first season on the staff in 2008, senior Greg Peach won the Buck Buchanan Award, which is given to the top defensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Peach was honored on five different All-America teams and was the Big Sky Conference Defensive MVP after finishing with a school-record 18 sacks as a senior. Sawyer also coached second team All-Big Sky selections Lance Witherspoon and Jason Belford -- also seniors. Eastern’s defense overcame a rocky start to hold five-straight opponents from Oct. 11 to Nov. 15 to 19 points or fewer.
Sawyer worked four previous seasons under defensive coordinator John Graham at Central Washington. A four-year starter at defensive end for the Wildcats from 1996-99, Sawyer spent the 2007 season as CWU’s defensive line coach under Graham and head coach Beau Baldwin. Sawyer also served as the team’s strength and conditioning coach.
Prior to spending 2003-07 as owner of a residential painting business in Kent, Wash., he spent three previous seasons at CWU as a student assistant wide receiver coach (2001-2002) and as a tight end/offensive line coach (2000). In 2002 he coached three wide receivers who earned all-conference honors, including All-American Brian Potucek, as Central finished the season 11-1.
Sawyer earned second team all-conference honors in 1998 during a streak in which he made 36-straight starts for the Wildcats. He earned his bachelor of science degree in individual studies in spring 2003, with an emphasis on studies in health and coaching.
Wide Receivers Coach Junior Adams
Junior Adams, a former All-America wide receiver at Montana State, enters his third season as coach of Eastern’s young, but talented, wide receivers corp.
Eastern’s three starting receivers at the end of the 2010 season were sophomores, and they helped lead Eastern to the NCAA Division I title. Among them was All-American Brandon Kaufman, who caught 76 passes for 1,214 yards and 15 touchdowns to earn first-team All-Big Sky Conference honors. The other two – Nicholas Edwards and Greg Herd – combined for 89 more catches for 988 yards and 10 scores.
In summer 2010 and again in 2011, Adams participated in the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship program with the Oakland Raiders (2010) and Indianapolis Colts (2011). He spent time with the teams during training camp, taking note of each coach’s methods in preparing the team for the upcoming season. Adams interacted with and learned from the coaching staffs to improve his skills.
In his first season at EWU in 2009, Adams coached a group of experienced receivers that featured senior All-American Aaron Boyce. Boyce was injured in the middle of the season, but eventually earned second-team All-Big Sky honors along with senior Tony Davis. Boyce finished second in school history in receptions (222), yards (3,330) and touchdown catches (29), and Davis finished his career third in catches (213) and fourth in yards (2,566). In part because of Boyce’s injury, three freshmen played significantly in 2009, and that paid dividends in 2010.
Adams originally attended and played at Oregon State, and then transferred to Montana State where he made an immediate impact for head coach Mike Kramer, who was head coach at Eastern from 1994-98. In 2001, Adams earned second-team All-Big Sky Conference honors as both a wide receiver and return specialist. He averaged 19.0 yards per punt return, with three touchdowns in a total of 20 returns. One of his touchdowns was an 84-yard return against Eastern in a 48-38 victory over the Eagles at Albi Stadium in Spokane on Oct. 6, 2001. He caught 40 passes for 652 yards and six touchdowns for the 5-6 Bobcats.
Quarterbacks Coach Zak Hill
Zak Hill enters his third season as Eastern’s full-time quarterbacks coach after serving as a student assistant coach for the Eagles in 2004 and 2005.
He spent the 2010 season teaching Southern Methodist University transfer Bo Levi Mitchell how to play within EWU’s offense, and the results were sensational. Mitchell was selected as the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Division I Championship Game, as EWU won the national title with a come-from-behind 20-19 win over Delaware. Mitchell completed 59 percent of his passes to finish with 3,496 yards, a school-record 37 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions as a junior.
Most importantly, Mitchell was 13-2 as a starter at Eastern in 2010. Six times Eastern rallied for victories when trailing or tied in the fourth quarter, and most of the time, it was Mitchell who led the Eagles back from the depths of despair. In addition, Eastern was 3-0 in games when All-America running back Taiwan Jones did not play, and Mitchell had 11 touchdowns and 932 total passing yards in those games. He directed Eastern on 11 touchdown drives of at least 63 yards in those three games, including three in the national championship game.
