As promised, we're back with an early look at the Eastern Washington football signees story that will appear in Thursday morning's S-R. You can access it here.
And we've also included some personal thoughts and additional comments from Beau Baldwin on the Eagles' crowded quarterback situation that now includes six -- count 'em, six! -- candidates to replace Matt Nichols.
Please read on.
LOOK FOR MITCHELL TO BE THE MAN
After signing a pair of transfer quarterbacks in Bo Levi Mitchell and Greg Panelli on Wednesday, Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin faces the likely prospect of opening spring practice with six quarterbacks battling for the chance to replace Matt Nichols.
By Baldwin's own admission, it is not an ideal situation, and it will be up to him and his quarterbacks coach to weed some pretenders out early so the two or three candidates with the best chance of starting under center next fall get the required numbers of practice repititions during spring drills.
"We'll get a feel for it," Baldwin said. "Realistically in the spring, when you break down the number of reps you can realistically give to six quarterbacks, you're going to have to make some decisions. It's probably going to come down to somewhere around three guys truly getting a lot of those reps and battling.
"I mean, there's no way you can give four, five or six guys equal reps in the spring and get what you want to out it."
Prior to Wednesday signing day, Eastern already had four quarterback on its roster -- redshirt freshmen Scott Burgett and Jeff Minnerly, true freshman Anthony Vito and first-year JC transfer Nick Gauthier. Of the four, only Minnerly and Burgett have taken any snaps at the Division-I level -- and their combined total while sharing backup duties behind Nichols last fall was a mere seven.
That leaves the race wide open, it would seem, with Panelli already on campus and Mitchell expected to enroll and also be eligible for sping drills . But in my opinion, Mitchell stands as the odds-on favorite to be the Eagles' starting quarterback next fall, and here's why.
The 6-2, 210-pounder was a favorite of Baldwin's coming out of Katy (Texas) High School, where he operated almost exclusively under center in a run-oriented offense. And even though one could nitpick his performance as a two-year starter at Southern Methodist, there is no denying he was able to operate effectively -- albeit it a bit inconsistently, especially in the Mustangs' 30-27 overtime road loss to Washington State last fall in which he threw four interceptions -- at the Division-I level.
In addition, he proved he can grasp the complexities of a shot-gun formation, spread passing game like the one June Jones employs at SMU.
"Since high school, he's run two totally different systems and has been successful in both," Baldwin said of Mitchell. "In high school, he was under center and used to handing off and running play action out of that and throwing downfield.
"So, with Bo Levi, he was able to show he can perform under center at the high school level very well, and then he turned around and went to SMU, where he operated in the shotgun very well."
In leading Katy to an undefeated season and state championship as a senior in high school, Mitchell threw for 2,451 yards and 37 touchdowns, while being intercepted only four times. And in his two season at SMU, he started 19 games, completed 57 percent of his passes (385-676) for 4,590 yards and 36 touchdowns, and had six games he threw for 300 yards or more.
"Sometimes you get that high school player who has been all shotgun -- and now you're seeing it in the NFL with college quarterbacks who have been all shotgun -- where they just struggle when you ask them to don anything under center, footwork, or otherwise.
"And for us, in our system -- especially with great great running backs -- anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of our game plan is going to be from under center. I like it alot."
Baldwin added that Panelli also operated both out the 'gun and from under center in his two seasons as a starter at Modesto (Calif.) Junior College.
"So he's not going to be foreign to our system, either," Baldwin noted.
While all four quarterbacks currently on EWU's roster have already used their redshirt seasons, neither Mitchell nor Panelli has. But I would expect that to change after hearing Baldwin say, "One or both could use a redshirt year, if need be, and very well could be."
When asked about Mitchell's decision to leave SMU in the wake of losing his starting job, Baldwin expressed no concerns and added that there are no lingering effects from his shoulder injury.
"To a man, the coaches at SMU said it wasn't anything that Bo Levi did wrong," Baldwin explained. "He has all the skills and did some great things, but a player younger than him came in, played lights out and won a bunch of games at the end of the year."