The air was stifling Tuesday afternoon, but fortunately for the Eastern Washington cornerbacks, their coach didn’t turn the heat any higher.
“I’m more of a teacher than a yeller,” said Cherokee Valeria, a former wide receiver at Central Washington who joined Beau Baldwin’s staff before spring drills.
“I expect them to learn the techniques from the ground up, and then we’ll progress from there. But in a couple of days, I’ll get more passionate about it.”
For now, the players are following in Valeria’s footsteps – literally.
“I’m learning a lot from coach Valeria, especially footwork,” corner Miles Weatheroy said. “And coverage work and keying off the QB.”
Valeria has plenty of talent at his feet, including returning all-Big Sky first-teamer T.J. Lee III on one side of the field. On the other side he has some questions, and he hopes someone will answer them emphatically enough to win the starting spot.
“Whoever it is,” Valeria said. “The quality he needs first and foremost is team leadership on that side of the field, and second, someone who can go through all the progressions that we need.”
In one of the more intriguing battles of fall camp, several players are in contention to replace the graduated Alden Gibbs. They include junior Ronald Baines, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound junior from Tacoma; junior Bo Schuetzle, a 5-11, 190-pounder out of Shadle Park; sophomore Isaiah Jenkins, a 6-0, 170-pound sophomore from Seattle; Weatheroy, a 6-1, 170-pound redshirt freshman from Portland; and Christian Hudnell, a 6-0, 185-pound junior transfer from Kentucky but originally from Sacramento, Calif.
“My goal is just to learn from T.J and the coach – and become a starter,” said Schuetzle, who then shot a playful glance at Weatheroy as they laughed. “The competition makes it fun.”
Fun, even as the temperature pushed 100 degrees and the head coach watching intently while the players worked.
Hudnell, who saw playing time for Kentucky of the Southeastern Conference, is still getting acclimated. He arrived only last week, “got settled, and started working on my footwork. The passing offense here is no joke.
“I appreciate the opportunity. It’s still a work in progress, but things are starting to slow down for me.”
It helps to have Lee, the Eagles’ only unanimous preseason all-Big Sky selection, who is helping Valeria in “building team chemistry and what to do on certain downs and distance.”
For Weatheroy, the arrival of Valeria last spring meant “putting us all on the same playing field, so I felt able to learn at the same pace instead of being behind the ball.
“I like the way he explains things.”
Notes: After practice, Baldwin said the session was “choppy,” but added that “every team in the country is in the same boat.” … With temperatures in the upper 90s, trainers are taking extra precautions to avoid dehydration, EWU head athletic trainer Brian Norton said. “Players are weighed before and after practice,” said Norton, and if they lose weight, “they have to gain that back the next day.” Norton added that water is OK, but that the training staff also pushes Gatorade and other sources of electrolytes and sodium. … Norton added that the Eagles have been fortunate with injuriesr. Running backs Jordan Talley, Cody Hecker, Mario Brown and Jabari Wilson were held out of Tuesday’s session as a precaution. Linebacker Jordan Pulu may return soon after an MRI showed only a minor meniscus injury … The Eagles go back to two-a-days today at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. A single session is scheduled for Thursday at 3 p.m., then two-a-days on Friday. Saturday’s practice will begin at 11 a.m., with the scrimmage to start at roughly 11:40. Players will get the day off on Sunday, the only rest day until the season opener Aug. 30 at Idaho.
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