In 2009, Hill coached record-breaking senior quarterback Matt Nichols, who finished fourth in the voting for the Payton Award given to the top player in the FCS, and was also the Big Sky’s Offensive Player of the Year for the second time in his career. Nichols earned prestigious first-team NCAA Football Championship Subdivision All-America honors from the American Football Coaches Association, as well as three other All-America honors.
Nichols broke 14 school records and six Big Sky Conference marks in his 47-game career (45 as a starter) before playing in the East-West Shrine Game and signing a free agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys. He passed for 3,830 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior, giving him a total of 12,616 yards and 96 touchdowns in his career. His career yardage total ranks sixth in FCS history and his touchdown total is 10th.
A record-breaking quarterback himself from 1999-2003 at Central Washington, Hill spent the previous three seasons as a coach at Hillsboro High School in Oregon. After two seasons as offensive coordinator, Hill took over as head coach and led the Spartans to a 6-5 record in 2008 to advance to the first round of the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) Class 5A playoffs.
Prior to that, he served as an offensive assistant under EWU offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin in the 2004 and 2005 seasons when the Eagles had a collective 16-9 record, won a pair of Big Sky Conference titles and advanced to the NCAA Championship Subdivision Playoffs both years. Among the quarterbacks he helped coach was Erik Meyer, who won the Payton Award in 2005.
Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin was quarterbacks coach at Central during Hill’s freshman, sophomore and junior seasons. In 38 career games at Central, Hill re-wrote the Great Northwest Athletic Conference record books. En route to breaking more than 20 league records, he passed for 8,882 career yards (233.7 average per game) while completing 60.2 percent of his passes with 76 touchdown passes. He had 11 total games with more than 300 yards passing and 24 with at least 200.
After redshirting in 1998, he played seven games as a freshman in 1999 as Central finished 4-5. He earned All-Columbia Football Association honors in 2000 as Central was 5-5, but a knee injury limited him to two games in the 2001 season.
In 2002, Hill led Central to an 11-1 record as the Wildcats ranked fifth in NCAA Division II before losing in the first round of the playoffs. He passed for 2,694 yards in nine games, completing 209-of-308 passes for a school and league-record .679 completion percentage. He had 22 touchdowns, was intercepted only seven times and had a passing efficiency rating of 160.4. He was a third team All-America selection (Football Gazette) and earned a trio of All-Region awards.
As a sixth-year senior in 2003, Central was the preseason No. 1 team in NCAA Division II as selected by Sports Illustrated, but the Wildcats finished just 6-4. He passed for 2,325 yards and 24 touchdowns, completing 187-of-320 passes with nine interceptions. For the second-straight year, he earned first-team All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference honors.
Hill was a 1998 graduate of Prairie High School in Battle Ground, Wash., where he lettered twice in football and three times in baseball while accumulating a 3.73 grade point average. He was team captain as a junior and senior, and twice earned all-league honors. He played football for his father, Butch Hill, who is a member of the Hall of Fame at Central Washington. His father was a two-time All-America pitcher at Central with 17 career victories (1967-68), and also played quarterback for four seasons. He passed for 2,210 yards and accounted for 24 touchdowns (13 passing and 11 rushing).
Linebackers Josh Fetter
With lots of ties regionally, Josh Fetter enters his first season as coach of Eastern’s linebackers. He takes over a position that loses Buck Buchanan Award winner J.C. Sherritt, but returns second-team All-Big Sky Conference selection Zach Johnson.
Previous coaching stops for Fetter, a former University of Idaho team captain and 1996 graduate, have included Central Washington, Idaho State and Portland State. While at Central, he coached alongside several current Eagle coaches, including Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. At ISU, he coached with former Eastern assistants John Zamberlin and Brian Strandley.
“Josh brings us a wealth of experience at the collegiate level, with lots of experience recruiting in the Northwest,” said Baldwin. “I was fortunate enough to coach with Josh for five years at Central, and that’s where I got to know him and was able to see the incredible talent he has as a coach.”
