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Eastern Sports chat, noon (Apr. 24)

 

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Jim: OK, let's do this!

Jim: With the Red-White Spring Game just two days away, I though this would be a good time to talk Eagle football. We've never held a live chat during spring, so I'm eager to see how this goes!

Joemon (guest): Jim, what are your impressions so far through Spring ball

Jim: Hi, Joemon

Jim: Generally, I'm impressed with how "cleanly" the Eagles have played on both sides of the ball. That is, the absence of penalties and getting plays in from the sidelines with a minimum of delays.

Jim: I've also seen high energy at the practices, and I've missed just two of the 10 held so far.

 

Joemon (guest): Curious how the freshman are doing and if any are standing out.

 

Jim: Of course, several true freshmen are returning players, including Ebukam, Sommer, Havili, Tucker and Bourne.

 

Jim: Of the others, I'm impressed by LBs Jake Gall and John Kreifels, RB Reece Mahaffy and QB Jordan West (who actually will be a redshirt sophomore next year but has not played a snap)

GoldenEagle (guest): I noticed a lot of last year's starters did not play in the last scrimmage. I think some had surgeries. Is everyone healing well from off season surgeries/rehab?

 

Jim: Make no mistake: there are MANY players being held out for minor injuries, including what seems to be most of the RBs. Also out are DLs Day, Ebukam, Jordan Pulu, LBs Hamlin and McCarthy and S Tevin McDonald. There are more, but those are just the highlights.

 

Jim: The Eagles coaches want to "be smart" with these minor injuries; after all, they know what these guys can do. All will be 100 percent by August, I'm told. Even McDonald is getting there after a tough leg injury at Idaho State

Joemon (guest): I wouldn't be surprised if we have a few incoming freshman make the rotation for the D-line

Jim: We already have two in Ebukam and Sommer, but look out for Brandon Pritchett, a 6-1, 280 tank out of Lakewood, Wash.

GoldenEagle (guest): Who was the placekicker at the last scrimmage? I got there a little late, how did he do?

Jim: Hello, Golden Eagle. I already have a top 5 list of concerns coming out of spring, and this is one of them. RS Freshman Roldan Alcobendas and walk-on Trevor Merritt are the only guys in camp, and Alcobendas still isn't 100 percent recovered from an ACL injury suffered more than a year ago in a high school soccer game.

Jim: Alcobendas, from Camas, is the top kicker at this moment, but I know that the Eagles are pursuing another kicker

Guest193 (guest): what are the other 4?

Jim: I knew you'd ask that, and in the interest of holding your attention, I will "sprinkle" them throughout this chat!

Jim: That's sort of like those annoying ad clips ESPN forces you to watch before they let you watch their highlights, but that's life!

Guest193 (guest): Will Game Day be out on the 23rd?

Jim: My understanding is that the ESPN mothership will be here, but don't expect to see Lee Corso donning an Eagle head

Jim: We always can wish for that. You guys should start a petition and see how that flies!

Guest193 (guest): I have heard Evan Day is hurt... anything on that?

Jim: Yes, he hasn't practiced all spring, and now my brain is cramping trying to remember the nature of his injury. Trust me: he'll be fine come late July when practice resumes.

Guest193 (guest): Can the O line be even better this year?

Jim: OK, my next area of concern is the interior offensive line, where the Eagles must replace three starters (Miller, Morphy Forgette), all of them 300lbs-plus two of them All-Americans. The replacements, apart from Brandon Murphy, give up a few pounds, so we'll see what does to the running game.

Joemon (guest): From what I hear both backup quarterbacks are pretty good, any chance either of them pushes VA a little? ( I remember when Padron had the position sowed up before VA pushed and eventually won the job)

Jim: There is no way Jordan West or Conner Richardson pushes Adams, even a little. VA is a rare gem, IMO, but West, a RS sophomore, is making a good impression so far (nice reads, knows the offense, good scrambling ability). Richardson is a year younger, and reminds me a bit of Adams in 2012, good arm strength but leaves the pocket too soon.

GoldenEagle (guest): I thought the secondary play at the last scrimmage was really solid. It seemed like a lot of corners were rotating and I had a hard time identifying them. Could you list the CBs that will be competing for the starting jobs?

Jim: I thought so too. Much improve from the first scrimmage. At this point, three guys are competing for the two CB spots: junior Frank Cange, true soph D'londo Tucker (both played a bit last year), and redshirt freshman Viktor Gamboa out of Tacoma.

 

Jim: Gamboa made a great play last week, outjumping WR Kendrick Bourne on a rollout by Adams

Guest990 (guest): Have you had a chance to talk with the new receivers coach?

Jim: Yes, and in fact I did a story on Nick Edwards that ran two weeks ago as part of our unit series. Edwards is only 24, but he's a sponge, learning from Baldwin and Hill. I've also watched him during practice, working with a quiet efficiency and getting his message across.

