Eagles enjoy return of injured players on first day of practice
In more ways than one, the Eastern Washington University football team hit the ground running Wednesday.
The first day of fall camp brought a smile to the face of Eagles head coach Beau Baldwin, who saw returning veterans fully healed and newcomers already a chapter ahead in the playbook.
“I already saw the veteran aspect of that yesterday (during conditioning and orientation for veterans),” Baldwin said before the practice that kicked off his fifth year as coach.
“There was so much carryover from the spring game, physically and mentally, and that allows you to get into things so much quicker.”
That speaks to the team motto this year, which was seen on more than a few shirts: “Doing the ordinary things better than anyone else.”
Last spring, that was harder than it sounded for wide receiver Brandon Kaufman, running back Demetrius Bronson, linebacker Zach Johnson and offensive lineman Steven Forgette, who are all returning from season-ending injuries.
“It’s exciting to be out here,” said Forgette, who was part of a spate of O-line injuries last season. Forgette was hobbled during spring drills, “so it’s good to be back doing the same drills.”
Forgette credits strength and conditioning coach Nate Brookreson with his recovery.
“As soon as summer hit, I was able to do everything,” Forgette said. “Until that point, I never really felt comfortable.”
Bronson, victim of a severe hamstring injury just as spring drills began, was ecstatic even after a hard session of agility drills supervised by first-year running backs coach Kiel McDonald.
“It feels good being around the guys again,” said Bronson, the Eagles’ top returning third-down back. “I feel like we’re blending together.”
But Bronson said that part was happening already in April.
“I got a feeling for Coach McDonald, that he trusted me (in the spring) that if I’m not healthy, then don’t go,” he said. “Well, I’m ready to go now.”
Which is great – to a point.
“This time of year, especially the first one, is the anticipation, and keeping them on their feet because they’re so jacked up,” Baldwin said. “This (fall camp) has a marathon feel to it. But the first day is always like that.”
Practice was a businesslike affair, with units split up on the three grass football fields behind the athletic facilities building. Baldwin joined quarterbacks coach Zak Hill as five black-jerseyed QBs performed agility drills, passing drills and finally, 7-on-7 drills against the first- and second-team defensive backs and linebackers.
All five – returnees Vernon Adams and Anthony Vitto, together with newcomers Kyle Padron, Bowe Merin and Jordan West – saw plenty of action against a variety of coverages. Practice hadn’t even begun when Baldwin was asked by local media when he would name a starter.
Baldwin responded that the process will depend on “how the first week goes” and would not commit to a timetable.
The Eagles will practice again today at 3 p.m., then come back for a 9 a.m. session Friday. Practice time is 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with the first two-a-days set for Monday at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday’s session will be the first in full pads. Baldwin said that most practices will be held on the grass fields, with Roos Field being employed only as a “change-up.” … The only injury suffered over the summer was a by linebacker Jordan Pulu, who will have an MRI exam performed for a probable meniscus injury. … Two would-be freshmen – running back Jalen Moore and wide receiver Dalis Bruce – are not in camp because they have not been approved by the NCAA’s academic clearinghouse.