Besides Baldwin, defensive coordinator/assistant head coach John Graham also coached with Fetter at Central from 1996-2000, as well as Strandley from 1997-2000. Current Eagle coaches Ryan Sawyer and Zak Hill were players at the time. Graham coached Eastern linebackers last season.
“He has familiarity with the Northwest, the Big Sky Conference and our staff, so there were so many things that made Josh an incredibly great fit,” Baldwin added. “We’re going to be better with him on our staff, there’s no question about it.”
Fetter spent the 2010 season at Idaho State under Zamberlin, a former Eastern assistant coach and head coach at Central Washington. He and Strandley, who was Fetter’s teammate at Idaho, were defensive line coaches for the Bengals.
Before getting the job at ISU, Fetter was going to be defensive coordinator in the 2010 season at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore. Prior to that, he spent four seasons as defensive line coach at PSU.
In the 2009 season, two of his Viking linemen earned honorable-mention All-Big Sky honors, and in 2007, all three of his regular starters were all-league. In 2006, PSU led the Big Sky in turnover margin, passing efficiency defense, sacks per game, tackles for loss, third-down defense, fourth-down defense and red-zone defense.
Fetter also coached five seasons at Western State in Gunnison, Colo., where he was defensive coordinator, strength and conditioning coach and held the title of assistant head coach.
From 1996-2000 he was at Central, including the final four seasons under Zamberlin as defensive ends coach. He coached defensive tackles in 1996, his first season coaching after graduating from the University of Idaho with a degree in general studies.
Tight Ends/Offensive Tackles Brian Strandley
Former Idaho defensive lineman Brian Strandley has returned to the Eastern football coaching staff, but for the first time in his career, he is on the other side of the ball as EWU’s tight ends and offensive tackles coach.
After spending the 2006 season as defensive line coach at Eastern, Strandley moved on to Idaho State to serve under former EWU assistant and Central Washington University head coach John Zamberlin. Strandley spent four seasons there as the school’s defensive coordinator. After the ISU coaching staff was let go after the 2010 season, Strandley coached defensive linemen in 2011 at Eastern Illinois.
Prior to his single year at EWU in 2006, Strandley spent nine seasons as a defensive coach under Zamberlin at CWU. And having also lettered four years from 1991-94 at Idaho as a defensive lineman, his entire collegiate career until now has been on the defensive side.
“For his entire coaching career he’s been on the defensive side – and even as a coordinator – and that’s why we’re excited to have him on our offensive staff,” said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin, who was a high school teammate and fellow assistant at CWU and EWU with Strandley. “The wealth of experience he brings into our offensive staff room and to the tight end position is unbelievable. It’s always nice to get a perspective of what the other side is trying to do to you, what they are thinking and how you attack it. He already has helped us in those regards.”
Baldwin was a fellow assistant at CWU with Strandley from 1997-2002, as well as at EWU in 2006. One of Strandley’s Idaho teammates was Josh Fetter, who is now linebackers coach at Eastern and was previously on the staff at ISU in 2010. Strandley was also on the CWU staff with current EWU defensive coordinator John Graham.
“I’ve been fortunate to have known him since I was about 14 years old,” said Baldwin of his former teammate at Curtis High School in Tacoma, Wash. “I know the person he is and I’ve gotten to coach with him over the years. I know what he’ll bring to our office and the overall workmanlike attitude he has. He’ll do an incredible job with those tight ends and in anything else outside the realm of coaching, like recruiting.”
Strandley coached the leading tackler in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision in 2010 when Idaho State’s A.J. Storms had 146 (13.27 per game). As a team, ISU ranked 40th in the FCS in takeaways with 23.
In 2009 at ISU, despite a second-straight year of massive injuries, ISU’s defense was impressive. The Bengals allowed just 12 points against national runner-up Montana, and had 26 takeaways for the season -- the most since the 2004 season when ISU had 30.
