Weeks before the start of preseason camp last July, Portland State signed placekicker Jonathan Gonzales from San Bernardino Valley College to a letter of intent.
Turned out to a wise decision.
Gonzales quickly won the Vikings kicking job and, after a slow start, became one of the most reliable placekickers in the Big Sky Conference. He earned Second Team All-Big Sky Conference honors by connecting on 17-of-24 field goals, including a respectable 5-of-7 from a distance between 40 and 49 yards.
Moreover, All-American Kyle Loomis was one of the top punters in the country, averaging 46.0 yards on 75 boots. He recently participated in the prestigious Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. and will likely get drafted by a NFL team in late April or signed to a free agent contract.
In short, Portland State’s kicking game was very good last season, as competitive within the Big Sky as it had been for a while.
The Vikings hope they have found their next great kicker.
Casey Eyman, one of the top placekickers and punters in the California Junior College ranks, verbally committed to Portland State early last week during a home visit by new special teams coordinator Nick Whitworth and defensive line coach Malik Roberson, and will sign a letter of intent with the Vikings on Wednesday, National Signing Day.
This past season, Eyman connected on 11-of-12 field goal attempts (91.7 percent) and 41-of-43 extra points for Fullerton College, finishing with a team-high 74 points. He also averaged 37.1 yards on 57 punts with 21 fair catches and 17 landing inside the 20-yard line.
“When I went up there (for my official visit), I could tell the coaches were very close and Coach Whitworth has been very cool recruiting me and has been very honest and straightforward,” Eyman, who graduated from Cypress (Calif.) High School, told Viking Tales. “That’s something you don’t get from a lot of coaches out there. And when I met the other players, I knew they had something special going on. I wanted to be a part of it.”
Fresno State, Massachusetts and Indiana State also pursued Eyman, he said. He might have committed to Fresno had the Bulldogs not cooled their interest a few weeks ago.
“They were about to offer me and I had been talking to one of their coaches for a while after they came to watch me,” Eyman said. “But two or three weeks ago, after I began talking with Portland State and Coach Whitworth, Fresno State said they wanted to go in a different direction and get a high school guy because they didn’t want to recruit another kicker in two years. The timeline worked itself out.”
Eyman said he had ‘six or seven’ lengthy conversations with Whitworth prior to taking his official visit to Portland. Days later, Whitworth, who hired recently from Central Washington, accompanied Roberson on an in-home visit to Eyman’s home in Cypress.
“We’re pretty close and we both have the same mindset of how we want to do things and how seriously we take special teams,” Eyman said.
Eyman expects to compete for all three major kicking jobs in preseason camp – field goals, punts and kickoffs – but understands the greatest need is punter with Loomis graduated and now pursing a pro career.
“Coach Whitworth emphasized punting on my recruiting trip, but he said I was being brought in for all three (kicking disciplines),” Eyman said. “I have heard about their punter (Loomis).”
Eyman took his official visit to Portland in mid-January.
“I like the rainy weather and the overcast (skies) because that is not something we get a lot of in southern California,” Eyman said. “The city atmosphere is somewhat like Long Beach, but it has a cleaner kind of feel. The change will be nice and I get to experience something new. Fullerton (College) was about 30 minutes from my house, so I haven’t really had a new experience based on where I played at.”
After graduating from Cypress High School, Eyman initially enrolled at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, Calif., but the coaches there wanted him to play linebacker. Eyman greyshirted at GWCC before switching to Fullerton College.
“Going to a junior college was helpful because it gave me time to develop, improve my technique and get a little stronger,” Eyman said. “I was a late bloomer, so it was good for me.”
Eyman didn’t hesitate committing to Portland even though Bruce Barnum was given just a one-year contract as interim head coach.
“That didn’t scare me too much,” Eyman said. “From the looks and sounds of it from being around those guys, they really want to succeed.”