At Halfway Point, Eagles Get Back to Work

Learning from mistakes via video is key for Eagles, as spring practice enters third week

Building for the 2012 season is a work in progress for the Eastern Washington University football team, and in his squad’s last scrimmage, fifth-year head coach Beau Baldwin saw plenty to work on and plenty to like.

While the defense made numerous big plays and the offense had a few it would like to take back, last Friday’s 55-play scrimmage marked the halfway point of spring practice and set the stage for Eastern’s third week. Three practices this week will culminate in a scrimmage Saturday (April 21) at approximately 10:30 a.m. at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.

“I always tell the guys, ‘You may feel like you lit the world on fire and then come back and realize things were not so great.’ Or, ‘You may feel like you did terrible and then come out and realize there are a few things here or there that were pretty good.’  So it is never as good as you think and never as bad as you think. I say that no matter how the scrimmage finishes.”

Eastern’s offensive units managed only 166 yards on 54 plays, but that was skewed by a 16-yard loss on a bad snap and a 14-yard loss after a pass was batted back to a running back.

“We just need to go back and clean up some things,” said Baldwin of his offense. “But at the same time, if we’re cleaning up things, it usually means that the other side of the ball was helping mess those things up.

“As a head coach I always win,” he laughed. “I haven’t lost a spring scrimmage yet.”

Eastern’s defense, featuring eight returning starters, recorded three interceptions and were disruptive to EWU’s young quarterbacks. Junior-to-be Anthony Vitto and freshman Vernon Adams combined for just 15-of-31 passing for 87 yards as the defense broke-up seven of the 16 incompletions.

“There were some unforced things out there, but there were a lot of things where it was plays being made by the defense,” he explained. “Even errant passes came from guys getting in the face of the quarterbacks.”

While the offense also returns eight starters, one of the missing players is 2011 Walter Payton Award-winning quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell. In two spring scrimmages thus far, Vitto is 11-of-22 for 145 yards and three touchdowns, while Adams is 18-of-29 for 178 yards and two scores. Adams has also scrambled for 30 yards rushing.

That duo directed the offensive units to three touchdowns in seven possessions in the first scrimmage, then three touchdowns and a field goal in 13 possessions last Friday.

“A week ago there were probably too many touchdowns -- it always evens itself out,” said Baldwin of the progression of spring practices. “As coaches, we see practices one through seven where a lot of people just see practice seven. So I see more of our progress through seven practices rather than where we are through 50 plays in a scrimmage.”

“Ultimately, we want to be able to play with a bit more of a rhythm,” he added. “You could see it out there. And it’s sometimes tough when you’re cycling through one’s (starters) and two’s (backups). But it is never a crutch or excuse. We need to find a way, even in a scrimmage, to play with more of a rhythm offensively.”

With six more practices, this Saturday’s scrimmage and the spring-ending Red-White Game on April 28 at 2 p.m. at Roos Field left to go, Baldwin knows his staff and team have plenty of opportunities to fix mistakes and continue to evaluate personnel in anticipation of the team’s 2012 openers at Idaho (Aug. 30) and Washington State (Sept. 8).

“Sometimes in the fall you can’t analyze your practice because you spend all your time analyzing who you’re going to play the next week,” Baldwin said. “In the spring you’re not playing anyone -- you’re playing yourself.  So we’ll grind through practice looking over every drill and player.

“We try and practice at such a tempo that video becomes the way you coach. I tell our coaches not to do a bunch of coaching during practice. Especially when we’re running plays and in a team situation, we want to move on to the next play and then come back and coach on video.”

It worked last week, as Eastern tackled better, Baldwin said. As a result, the average yards per play the defensive allowed from one scrimmage to the next went from 8.6 to 3.1.

“I break spring ball into thirds,” he continued. “I said in practice six through 10 we needed to tackle better, because in one through five we were not doing a good job. We were breaking down too early and we definitely tackled better in this scrimmage than the one last week.”

Baldwin knows his offense will have something to prove this week, but, nevertheless, he was pleased with how last week’s scrimmage ended.

“Whenever one side is struggling you always want to see them come back and finish in a positive way, and that is what the offense did,” he said. “Had they just continued to not score at the end, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but it wouldn’t have been great.

“It is always good to see whichever unit is struggling to see how they respond,” he continued. “Are they going to turn it up?  We have been in that situation for many games, but it is always, ‘what are we going to do the next series?’  And that is what I stress to the offense. We’ll come back and learn from the whole thing.”


Spring Practice Schedule

Practices take place various days through April 28. Most practices are scheduled to start at 4 p.m. (media interviews at approximately 3:45 p.m. or after practice at about 6 p.m.). All practices take place at Roos Field. Scrimmages also take place on the red Sprinturf surface at the “Inferno” in Cheney, Wash.

April 17 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 18 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 20 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 21 - Scrimmage, approx. 10:30 a.m., Roos Field
April 24 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 25 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 26 - Practice, 4 p.m.
April 28 - Red-White Spring Game, 2 p.m., Roos Field

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