July 16, 2007

Eagles Picked to Finish Fifth in Big Sky

July 16, 2007

The Eastern Washington University football team has been picked to finish fifth in the 2007 Big Sky Conference football season as the preseason polls were released Monday (July 16) at the league's Summer Kickoff in Park City, Utah.

In addition, senior offensive guard Matt Alfred has been selected to the College Sporting News preseason NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision All-America football team. In addition, the 6-foot-3, 300-pound Alfred was named to the preseason All-Big Sky team.

The graduate of Gig Harbor (Wash.) High School was an All-American in 2005, and has earned three previous postseason All-BSC honors at EWU (second team in 2004 and 2006 and first team in 2005). He enters the 2007 season with 33-straight starts as an Eagle.

Eastern is coming off a 3-8 season in 2006 that included a 3-5 record in the Big Sky. Eastern finished in a tie for sixth in the 2006 league race after being picked to place second by the coaches and sixth by the media.

This season, Eastern returns 13 starters and a total of 46 letter winners. Picked to finish exactly in the middle of the nine-team league, Eastern was picked to finish behind Montana, Portland State, Montana State and Northern Arizona. The Eagles were picked ahead of Weber State, Sacramento State, Idaho State and Northern Colorado.

"That doesn't bother me at all, and I don't think it bothers anybody else on our team at all," said EWU senior safety Gregor Smith. "It's that record at the end of the season that shows how you do."

Smith, a 2003 graduate of Lakeside High School in Nine Mile Falls, Wash., was EWU's player representative at the media gathering and meetings in Park City. He is trying to put behind him three frustrating seasons of injuries that have kept him out of 11 of 36 Eastern games in his career.

A second team All-Big Sky special teams selection as a freshman in 2004, Eastern is 15-10 in the 25 games he has played. In the 11 games he has missed, Eastern is 4-7.

The Eagles won Big Sky Conference championships in both 2004 and 2005, and Smith hopes Eastern can be a championship contender once again this season. He hopes last season was a blip, created mostly by the loss in 2005 of Payton Award-winning quarterback Erik Meyer and a group of four senior wide receivers that included senior Eric Kimble.

"We had tough shoes to fill and needed a year under our belt with a new quarterback and receiver crew," Smith explained of last season's finish. "Having that year will help us take a big step in moving forward."

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