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Sat., Aug. 15, 2009, 9:40 a.m.

Eags’ first workout sloppy, but spirited

Eastern Washington staged its first full practice of fall camp Friday afternoon, running through a two-workout without pads.  You can read the story about the practice session that ran in this morning's S-R here.

And you can read on for additional information, including a suprise appearance by last year's FCS Buck Buchanan Award winner Greg Peach.

Peach and Lance Witherspoon, who were senior members of EWU's defensive front last fall were at Friday's opening practice. Peach, who is starting on the defensive line for the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos, was back in town to clean out the Cheney apartment he had been living in prior to signing on with the Esks.

He played in Edmonton's 38-35 win over Calgary on Thursday night and then caught a flight to Spokane, taking advantage of his team's upcoming bye week. He plans to clean out his old apartment, load his stuff in his car and drive back to his hometown of Vancouver, where he will leave it with his parents before jetting back to Edmonton.

While watching practice, both Peach and Witherspoon commented on how talented EWU's latest recruiting class seems to be, noting it is both big in numbers and well-balanced.  Witherspoon, who recently earned his degree and plans to join other family member in Arizona where he has a couple of job possibilities, was especially impressed with the Eagles new crop of wide receivers.

Peach said he thought one of the main keys to Eastern's upcoming season is how well the offensive line will do in trying to make up for the unexpected loss of veteran left tackle Brice Leahy, who will miss the entire 2009 season because of a severe knee injury suffered in a scooter accident in Cheney over the summer.

Eagles coach Beau Baldwin addressed his new recruiting class after practice, saying he expects between two and five of its members to contribute this fall. Baldwin did not name those players.

"I just think its a great class, top to bottom," he said. "We're extremely deep. We've covered every position, so I don't think we're thin anywhere.  I just think we have a lot of talented football players will make our team that much deeper and stronger.

"Anywhere between two and five of our freshmen could play this fall."

Nichols said the addition of freshman Anthony Vito, a 6-foot-1, 195-pounder who 2,048 and 20 touchdowns as a senior at Chaminade Prep in Simi Valley, Calif., last fall, should make the battle for the starting quarterback position very interesting next spring.

Vito will challenge a pair redshirt freshmen -- former Ferris standout Jeff Minnerly and Scott Burgett, from Peoria, Ariz. -- and that spot, with Nick Gautheir, a 6-1 junior transfer from Bakersfield College for that spot.

Minnerly and Burgett are both listed as No. 2 behind Nichols on this year's preseason depth chart, with Vito No. 3 and Gauthier No. 4.

"It should be fun to watch," Nichols said of next year's quarterback competition. "There are going to be four guys fighting for the spot -- and that's a good thing. Having a lot of talented gusy competing for the sam positoin brings out the best in people, and the best one usually comes out on top."

Baldwin was asked about special teams following Friday's practice, and said he was still uncertain as to how things will play out in the ongoing efforts to replace last year's punter Fritz Brayton and do-everything placekicker Felipe Macias.

Nichols is expected to figure into the punting competition, along with junior Cameron Zuber and freshman Cameron Homan.  Sophomore Mike Jarrett and freshmen Austin Wallis and Kevin Miller are the leading candidates to replace Macias, with junior defensive lineman Tyler Jolly currently listed as the No. 1 long snapper.

That's all I've got for now.  I'll be back in a few ... as in a few days, because I am scheduled to take my forced furlough week -- sans pay -- beginning on Sunday.  If all goes as planned, however, we should have someone available to cover the Eagles' first fall scrimmage Gonzaga Prep next Saturday.

Stay tuned.


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