Brian Strandley crossed two time zones last month to join the Eastern Washington football staff.
Then he took an even bigger leap – across the line of scrimmage.
“It’s been a learning process, but the coaching staff here has done a great job of getting me up to speed,” said Strandley, the Eagles’ new tight ends and tackles coach.
In some ways, Strandley was already up to speed.
He’d coached the defensive line at Eastern in 2006, and knew half the staff from previous jobs here and at Central Washington.
He spent four years as defensive coordinator at Idaho State under former EWU assistant and Central Washington head coach John Zamberlin. But after the ISU coaching staff was fired following the 2010 season, Strandley coached defensive linemen last year at Eastern Illinois.
Meanwhile, the Eagles were looking for a tight ends coach this year. While head coach Beau Baldwin reached back a few years to find the right guy, it wasn’t a reach at all.
“I’ve known him since I was about 14 years old,” said Baldwin, who teamed up with Strandley – an all-state defensive tackle – to win a State 3A title at Curtis High of Tacoma in 1989.
Strandley won four letters as a defensive tackle at Idaho, then coached high school ball in Potlatch, Idaho. He was hired at CWU when Zamberlin, an EWU assistant coach from 1992-94, took over as head coach in 1997.
Strandley, 30, helped the Wildcats to a 57-36 record in nine seasons – six of them with Baldwin on the same staff. They were reunited in Cheney for the 2006 season before Strandley joined Zamberlin at Idaho State.
“I know the person he is and I’ve gotten to coach with him over the years,” Baldwin said. “I know what he’ll bring to our office and the overall workmanlike attitude he has.”
There’s the matter of going from defense to offense.
“It’s always nice to get a perspective of what the other side is trying to do to you, what they are thinking and how you attack it. He already has helped us in those regards,” Baldwin said.
For Strandley, it’s a chance “to work with a great staff and getting closer to home” along with his wife, Erika, and their 2-year-old daughter, Brianna, who’ve been associated with three different programs in the last 18 months,
“And Eastern is a great place and a great university with a historically strong football program,” he said.
On the practice field, Strandley has been hampered by injuries to several tight ends. Junior Zach Gehring (6-foot-4, 245 pounds) is being held out of spring drills while a shoulder heals and junior Cody Humphrey (6-5, 260) has battled an ankle sprain. Sophomore Ryan Seto (6-5, 230) is back after missing more than a week.
But Strandley added that “the kids are working hard and getting better.”
The change in responsibility sounded a bit daunting, Strandley said.
“But there really are more similarities than there are differences,” he said. “A lot of same things apply, you just have to adapt.”
So far, that’s been no problem.
Baldwin confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the offense will take on the defense in Saturday’s Red-White Spring Football Game. Limited depth at some positions doesn’t allow EWU to split the squad into two teams.
Instead, Baldwin expects to spot the defense points on the scoreboard and force the offense to play catch-up. The defense can also score via interception and fumble returns, and bonus points will be given to the defense for turnovers forced and sacks.
“I love the competitiveness when the team and staff are divided for a scrimmage,” Baldwin said. “It’s worth it for the units to get one more day of live action this spring.”
Baldwin said no time clock will be kept and that ball placement for the offense will be determined by the results of previous drives.
The game will begin at 2:05 p.m., followed by the 31st annual Orland Killin Dinner, Dance and Auction.