ELLENSBURG, Wash. (Feb. 6) -- Twenty-one high school seniors from the state of Washington have signed Letters of Intent to continue their football careers at Central Washington University, head coach Blaine Bennett announced on Wednesday.
"We pride ourselves in signing Washington student-athletes," Bennett said. "We have always felt that football is strong in the state of Washington, and being the only Division II (football) program in the state, it provides us with a unique advantage in recruiting."
The Wildcats' 2013 recruiting class includes players at every position, with the most prominent positions being the defensive line (five players), tight end, offensive line, and wide receiver (three each).
"The diversity of positions within our class is excellent," Bennett explained. "What is unique about this year's group is the size of our players -- especially on the offensive and defensive line and at tight end. We were able to sign several big-bodied-type players who should be able to develop into excellent Division II performers for us."
Of the five defensive linemen signed by CWU on Wednesday, two were White Chip prospects by the Seattle Times. Defensive ends Nick Aumua (Auburn, Wash./Auburn Mountainview HS) and Bryan Carter (Seattle, Wash./O'Dea HS) were both listed among the top 100 high school recruits in the state, and both were first-team all-league performers on both sides of the football this past year.
Also joining the Wildcats' core of defensive linemen were Bo Banner (Bellingham, Wash./Sehome HS), Bryan Butler (Mill Creek, Wash./O'Dea HS), and Austin Olson (Renton, Wash./Kentridge HS).
At tight end, CWU signed three players on Wednesday, helping give them significant depth at that position. Colter Clinch (Bothell, Wash./Woodinville HS), Brian O'Donnell (Stanwood, Wash.), and Kyle Self (Vaughn, Wash./Peninsula HS) were all highly-touted products from their prep days, with Clinch and Self both earning White Chip recognition and Clinch being named to the Associated Press' Class 4A all-state team.
Also among the bigger-bodied players to sign with the Wildcats were three offensive linemen -- Zach Budnick (University Place, Wash./Curtis HS), Kyle O'Donnell (Stanwood, Wash.), and Tyler Rutherford (North Bend, Wash./Mount Si HS). O'Donnell, twin brother of fellow signee Brian, was an all-league performer on both offense and defense at Stanwood this past year, while Budnick also earned first-team all-league accolades at Curtis High School.
Three receivers, a running back, and an "athlete" highlighted the offensive skill positions among the CWU signees. Wide receivers Josh Eckwood (Tacoma, Wash./Lincoln HS) and Justin Peterson (Marysville, Wash./Lakewood HS) were both named to their respective Associated Press all-state teams (3A and 2A, respectively), with Peterson adding White Chip accolades. Nate Rauda (Seattle, Wash./Ballard HS) starred as a first-team all-KingCo 4A Crown pass-catcher for the Beavers in 2012.
Matt Bennett (Ellensburg, Wash.), son of the head coach, is the lone signee from east of the Cascade Mountains. Listed as an "athlete", Bennett played quarterback and wide receiver at Ellensburg High School, where he earned second-team all-Central Washington Athletic Conference honors as a wide receiver in 2012. The younger Bennett could play any number of positions for the Wildcats.
Desmond Young (Edmonds, Wash./Edmonds-Woodway HS) was the lone running back to sign with the Wildcats among this year's class.
The Wildcats also inked a pair of talented linebackers in Kevin Haynes (Battle Ground, Wash.) and Jake Swilley (Olympia, Wash./Yelm HS), the latter of which earned Associated Press Class 4A all-state honors at running back and defensive back.
In the defensive backfield, White Chip prospect Sean Elledge (Monroe, Wash./Glacier Peak HS) and Kevin Young (Federal Way, Wash./Decatur HS) both signed to join the Wildcats, and Sean McDonald, who played multiple positions at perennial power Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash., signed on to join CWU as a kicker.
The signing of 21 recruits is smaller than in recent years, but will help Bennett and staff replace a class of 22 seniors who finished their careers with the Wildcats this past fall.
CWU finished 7-4 this past season, securing the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship -- its fourth in five years under Bennett's tutelage -- with a 7-3 conference record.
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