Eastern Washington University will open fall camp on Wednesday, and seems to be handling the added pressure of trying to defend the NCAA Division I football championship it won last season. You can read the pre-camp story that ran in Tuesday morning's S-R here, and check out a few additional thoughts and comments below -- along with some links to other preseason stories about the Eagles.
Read on, and be sure to check back for an update following Wednesday's first fall practice.
Despite having 15 starters back from last year's championship team, Eastern coach Beau Baldwin still has some holes to plug -- particularly on the defensive side of the football where the Eagles lost linebacker J.C. Sherritt, nose tackle Tyler Jolley and cornerbacks Jesse Hoffman and Dante Calcote to graduation.
Baldwin figures the competition at those four spots will be as heated as any this fall as some lesser-known, but talented players like defensive linemen Will Katoa, Evan Cook, Charles Moetului and ,David Miles, linebackers Grant Williams and Bobby Gentry and defensive backs Allen Brown, Alden Gibbs and Ethen Robinson look to step into those vacated started positions.
"Obviously, when you look at the defensive side, there's going to be competition all the way through," Baldwin said. "But you look at the two senior corners (lost to graduation) and that jumps out at you -- okay, there's a spot.
"We don't have a corner on our roster that has a lot of experience. That doesn't mean I'm not excited about the group, that just means that's going to be a very competitive position this fall -- like it was last spring."
Despite the loss of Jolley, Baldwin likes the talent and depth in his defensive front.
"We're deep again in the D-line," he said. "That's going to be a position where we're going to continue to rotate a lot of guys and keep them fresh, which I thought was a big part of our success last year."
The best competition on offense, Baldwin added, will probably be at the running back position, where sophomore Mario Brown, senior Darriell Beaumonte and sophomore Demitrius Bronson, a first-year transfer from the University of Washington, are the leading candidates to replace departed all-American Taiwan Jones.
When asked if any incoming freshman might be targeted for early playing time, Baldwin said:
"It's hard to say. We used to kind of almost predict them -- you know, 'He's not going to redshirt, but we are going to redshirt this guy' -- and half time time we'd come back late and do the opposite of what we said. So my biggest thing is that I want every freshman going out there with teh mentality the he could end up playing this year and just compete.
"Then, by the end of fall camp, we'll see which ones do (redshirt) and which ones don't."
And, as promised, I included these links to preseason stories post earlier on EWU's athletic departmetn website:
And as long as you've read this far, feel free to leave any comments about how you think Eastern will do this fall and what key issues must be addressed if the Eagles hope to successfully defend their national championship.