Sports

Special teams in spotlight at Eastern

It was a special day Wednesday on the football fields at Eastern Washington.

It began with punting drills and ended with the kickers in the spotlight, as players and coaches watched Jimmy Pavel and Kevin Miller compete to fulfill a lifelong dream.

“It’s nice to have someone looking at us for once,” said Miller, a left-footed senior from Portland.

Nice, to a point.

“We try not to get nervous when they’re watching you,” said Pavel, a junior from Molalla, Ore., who transferred last year from Boise State.

Miller and Pavel are getting personal attention from head coach Beau Baldwin.

“It’s very competitive,” Baldwin said. “On different days, a different guy has stepped up, and on the next the day other guy has a better day.”

Baldwin said the holder position would also be affected. Safety Jeff Minnerly would remain the holder if the right-footed Pavel wins the job. If it’s Miller, then quarterback Vernon Adams would probably hold for placements. Jake Potter will be the long snapper.

The winner will replace the graduated Mike Jarrett, a star in the classroom and on the field, who according to Baldwin was 20 percent better in games than in practice. Both hope to get the chance to match that cool in game conditions.

“It’s been a dream of mine for years,” said Pavel, who said practice has been going well despite sessions on grass instead of the turf of Roos Field.

On most days, the kickers are out of the limelight with an entire field to share with Potter and punter Jake Miller.

“It’s sort of a working friendship, but we joke around once in a while,” said Miller of his relationship with Pavel.

A few rules changes will affect them: Balls will be kicked off from the 35-yard-line, putting a premium on putting the ball in the end zone.

The resulting touchback would put the other team at the 25 instead the 20 as in years past, but Baldwin said he “would take that every time” rather than take his chances in trying to chip it to the 5- or 10-yard line and pin the returner against his own goal line.

Either way, Miller said, “I’ve been waiting for this since the seventh grade.”

Notes: It’s way too early to start projecting a starting lineup, but the first-unit offense has been fairly consistent: LT Cassidy Curtis, LG Steven Forgette, C Drew Reynolds, RG Brandon Murphy and RT Will Post; WRs Nicholas Edwards, Brandon Kaufman and Greg Herd; and RB Demitrius Bronson. QBs Kyle Padron, Vernon Adams and Anthony Vitto are getting plenty of reps, and at TE, Cody Humphrey, Zack Gehring and Ryan Seto are seeing action in both single- and double-tight end formations. Of course, the second unit is seeing just as many reps. … The players got a break with cooler temperatures, a steady breeze, then got a big one when Baldwin pushed the evening practice back to 7 p.m. … The Eagles will hold a single practice today at 3 p.m., then another two-a-day session on Friday at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Practice begins on Saturday at 11, with the Eagles’ first scrimmage to follow about half an hour later. The second and final scrimmage will be on Aug. 23 at about 12:20 p.m.



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