Cool ‘cats: Trio of PCHS graduates will play together at Weber State
August 10, 2010
Park City High School football fans longing to see more of 2009’s all-state seniors can get their wish with little more than an hour’s drive north.
Former Miners quarterback Erik Walker and offensive lineman Cash Knight have joined class of 2008 receiving standout Tony Epperson in training at Weber State University, where each Parkite could find himself playing a different position by the end of fall camp.
"We’ve had good success with kids (from Park City) dating back to Josh Cochran and Barry Sims," said Wildcats head coach Ron McBride, who coached those early ’90s PCHS teammates at the University of Utah. "The guys have a good work ethic up there."
A blanket statement, sure, but McBride is qualified to make it. He also coached recently departed Park City alum Kyle Mutcher in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision – a class below Division I that is eligible to play the nation’s top teams but holds its own championship. Their opponents will be far bigger and faster than what the Miners will have seen in Class 3A, but they won’t have to make the transition among strangers.
In Walker, McBride has a dynamic player with enough speed to win two consecutive Class 3A state 100-meter championships. He accounted for 28 touchdowns passing and running last season as PCHS quarterback, but his small stature (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) has led to a switch to wide receiver and kick returner for the college game. Former Park City head coach Brandon Matich said Walker is a "big-time Division I player" in terms of talent.
"Erik is a guy that Weber State got a gold mine in," Matich said. "He’s just a phenomenal athlete. The way he runs and jumps, he’s probably the best athlete I’ve ever coached, or even seen."
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Walker said he’s had his hands full learning the offense, which is markedly different from the triple-option attack he led under Matich at Park City. "It’s definitely more complex," Walker said. "It’s a different style of offense, there is a lot to learn, but we’ll get it down." As for receiving passes instead of delivering them, the experience is somewhat surreal. "I’ve not really ever run routes," he said. "It’s just a different angle. It looks really different on the field."
But while he has had some difficulty learning to fight through press coverage, in which the cornerback attempts to legally jam the receiver within the first five yards, McBride said his learning curve has proven small. "We’ll know where he fits probably after about the 10th day of camp," McBride said. "It comes natural to him. He’s used to having the ball in his hands."
Paving the way for Walker for five years was Knight, a second-generation college player whose father Sean played for Brigham Young University. "You will not find a better person than Cash Knight," Matich said. "He’s a big, fun-loving kid who is always fun to be around."
Now he’s charged with protecting relative strangers. At 6-foot-3, almost 300 pounds, Knight is one of the smaller players on the line, and said he was amazed how much the older lineman can lift in the gym. Coaches have suggested he switch to center because of his quick hands and athleticism, and none other than Kyle Mutcher recently gave him some lessons on snapping.
Both Knight and Walker could be redshirted to gain an extra year of eligibility if they do not play this season, though Matich believes it is likely Walker will play as a freshman. Epperson was redshirted last season, and could potentially play with Walker and Knight through the 2014 season.
A 6-foot-4 defensive back with good speed and quickness, Epperson played wide receiver and safety in high school but was moved up to fill a vacancy at linebacker in spring camp. He was moved to free safety at the end of camp, during which he also served as the primary punter. The versatile athlete said he enjoyed punting, but fears a pair of incoming freshman kickers might supplant him.
"He’s gotten bigger and bigger," McBride said. "Physically, he looks really good. He’s going to find a place for himself in camp."
Walker lived with Epperson during the summer, while Cash resided with his aunt in Ogden, about a mile away from the stadium. (The offensive lineman relishes the chance to eat home cooking – "None of that Ramen Noodle stuff," he said.)
"Tony helps out a lot, knowing what to do and when to be places," Walker said. "That always makes it easier to have a friendly face to go to."
Epperson played a big part in making Weber State the destination of choice for his former Miners teammates. "Coaches always had me talking to Cash and Erik," he said. "I’ve seen them do a lot of positive things. Cash is doing great stuff in the weight room and working hard, and the quarterbacks have all said Erik is impressive."
Epperson knows a thing or two about how to handle responsibilities in a college classroom, too. The business administration major earned a 3.94 GPA during his first year.
Matich said the 2009 senior class was one of the best he’s ever coached, and their departure eased the decision to take the reins at East High School, near where he lives. Along with Walker and Knight, the class featured Navy’s Dylan Chynoweth, William Penn’s Scott Adams, and Dixie State’s Andy Proctor – all on athletic scholarships. Alex Molinaro will also play at Austin Community College in Texas.
"The scheme helped out a lot," Matich said of the triple-option attack, soon to be replaced by the increasingly popular spread passing offense. "It allowed our kids to show their athleticism."
Chynoweth, the 2009 Class 3A Most Valuable Player according to the Deseret News, is out of boot camp and has begun working out with the team. As a "plebe," he is not allowed to talk to the media until Aug. 23.