Joemon (guest): I agree about VA, I think he may be one of the best in the country at any level when he is on. It’s good to hear that West is doing well, hopefully he will be as dependable as Vitto was.

Jim: The Eagles were lucky to have Vitto. Baldwin wasn't blowing smoke when he said that Vitto could have started at half the Big Sky schools. West looks very solid at this point, but it's still a big dropoff from Adams.

Guest161 (guest): I have been impressed with team speed as a whole. Do you noticethat? Kreifels is not very big for a linebacker but really get around. Another JC Sherrit??

Jim: As LB coach Josh Fetter told me, Kreifels can "flat-out run." Credit the hustle of players like Hamlin and McCarthy for setting that example.

Jim: In short, the LBs are deep and talented.

Guest990 (guest): We have a prop and several recruits which are real fast and tall coming in the Fall for those corner spots right?

Jim: Keonte White (6-foot-4) and Andre Lino (6-3), I believe, are the two props coming in. They certainly will be in the mix.

Jim: And concern No.3 is exactly that, inexperience at corner with the loss of Lee, Baines and Schuetzle.

Guest990 (guest): plus at least one of the Calif twins.

Jim: There is talent, but there also is a learning curve. I wonder how the coaches will change the mix of their coverages (an occasional Cover 1 to maximize the talent and experience at safety - that would put more pressure on opposing QBs and relieve some pressure on the corners, in my opinion.)

Guest161 (guest): Mario Brown has sure been impressive in practices and scrimmage. Has he put on weight this off season? Another pleasant surprise is the walk on RB from Cda. How did he not get offers?

Jim: This is a hard one to read. Most of the RBs are being held out for minor injuries. Brown is a very good back, at this point No. 2 on the depth chart behind Forte, rushing for 482 yards and 4 TDs last year. Mahaffy looks very good in spring drills, but that's all I know about him.

Jim: OK, concern No. 4: wide receiver talent mix.

 

Jim: You may laugh, but Ashton Clark (83 catches, 1233 yards and 12 TDs) was outstanding in the slot, and this group strikes me as more of a deep threat group with Hill, Mitchell, Bomber and Bourne. Kupp can do this as well, but I'd like to see a true possession receiver emerge from the ranks. Thoughts?

 

Guest161 (guest): Have you seen any indications of changes in offensive schemes or would Baldwin be keeping that quite until gameday? I am hoping to see more quick pitches and maybe even the wildcat to take advantage of speed at running back. If these guys get in space they really crank up some yards.

 

Jim: That's a question for the fall, and even then Baldwin isn't going to advertise any chances. I can almost guarantee that you won't see a wildcat - Adams is the perfect run-pass threat by himself.

Guest990 (guest): We will miss the sure hands of clark for punt returns any news there?

GoldenEagle (guest): I think Bomber in the slot would make an outstanding possession receiver. He has wheels too.

Jim: Yes, we reported this week that Kupp, Bomber and freshman Nic Sblendorio will compete for the job.

Joemon (guest): Who would you say is winning the war between the OL and DL at this point? Any stand-outs you've noticed?

Jim: And that brings me to my final, and biggest concern: size on the DL. Gone are DTs Pulu and Katoa, both 320 pounders. The heirs apparent are Dylan Zylstra (who added 15 pounds during the winter but is still just 285), and Matthew Sommer (295). Both are much more mobile, but it's still a concern for me. The Eagles will beef up at one end, where WSU transfer Zackary Johnson (275) replaces Anthony Larry. At the other end, it's Ebukam (240) and Day (245) alternating.

Jim: For you Xs and Os guys out there, what do you think the coaches will do to address the twin problems of a smallish-but-athletic D-line and an inexperienced group of corners?

 

Jim: Seven minutes left - bring it on!

Guest161 (guest): Even though Zack Johnson may be heavier, is he as quick as Larry? I heard Connor Johnson former U-high QB may be transferring in and play as tight end. Have you heard anything about that and what is the status of our tight end positions as a whole?

Jim: No, he's not, so you're trading size for speed at the tackles and doing the opposite at end. I have not heard about Johnson, and probably won't until/if he enters school.

GoldenEagle (guest): To start, I would like to see a more aggressive defensive scheme with more blitzing.

Jim: That speaks to my theory about more aggressive coverage shells, including a cover 1, with one safety threating to blitz and not forcing the CBs to cover for so long.

 

Jim: I'm guessing that everyone here will attend the spring game. If not, I'll provide highlights on Twitter. Follow me at @srjimallen

Jim: And in closing, despite my concerns (every team has them), I see the Eagles possibly being a preseason No. 1 and going 10-2 or 11-1 this fall.

 

Jim: They should be favored in every Big Sky game.

Jim: Thanks for participating!




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Jim Allen
Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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