CHENEY — Everything is new to Forks’ Luke Dahlgren at this point as a true freshman offensive lineman with the NCAA Football Championship Series (FCS) Eastern Washington Eagles.
A former three-sport standout for the Spartans, Dahlgren has a new number (57) in a brand new red, white and black color scheme with Eastern as he recovers from a recent repair of the meniscus in his right knee and learns an entirely different playbook with his new team.
Dahlgren’s right knee had been locking up in advance of his arrival in Cheney, so the state champion heavyweight wrestler went in for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the impacted area.
“The MRI wasn’t clear, but eventually the doctor found a partial tear of the meniscus,” Dahlgren said. “They asked if I was redshirting this season before the surgery. I am, so I’m not on any time crunch and just taking the time to make sure it heals right.”
Redshirting keeps an NCAA Division I football player out of competition for a season to develop the athlete’s skill set and extend their period of eligibility. A change made before the 2018 season allows players to play in up to four games per season before “burning their redshirt,” so it’s still possible Dahlgren could see time at Roos Field sometime this fall.
“They repaired the knee [July 10] and I should be ready to go in another month or so,” Dahlgren said. The [Eastern] team doctor said [recently] I would have another month out.”
While unable to suit up in pads and participate in hitting drills, Dahlgren isn’t missing much else during Eastern’s training camp.
It’s a dawn-to-dark operation, Dahlgren said, with the whole team up and eating breakfast by 6:30 a.m.
“Wake up, eat breakfast, go to walkthrough meetings then practice and later go eat dinner, practice and end the day with more meetings that go to 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m.,” Dahlgren said.
“You have to be accounted for, breakfast is mandatory, so if somebody misses there is running after practice. You have to be doing what you are supposed to be doing and be where you are supposed to be.”
Dahlgren said he can often be found riding an exercise bike during practices and going through a personalized daily workout regimen.
“I ride the bike and one of the strength coaches will lead me through a workout every day,” Dahlgren said.
“I still get to go through walkthroughs which is nice, I just can’t be padded in practice. So it’s lots of position group meetings and film study, going over what’s going in that day or going over every play of practice.”
Dahlgren, who’s ability to soak up information was described by former Forks head coach Emil West as “sponge-like,” has been busy learning the Eagles offensive system under new offensive coordinator Ian Shoemaker, formerly the head coach at Central Washington — another school that Dahlgren looked at playing for coming out of high school.
“First day we got here they gave us our first install,” Dahlgren said. Every day something else is getting added in. Some days it’s a lot, a bigger install. Other days it will be one thing that will be similar to what we have done already.”
Shoemaker inherited one of the most electric FCS quarterbacks in the country in Eric Barriere, a group of proven skills players and, maybe the biggest component in last year’s run to the FCS national title game, four All-Big Sky Conference offensive linemen.
That includes two sixth-year players, preseason All-American Spencer Blackburn, who played at Class 1A Meridian near Bellingham and All-Big Sky guard Kaleb Levao of Aberdeen.
“They understand the general concepts and the calls they need to make in special situations from doing something similar for years,” Dahlgren said of the Eagles’ experienced linemen. “Us freshman are still trying to process it and get up to speed.”
Dahlgren is learning all three offensive line positions to understand responsibilities.
“Walking through at guard right now, interior lineman,” Dahlgren said. “I’ll play guard or some center, but I’m learning tackle too, just trying to get the whole concept for every play.”
Dahlgren said he wants to be out on the field learning by doing.
“It’s been hard picking up the schemes just through the walkthroughs,” he said. “The best way to learn is being out there practicing plays and learning from the mistakes you have made that way besides from meetings and playbooks.”
Dahlgren said he will be in the stands at Husky Stadium with his parents Chad and Shannon Dahlgren for Eastern’s first game on Aug. 31.
And he knows his dorm roommate as former Forks quarterback Gabe Reaume will attend Eastern and will arrive sometime before fall quarter begins Sept. 25.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]