In 2008, ISU’s pass defense allowed 112 yards or less in three of the final four games of the season. In his first year with the school, the Bengal defense scored five touchdowns on the year, including game-changing fumble returns on back-to-back drives in a win over Portland State. In all, ISU nearly doubled their takeaways (23, up from 12 in 2006), and they increased their totals in sacks, tackles for loss, passes defended, and forced fumbles. Seven players earned honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference honors, including three defensive linemen coached by Strandley.
In his lone season at EWU in 2006, the youthful Eagles finished 3-8 overall and 3-5 in the Big Sky Conference. He coached All-Big Sky honorable mention selections Greg Peach, who went on to win the 2008 Buck Buchanan Award as the top defensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
Strandley was hired at CWU when John Zamberlin - a former EWU assistant coach from 1992-94 - took over as head coach in 1997. He helped the Wildcats compile a 57-36 record in nine seasons, including an 8-2 record in the 2005 season. Central won its last seven games and was undefeated in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
Strandley was Idaho's 1993 defensive captain, and finished his career with 101 tackles. When he was a junior, the Vandals advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs (then known as I-AA), and in 1994, Idaho led FCS in rushing defense (65.3 yards per game). He helped Idaho to a 35-14 record, three playoff berths and one Big Sky Conference title in four seasons under head coach John L. Smith, who is now head coach at Arkansas.
Included were three victories in four games versus Eastern. Idaho lost to the Eagles 34-31 in overtime his freshman season, but then won the next three games by a combined score of 127-46. He had seven tackles, a sack and a pass broken up in four career games versus EWU.
After he graduated from Idaho, Strandley coached at Potlatch, Idaho, High School where he served as defensive coordinator and head junior varsity coach.
He's a 1990 graduate of Curtis High School in Tacoma, Wash. Strandley lettered in football and baseball, earning All-State honors as a defensive tackle when he and Baldwin led Curtis to the State AAA title in 1989. Eagle offensive line coach Aaron Best is also a Curtis grad (1996), and helped lead his school to a State title in 1995.
Strandley was born June 7, 1971, in Tacoma, Wash. He and his wife, Erika, have a two-year-old daughter named Brianna.
Cornerbacks Cherokee Valeria
Cherokee Valeria, a former college teammate of Eastern head football coach Beau Baldwin, has been hired as EWU’s new cornerbacks coach. He will also coordinate travel for the Eagles.
A member of Central Washington University’s 1995 team which won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) football title, Valeria brings seven years of collegiate coaching experience to Eastern. Most recently, he was an assistant coach at Southeast Missouri State.
Valeria has had a player rank among the nation's top 30 in interceptions in four of his last six years as a position coach, dating back to his two-year stint as coach at Central Washington. He has coached three all-conference players at the college level, including a pair who received all-region recognition and one preseason All-American.
“I’ve known Cherokee since the early 90’s, but this will be my first year coaching with him,” said Baldwin. “Everybody I’ve talked to at every place he’s coached, have just raved about what he has brought their program. He’s been praised not only with his coaching of cornerbacks, but in the office with recruiting and his knowledge of computers. There are so many things behind the scenes that take place, and he brings a lot of those skills we need. He’s going to strengthen our office in a lot of different ways.”
Valeria coached defensive backs at SEMO, which finished the 2011 season 3-8 after advancing to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs the year before. The school’s defense ranked 23rd in the FCS in passing defense, allowing just 182.7 yards per game. He also served as assistant recruiting coordinator and was the team’s pro football liaison.
A year earlier and coached by 2010 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year winner Tony Samuel, the Redhawks lost to EWU 37-17 on Dec. 4, 2010, in the first round of the FCS Playoffs at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
Valeria spent the 2010 season as Director of Football Operations at Cal Poly, which is one of four new schools joining the Big Sky Conference in 2012. He was that school’s pro liaison, and also worked with the defensive staff for the 7-4 Mustangs, who ranked 14th in FCS in rushing defense. Valeria also started the Mustang Pride program, helping Cal Poly football players reach out to the local community.
Prior to working at Cal Poly, Valeria spent three seasons as cornerbacks coach at Idaho State under John Zamberlin, a former EWU assistant and former head coach at CWU. Valeria coached D.J. Clark of the Carolina Panthers during his time with the Bengals football program. Clark earned All-Big Sky honors twice and finished third in ISU history with 15 interceptions. Valeria developed and implemented a study hall program that helped produce 17 Big Sky All-Academic players in his three seasons as academic coordinator at ISU.
