March 30, 2007
Introductions won't be necessary, but togetherness is on the mind of Eastern Washington University head football coach Paul Wulff as the Eagles open spring football practice on April 9.
"I think the focus is becoming a team and learning together," said Wulff, who is entering his eighth season at the helm. "We have to come together as coaches and players and create a stronger bond. Working together as much as we can is critical. We need to set our goals in front of us and move ahead."
The Eagles will welcome back 47 letter winners from last year's 3-8 squad when practices begin on April 9, culminating in the annual Red-White Game on May 5 at 2 p.m. at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash. During that four-week stretch, Eastern will practice Mondays (except April 30), Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2:50 p.m.
Besides the Red-White game, public scrimmages will take place on Friday, April 13 (4 p.m.), Friday, April 20 (3:30 p.m.) and Saturday, April 28 (11 a.m.).
New coaches joining the Eastern program include offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Todd Sturdy and running backs coach Chris Peterson. Veteran EWU coaches with new assignments include Joe Wade (wide receivers), Jody Sears (defensive ends) and Jeff Schmedding (safeties).
"The x's and o's are great, but we have some new coaches on board and we have to get everybody up to speed," said Wulff. "There are a few positions that have to adjust to some new faces and new coaches. But our core beliefs on how to win football games are not going to change."
Eastern will use the spring to experiment a bit offensively and defensively in hopes of improving on both sides of the ball. The Eagles averaged 310.3 yards of offense a year ago (down 167.7 yards per game from the previous year) and allowed 370.5 on defense (up 7.3 yards per game).
"There are some things we're going to try in the spring that we are going to like or not like, and either throw out or keep as we move into the fall," Wulff explained. "We want to look at a few different things and evaluate our players. We want to see who has improved the most and start thinking about where we can put players on the field where we can have success."
Although there are 14 starters returning -- eight on offense and six on defense -- Wulff expects lots of competition for positions.
"There is always competition and there should be," he said. "We have to continue to play the kids who are doing the best and playing the best. The team deserves to have the best players out there as often as they can. But there are also roles to be filled."
Fortunately for EWU, the number of players who will be held out of spring drills for injury purposes is minimal. Offensive lineman Julian Stewart will sit out the spring because of off-season knee surgery. Running back Dale Morris (foot) and safety Gregor Smith (shoulder) are expected to participate in practices but will probably be held out of contact drills.