EWU opens spring practice having to replace 11 starters

One practice down, 43 to go before opener for Beau Baldwin. (Associated Press)

Just in time, the rain stopped and the clouds parted Friday afternoon for the opening day of spring football at Eastern Washington.

The winds didn’t die down, however, and neither did the media questions for Eagles coach Beau Baldwin, who welcomed 90 players to Roos Field for the first of 14 practices and scrimmages.

But as Baldwin pointed out, it was the first of 44 practices before the season opener on Aug. 23 against Sam Houston State. In other words, there’s plenty of work to do.

“No question, there will be some battles,” said Baldwin, who must replace 11 starters from a team that ran the table in the Big Sky Conference and finished four points short of the program’s second trip to the FCS title game.

This year, the hot-button position is cornerback, where the Eagles lost their top three players, but Baldwin looks fondly back at last year’s uncertainty at wide receiver.

“It’s funny, but I was just as excited last year, because everybody was talking about the receivers, and that played out pretty well on the field,” Baldwin said.

Indeed, the Eagles broke nearly every school offensive record last year while at the same time balancing the run and the pass. Or perhaps because that balancing act began last spring, with new schemes.

“You probably saw more change last year than you’ll see this year,” Baldwin said. “There are certain things we want to expand upon and take to new levels, but that balance is the key to chasing championships.”

So is the turnover battle, which the Eagles have been winning lately, but only by the slimmest of margins: plus-2 in each of the last two seasons.

“That’s closer to an average level, not a championship level,” Baldwin said.

The key to improving that will be the development of the young corners. Freshman D’londo Tucker said he embraces the challenge.

“I’m just trying to take it one day at a time,” said Tucker, who saw limited duty last year behind T.J. Lee, Ronald Baines and Bo Schuetzle. “I’m just trying work hard every day and keep progressing.”

Notes

New strength and conditioning coach Amir Owens said he “didn’t try to re-create” the wheel during offseason conditioning, but said he was pleased at “a lot of good effort from the young guys, a lot of technical speed work, change of direction; the guys really bought into it,” Owens said. … The Eagles will resume practice today at 10 a.m., the last session without pads. The pads come on Tuesday, and the first scrimmage is scheduled for April 12 … Three would-be returnees from last year have elected not to turn out, including tight end Ryan Seto, defensive lineman Joe Douglas and linebacker Cedric Gonzalez. … Safety Tevin McDonald is almost fully recovered from a leg injury suffered last season, and was working out on the sideline Friday afternoon.


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