Valeria was also the cornerbacks coach in 2005 and 2006 under Zamberlin at Central Washington, where Baldwin also served as an assistant coach from 1994-2002. Current Eastern defensive coordinator John Graham was on the coaching staff at Central when Valeria was there. Valeria coached with new EWU tight ends coach Brian Strandley at both ISU (2007-09) and CWU (2005).
In 2005, the Wildcats won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference title after going 8-2 overall and undefeated in league play. Central Washington's defense ranked 11th nationally in turnover margin, with both of Valeria's cornerbacks (Brandon Kennedy and Josiah Wilfong) earning first team All-GNAC honors that year. Kennedy received third team all-region honors and finished ranked third in CWU history with 14 interceptions. Wilfong earned second team all-region honors in 2005.
Valeria has also coached in minor league professional football, including the Everett Hawks of the National Indoor Football League in 2004. He was named the 2004 Northwest Region Assistant Coach of the Year by Minor League Football News after helping lead the West Sound Saints to the Northwest Football League (NWFL) title game. In 2003, he coached the Eastside Hawks in the NWFL.
From 1998-2004, Valeria coached two seasons each at Cedarcrest and Ellensburg high schools in Washington State.
As a player, Valeria was a wide receiver at Central Washington from 1993-97, and helped lead the Wildcats to the 1995 NAIA National Championship. He graduated with a degree in biology in 1999 and the 1995 Central team was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2005. Baldwin played for the Wildcats from 1990-93 before beginning his coaching career in 1994 at CWU.
A 1993 graduate of Waiakea High School in Hilo, Hawaii, Valeria was born June 13, 1975 in Honolulu. His given first name is Brandon, but he goes by Cherokee because of his Native American/Italian descent. His mother is originally from Missouri and is a member of the Cherokee Indian tribe, and his grandfather was in the military stationed in Hawaii. He has a son named Ayosgi Uwasa (which means “Last Warrior” in Cherokee) and a daughter named T’Kia Li (which means “Message from God”).
Running Backs Kiel McDonald
Former University of Idaho player Kiel (pronounced Kyle) McDonald has taken over as coach of running backs for the Eagles. He will also assume the role as video coordinator.
McDonald was a graduate assistant coach for Dennis Erickson at Arizona State University in 2011. He was an offensive quality control coach for the Sun Devils, who finished 6-7 and lost to Boise State in the Maaco Bowl in Las Vegas, Nev.
Prior to that, McDonald was an intern working with the secondary in 2010 for the San Francisco 49ers, and was defensive backs coach and strength coach that same year for San Jose City College. He also previously worked as strength coach at Marshall Performance and Fitness in San Jose.
“It’s great to have his young energy in the office,” said Baldwin. “He worked with the offensive line with Dennis Erickson, but also worked with the running backs as well. As a graduate assistant you wear a lot of hats. He has a presence in both Sacramento and the Bay Area, so that will help us in recruiting. And he’s hungry – he’s less experienced but is ready to get going. He’s already making huge strides and doing great things with our running backs in terms of the relationships he’s building. We’re excited about what he brings to our staff.”
After playing the 2005 season for EWU’s fellow Big Sky Conference member Sacramento State, McDonald played as a cornerback for Erickson in the 2006 season at Idaho. He had 31 tackles (two for loss), one interception and five passes broken up as Idaho finished 4-8.
While at Sacramento State, he played in 10 games in the 2005 season. A Big Sky All-Academic selection, McDonald finished his junior season at Sac State with 17 tackles, one interception and four passes broken up before graduating with honors (Cum Laude) in the spring of 2006.
He also played at Sacramento City College, earning honorable mention All-NorCal Conference honors as a sophomore. He graduated from Thomas B. Doherty HS in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2001, lettering in football, hockey, baseball and track. He was a first team all-league selection in track as a senior, with a time of 10.6 in the 100 meters.
McDonald was born on April 22, 1983.