It’s a great time to be a defensive end at Eastern Washington.
During the summer, sophomore Evan Day made a huge impression on trainers during summer conditioning.
And for his entire career, Paul Ena apparently made a huge one on his teammates, because on Thursday they made him a team captain for the upcoming season.
“I’d like to think the defensive line will be an anchor and lead the defense to success,” said Ena, a 6-foot-2, 240-pound senior from Kenmore, Wash.
The coaches already know that.
“It starts with them,” said defensive coordinator John Graham, who also works with the ends during unit drills. “They know what’s expected.”
Including tackles Evan Cook and Andru Pulu, the Eagles’ defensive line figures to be one of the top units in the Big Sky Conference. Day and Ena are primed to make life rough for opposing quarterbacks.
Graham said Ena has been the “leader, the heart and soul of that whole unit.” Of Day, he believes that by the end of the season, “Everyone in the conference will know who Evan Day is.”
Despite the loss of 2011 starter Anthony Larry to grades, the unit is still deep. David Gaylord, a 6-4, 245-pound junior from Lynden, Wash., figures to see action even though he’s dealing with back and shoulder pain and had to sit out Thursday’s practice.
Senior Jerry Ceja, a 6-3, 220-pound senior from Aurora, Colo., is a pass-rush specialist who expects to see plenty of downs as well.
For now, the pass rushers are perfecting their techniques, “just playing as a team,” Day said after the Eagles concluded practice with pass-rush drills. “We’re working hard in the film room and on the field, on the little things.”
That includes hand-fighting and “moving our feet and hands,” said Ena, who credits defensive line coach Ryan Sawyer with “working with us individually for our own pass rushing needs. Then we all work as a unit to get the quarterback to step up or flush out.”
It’s already been a good month, but only a win at Idaho on Aug. 30 would make it a great one, Ena said.
“Eyes on the prize,” he said.
And the quarterback.
The Eagles will hold the first of two scrimmages Saturday. Players will take the field at 11 a.m., with the scrimmage to follow about 40 minutes later. Head coach Beau Baldwin said the offense will run about 60-70 plays. … Baldwin liked the way players responded to situational drills Thursday: “I like to create competition. A lot of times as a player, you can feel sorry for yourself because of the heat, but the guys respond to those drills, and say, ‘Hey Coach, can we do that again tomorrow?’ ” … Baldwin wasn’t pleased with the “sloppiness” on ball exchanges from center to quarterback and from quarterback to running back: “We’re too good to be making what I call unforced errors.” … Baldwin said he’s hopeful that freshman wide receiver Dalis Bruce will soon clear the NCAA academic clearinghouse. … Practice will resume today with two-a-days at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., both at Roos Field. Players will get Sunday off and resume two-a-days Monday at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. … Single-game tickets will go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. on Sept. 5. Until then, only members of the Eagle Athletic Association are able to purchase single-game tickets.