Eastern Washington University football coach Beau Baldwin put his team through its first full-pads workout of spring drills Wednesday afternoon and felt his Eagles were a little flat, at times, during a full-contact practice that ended a prolonged layoff.
You can check out the practice story that ran in Wednesday morning's S-R here, and you can read some additional thoughts and comments from Baldwin, quarterbacks coach Zak Hill and two of the six players competing for the starting quarterback job below.
The problem with having six quarterbacks competing for a starting job became even more obvious on Wednesday when the Eagles practiced for the first time in full pads and only five of the six QB candiates took snaps in live game-like situations.
After spending a major portion of the 2 1/2-hour workout with the position coaches, the Eags's offense spent about 15 minutes running plays in a "thud" situation where the defense rallies to the ball but is not supposed to tackle anyone.
And after that, they spent another 10 or 15 minutes going live, with the exception of not being allowed to tackle the quarterback.
Baldwin said more time will be devoted to live scrimmage-like sessions throughout the rest of the spring as he and his staff try to learn more about some of their young defensive hopefuls.
"I want to become a better tackling team," Baldwin said, "and the only way you can get better at tacklling, in my opinion, is to tackles. And that's why my plan is to do more live drills this spring than we ever have in the past.
"I like being back in pads again, because you get a better feel for whats really getting done up front. Otherwise, player can fall back on that crutch -- 'Well, it's not pads, so up front, it's hard to be live and go all out.' But in pads, there's not crutch. What you see is what you get, and if someone's getting beat up front -- on either side of the ball -- it's right there for everyone to see."
Southern Methodist transfer Bo Levi Mitchell, who is among the six QB candidates, said the live drills give him and the other new players a better -- and much-needed -- sense of what game speed is like.
"It makes the game much more physical," he explained, "and whether or not the quarterback is going to get hit, everybody moves that much faster. Guys on the corners and in the wide receiver positions are pushing off each other and hitting each other a lot more, and it gives you a lot better feel of what it will be like in games."
As for the progess he has made during his short time in Cheney, Mitchell added: "
"It's been real good. It helps that I've been (at SMU) before and know the rounds. The biggest thing for me is just learning the new terminology. I like how they do things here, because the quarterback is in more control. At SMU, the head coach would make the can and all you did was relay the play and run it. Here, the coach still makes the call, but after that, it's your time, because you have a little bit more freedom to change things and tell your receivers, 'You know, if you run this route and get open, I'm goign to hit you on that,' and I like being able to do that."
Sophomore quarterback candidate Jeff Minnerly also said it felt good to be back in full pads and working at full speed. And he added that he hopes the experience he gained during his first two seasons at Eastern -- including his redshirt year in 2008 -- will prove beneficial as he competes for the starting job.
"I think it's a little bit of an advantage," he said, "because you're more familiar with how things work and what's expected the second or third time you're going through everything. It's definitely easier to just react and not have to think as much about what you're suppose to do."
With the competition as intense as it is at the quarterback spot, there is always a concern about hard feelings surfacing. But those involved insists there has been none of that so far this spring.
"We get along really well as a group, and we don't really let the competition come between us," Minnerly said. "On the field, it's not so much that were competing against each other -- we're competing against the defense and trying to get somethign done there.
"So, there's no animosity or ill will toward the other quarterback. The relationships have been pretty good between us"
Quarterbacks coach Zak Hill, while finding himself busier that normal in having to handle six quarterback hopeful, said he likes having so many options at practice each day. But he also admitted there are some advantages to having a projected starter in place.
"When you have a set starter, its easier to work on specific things and get him most of the reps," Hill explained. "But being the situation we are this year is also fun, just because you have a lot of competition where players come out every single day and fight for a spot where they can get more reps.
"That's what you like to see at every position."