COMMENTARY: Yarno should be Eastern's choice

WASHINGTON STATE FOUND its new head man 90 minutes up the highway in Cheney. A lay of the coaching landscape says Eastern Washington might find the perfect guy to replace Paul Wulff right down the road in Pullman. And it's not who you might think. He's a student of the game and a leader of men. He has NFL savvy and a big-time college resume. And he's as homegrown as they come.

George Yarno, Washington State's offensive line coach for the last five seasons, would be an outstanding choice for the Eagles.

Yarno is well known -- and loved -- in the Spokane area. He was born and bred there. His jersey has been retired at Ferris High, and his son was the fourth generation of Yarno born at Sacred Heart Hospital.

He's from one of the first families of Inland Empire football. Between him, his brother, his dad and his uncle, the Yarno name has been in and around the Spokane grid scene since the 1940s. He remembers when Eastern was still called the Savages. He can tell you that the 1967 team, led by Bill Diedrick and Dave Svendsen, was one of the finest NAIA teams ever assembled.

To land a head job in what basically is his hometown would almost be destiny fulfilled. He'd pour his heart and soul into the job and probably have to be carried out of the place feet first before he'd ever leave it.

AND HE WOULD BRING INSTANT credibility to the Eastern program, with a playing and coaching resume few can match. Yarno followed an outstanding career in uniform at Washington State as a defensive tackle by becoming an offensive lineman who played 11 years in the NFL plus another two in the USFL. Successful coaching tenures have since included two tours with Washington State plus LSU, Arizona State, Houston and Idaho.

He's been an offensive coordinator, an associate head coach and was even an interim head coach at Houston. He's done his due diligence.

THE EASTERN ALUMNI would love this guy.

Yarno is self-taught but has also learned from some of the game's winningest coaches, including John MacKay and Nick Saban. He can talk Xs and Os strategy with the best of them. And his combination of honesty, earnestness, humor, dedication and passion is tailor-made for connecting with alums.

YARNO WAS A fantastic recruiter for Washington State, with but a few of his more recent "gets" include Fevaea'i Ahmu, Jed Collins and Dwight Tardy. Yarno has recruited the state of Washington for seven of his coaching years. And Yarno builds relationships like few others -- he knows well most of the prep coaches in the state.

He knows the Northwest recruiting trails, and Yarno is well equipped to continue the in-state recruiting success that has established Eastern as one of the better championship subdivision programs.

Prep and junior college coaches have raved about him when talking to CF.C. One reason why is because Yarno is prescient at identifying hidden talent. Another is he can take players perhaps not as talented as others and yet still compete, and win, with them.

Recruiting is about building relationships, and the head coach is the guy who convinces the parents and their son to commit to that school. Parents trust him because Yarno is going to be sure their son goes to class and does what he's supposed to be doing on and off the field.

ON THE FIELD, his players sometimes love him, sometimes fear him, but always respect him and play their hearts out for him because they know that on or off the field he has their backs. A plethora of players long since removed from their college playing days still call Yarno on a regular basis -- Robbie Tobeck, who retired from the Seahawks and NFL after 13 years in the league, calls about once a week.

Critics will argue the Cougs did not always enjoy success up front these past five years but given the lack of o-line depth over that span and the way he overcame injuries, Yarno did yeoman's work at WSU.

Lost in the detritus of WSU's late season collapse in 2006 was that at 6-3 and ranked No. 25 in the nation, Yarno's offensive line had seen three players with significant time at left tackle, three more at left guard, two at center, and three at right guard. Three of those players figuring in prominently were sophomores and one was a freshman. In 2005, Yarno's hosses paved the way for Jerome Harrison to set the program record and run for the fifth- most rushing yards ever in Pac-10 history.

In 2007, Washington State started two tackles without a snap of Pac-10 experience in Vaughn Lesuma and Micah Hannam. True freshman Andrew Roxas started the UCLA game at a position, center, he had never played before his first fall camp under Yarno at WSU two months earlier. The Cougs authored the No. 2 ranked total offense in the Pac-10 this past year -- not USC, not Cal, not Arizona State, but Washington State.

YARNO IS an excellent motivator and as a head coach, that motivation would not be limited to the players.

A head coach, coaches the coaches. He keeps his staff going in the right direction -- and the same direction -- and Yarno's organization and drive would be key here.

Bill Chaves, Eastern's athletic director, has said he'll have no comment on the search until he hires his guy. Any candidate on Chaves' radar needs to bring with him credibility, recruiting and organizational skills, and the ability to get the most out of his players. Yarno earns top marks in all those areas, plus a few more.

It's been apparent from this seat for some time that Yarno would make an excellent head coach or offensive coordinator. One day, someone is going to finally give him that chance.

They're going to look like a genius for having done it.

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