By Roy Burton
Sat, 08/27/2011 - 10:46pm
OGDEN -- With five returning starters, including J.C. Oram, an FCS All-American, and Caleb Turner, an all-Big Sky Conference first-teamer, Weber State's offensive line is a known quantity and the current anchor of the team.
The Wildcats' defensive line wants to earn that same kind of respect -- and getting the Beast back will bolster its chances.
Ryan Eastman, 6-foot, 285-pound junior defensive tackle from Honolulu, Hawaii, has been held out of much of fall camp but is expected to practice at full strength this week as Weber State prepares for this Saturday's season opener at Wyoming.
"He's the Beast," Weber State co-defensive coordinator Colton Swan said. "It's one of those deals where it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog, that's for sure. You can overlook that guy, underestimate him."
Underestimating Eastman would be a mistake for Big Sky teams who haven't seen him at full speed since he was hurt in 2009.
Eastman was a Big Sky all-conference honorable mention performer as a freshman and a preseason All-Conference pick as a sophomore. He played in just seven games that season, after tearing both MCLs. He was honorable mention again, but decided to return to Hawaii the following season to walk on at his home state school.
He played spring ball at UH, but was back in school in Ogden by the fall.
"I missed Weber State, man," he said. "I missed it so I had to come back with coach Mac."
After missing games as a sophomore due to injury and sitting out 2010 because of the transfer, Eastman is raring to go again. He has one more setback to overcome -- another torn ACL suffered in spring camp.
"It made me more hungry. I'm more hungry than I was coming out of high school and playing as a true freshman," he said.
The level of competition is the highest he's seen during a fall camp, Eastman said.
"Our D-line improvement is leaps and bounds from what it was last year at fall time," he said. "It all starts up front, both sides of the ball. In my eyes, not to get overconfident or anything, we have the best offensive and defensive line in this conference."