With first intra-squad scrimmage taking place Saturday at Gonzaga Prep, Eagle head coach believes practice pace is better so far than at this point last season
With five practices in the books -- including the team's first in full pads -- Eastern Washington University football coach Beau Baldwin has been impressed with the team's practice pace compared to this point a year ago.
The second-year head coach watched his team scrimmage briefly in full pads on Monday (Aug. 17), and came away impressed with his team's tempo and fitness level. After two-a-day practices on Tuesday and Thursday, and single practices on Wednesday and Friday, the Eagles will scrimmage against each other for the first time on Saturday (Aug. 22) at approximately 11:30 a.m. at Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, Wash.
"What I like most is the tempo they are playing at," said Baldwin. "You can tell they worked hard over the summer and strength coach Jeff Carroll got them in great shape. They are definitely better at day five this year than they were at day five last year from the standpoint of being able to sustain a good pace throughout practice."
Among his goals this week are to continue to get a good look at the competition for positions that exist along the defensive line and in the secondary. Eastern's kicking and punting jobs are also up for grabs, and continued competition at those positions will take place right up to the team's opener at home against Western Oregon on Sept. 5 at 12:05 p.m. Pacific time at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
"More than anything, we're trying to get a good feel for our young players up front," Baldwin said of EWU's defensive line, which lost four senior starters from last year's squad. "We want to determine which freshmen we may or may not redshirt, and solidify our top eight or nine players there. We also want to clean-up who our top four or five safeties are going to be, because we have as many as eight players competing for those spots."
Eastern is also trying to adjust along the offensive line after starting right tackle Brice Leahy was lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in a non-football related accident in June. Sophomore Gabriel Jackson is taking his place for a unit that returns highly-productive starters at quarterback, tight end and all three receiver positions.
"Up front we need to keep working together," said Baldwin. "Obviously, our offensive line has changed a little bit from where we finished spring ball. And that takes time -- an offensive line has to keep working together, working together and working together. No matter how good you are at the skill positions, you are only as good as those guys up front."
Although not an ideal situation, Baldwin is also getting a look at backups and young reserves at the linebacker positions as starters Zach Johnson and Makai Borden sit out with injuries. Johnson is out for about another week while recovering from a blood clot in his leg that was diagnosed following knee surgery this summer.
Borden suffered a hamstring injury during practice this past weekend, adding to ankle, foot and toe injuries he's suffered the past two seasons. In fact, Eastern is 13-4 in the last two seasons with Borden in the starting lineup and 2-5 without him in it.
"I feel so bad for Makai -- he was feeling great coming into camp," said Baldwin of the senior from Puyallup, Wash. (Puyallup HS '05). "But hopefully it was early enough in camp that he'll be ready for the season. I know he'll work his butt off to rehab it."
As a result of the injuries, Kyle Wilkins (pictured) has stepped in to take over at middle linebacker for Johnson and Bobby Gentry has taken over at weak-side outside linebacker for Borden. Wilkins, a former safety who has added 25 pounds of muscle to his 5-foot-9 frame, played considerably at linebacker last season after a trio of linebackers suffered injuries.
"Every time he's been asked, Kyle has stepped in," Baldwin said
of the senior from Monroe, Wash. (Archbishop Murphy HS '05). "He's
such a physical player, loves contact and enjoys getting in there
against the running game. You want to see all those linebackers
healthy and playing, but it feels good that there are other guys
ready to step-up. Bobby Gentry is another player who has worked
hard all summer and keeps getting better."
Tentative Schedule of EWU Practices
(practices usually last for two hours. Media interviews take place after practice or 1/2 hour before the time listed)
Tuesday, Aug. 18 - 9 a.m. & 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 19 - 2:15 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 20 - 9 a.m. & 3 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 21 - 2:15 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 22 - Intra-Squad Scrimmage, approx. 11:30 a.m at Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, Wash.
Sunday, Aug. 23 - Off
Monday, Aug. 24 - 2:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 25 - 9 a.m. & 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 26 - 2:15 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 27 - 9 a.m. & 3 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 28 - 2:15 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 29 - Intra-Squad Scrimmage, approx. 11:30 a.m., Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash.
Sunday, Aug. 30 - Off
Monday, Aug. 31 - 3 p.m. (conditioning)
Tuesday, Sept. 1 - 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 2 - 3 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 3 - 3 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 4 - 3 p.m. walk-through
Saturday, Sept. 5 - EWU hosts Western Oregon at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash., 12:05 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 6 - 1:30 p.m. (conditioning)
Monday, Sept. 7 - Off
Tuesday, Sept. 8 - 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 9 - 3 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 10 - 3 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 11 - Travel Day
Saturday, Sept. 12 - EWU at California, 2:35 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 13 - 4 p.m. (conditioning)
Monday, Sept. 14 - Off
Tuesday, Sept. 15 - 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 16 - 3 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 17 - 3 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 18 - 3 p.m. walk-through
Saturday, Sept. 19 - EWU hosts Northern Colorado at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash., 1:05 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 20 - 1:30 p.m. (conditioning)
Monday, Sept. 21 - Off
Tuesday, Sept. 22 - 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 23 - 3:45 p.m. (EWU Classes Begin)
Thursday, Sept. 24 - 3:45 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 25 - Travel Day
Saturday, Sept. 26 - EWU at Sacramento State, 6:05 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 27 - 7 p.m. (conditioning)
Monday, Sept. 28 - Off
Tuesday, Sept. 29 - 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 30 - 3:45 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 1 - 3:45 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 2 - Travel Day
Saturday, Oct. 3 - EWU at Idaho State, 2:35 p.m.