The worst is over.
That’s the idea, at least, as Eastern Washington opens fall football camp this week. Five weeks of grueling summer conditioning will give way Wednesday to three weeks of something a bit more manageable.
“I want fall camp to feel like we’ve already gone through this, and then some,” said head coach Beau Baldwin, whose Eagles have just more than three weeks to prepare for the season opener Aug. 30 at Idaho.
“The hope is that anything we take them through will almost seem easier than what they’ve done on their own or with (strength coach Nate) Brookreson.”
Entering his fifth season as EWU head coach and 19th as a college head or assistant coach, Baldwin has seen it all, but says he never knows quite what to expect when camp starts.
“I think every fall, there’s that same anticipation, because no matter what you think about the makeup of your team, things don’t build or develop until you come back in the fall. And what kind of team you’ll be.”
Which in Eastern’s case should be a pretty good one. The Eagles, coming off a 6-5 season, are picked second in the newly expanded Big Sky Conference and expect to field a deep and experienced front seven on defense and perhaps the best receiving corps in the Football Championship Subdivision.
The Eagles also will field some questions this month regarding the makeup of the offensive line, depth in the defensive backfield and the emergence of a quarterback to replace All-American Bo Levi Mitchell.
In the meantime, Baldwin and his assistants will focus on fundamentals, correcting and refining techniques while “getting your package in.”
That would be the playbook, which Baldwin and his staff will throw at the players at a pace he describes as “not as fast as some, but fast enough to keep the players challenged mentally.”
The physical pace will quicken next week. The NCAA-mandated five days of single practices will end on Aug. 13, with two-a-days at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. The first full scrimmage is scheduled for Aug. 18.
The second and final scrimmage is set for Aug. 23 – exactly a week before the trip to Moscow.
Counting scrimmages, the Eagles will hold 29 sessions, which Baldwin said is more than adequate. EWU is starting later than most schools, but will still get in the same number of practices.
“If it were up to me, with the kids as self-motivated as they are, I don’t think fall camp needs to be as long as it is,” Baldwin said. “It wouldn’t break my heart if the period were shorter.”
But as Baldwin sees it, “the norm is that the players bust their tails over the summer, and if you didn’t, you become the minority.”
Until camp begins, there will be no official word on the status of players who were injured last fall, including wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, running back Demetrius Bronson, offensive lineman Steven Forgette and linebacker Zach Johnson. … Newcomers report Monday for orientation and conditioning; returning players will do the same on Tuesday. … Fall camp will include five two-a-day sessions: Aug. 13, 15, 17, 20 and 22.