January 30, 2011 in Sports

National exposure offsets EWU’s late recruiting start

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Turns out, there is a downside to winning an NCAA Division I national football championship.

But Beau Baldwin can certainly live with the feeling of being a little behind with his recruiting efforts.

“It’s been a bit of a scramble as far as recruiting goes,” said Eastern Washington’s head coach, whose No. 1-ranked Eagles capped an unprecedented 2010 season by beating Delaware 20-19 in the finals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 7.

“But don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.”

Baldwin, who recently returned from a hectic, late-cycle recruiting trip, was quick to point out that the benefits – particularly the notoriety – that come from having beaten Delaware in the nationally televised title game far outweigh any recruiting anxiety he might be experiencing.

“What we noticed more than anything, especially when you recruit in terms of outside the West Coast, you have more of a presence,” Baldwin said. “People already know who you are, where you’re from and what you did – and some of that started even with the installation of the red turf and led right into the season.

“Everyone we’re talking to has seen us play, and that’s been uncommon for us in the past. There’s been a lot of positive feedback. It’s been fun.”

Baldwin and his assistants have not strayed far from the long-held and proven recruiting strategy that has helped put Eastern’s program on the national stage.

“The bulk of our kids are still going to come from the state of Washington, because we’ve had a tremendous amount of success with that approach for a number of years,” he said. “We just haven’t received the national attention we received this year.”

With 16 starters expected to return from this year’s 13-2 team that also shared the regular-season Big Sky Conference championship with Montana State, the Eagles have focused their recruiting efforts a few select positions – like the linebacker position vacated by two-time All-American and 2010 Buck Buchanan Award winner J.C. Sherritt, and the running back spot that opened up recently when junior Taiwan Jones hired an agent and announced he was entering the NFL draft.

Baldwin must also replace senior cornerbacks Dante Calcote and Jesse Hoffman, along with offensive linemen Nikolai Myers and Matt Martin.

“Honestly, we don’t have a huge group leaving,” Baldwin said, “so we’re just trying to find the top guy, or two, we can get at each position. We’re just trying to fill holes at a few specific spots, not necessarily favoring one side of the ball or the other.

“We feel real good about where we are right now, but you never know for sure until signing day – or, in most cases, another year or two down the road.”

Wednesday is the first day recruits can sign national letters of intent.

Baldwin did not say how many players he expects to sign, but said he still feels like he’s playing catch-up.

“Because of our playoff run, there’s been a lot less time for me, personally, to get out and get to as many places as I normal would during the recruiting period,” he said. “But again, it’s a good problem to have, and one I wouldn’t mind dealing with every year.”


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