The football recruiting process turned a bit more selective for Beau Baldwin and his Eastern Washington University coaching staff this time around.
And the dividends of that altered approach were realized Wednesday morning when the Eagles’ head coach announced the signing of 14 “high-quality” recruits – including transfer quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, a two-year starter at Southern Methodist University – to national letters of intent.
“We had a limited amount of scholarships coming in,” said Baldwin, EWU’s third-year head coach, who signed a whopping 33 recruits last February, “so we had some definite target areas we wanted to hit, and I feel like we did just that.
“We were probably a little more picky than we’ve been in the past. Last year’s class was so big, we were able to take a few more chances on some guys. But this year we felt like we needed to be sure about everybody we signed, because we were going to sign such a lower number.”
In Mitchell, the Eagles landed an experienced Division I quarterback capable of stepping in immediately to help offset the graduation loss of senior Matt Nichols, who will leave Cheney as the holder of nearly every significant passing and total offense school record.
Mitchell, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder out Katy (Texas) High School, was on Baldwin’s recruiting radar two years ago and made an official visit to Eastern before signing with SMU. He started all 12 games as a true freshman for the Mustangs and seven more last fall before suffering a shoulder injury and losing his starting job to another rookie, Kyle Padron.
Prior to tearing the labrum in his left shoulder and watching SMU’s last six games from the bench, Mitchell threw for 1,725 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“He is someone we thought was an incredibly skilled player out of high school, and he obviously proved that by starting from Day One at SMU,” Baldwin said of Mitchell, who will compete in spring drills and be a junior next season. “After he signed his release (from SMU), we started talking to him again, and he told us he had never forgotten about us.
“He followed Nichols’ success from afar and told us he loved his visit up here and was very close to signing with us back then.”
Joining Mitchell on Eastern’s short list of recruits is another transfer quarterback, Greg Panellli, a 6-3, 225-pounder, who threw for just more than 5,000 yards and 56 touchdowns as a two-year starter at Modesto (Calif.) Junior College.
The Eagles also improved their team speed with the signing of a pair of wide receivers – Markeem Adams (West Seattle) and Trenton Pinson (Federal Way) – who were among the fastest track sprinters in Washington last spring. In addition, they picked up a pair of speedy recruits from California in running back Mario Brown (Bishop O’Dowd in Berkeley) and wideout Andre Williams (El Cerrito).
“We placed a huge, huge emphasis on speed, because speed at any level – from the NFL all the way down to high school – makes a big difference,” Baldwin said. “And the fastest teams have a better chance in the long run.”
Eleven of Eastern’s newest recruits are from in state, but the only local signee was Sandpoint running back Cody Hecker.
Christian Stefo, a highly touted 6-6, 315-pound offensive tackle from Arvada, Colo., who had made an oral committed to attend EWU, ended up de-committing and signing with Colorado State.