It happens every practice at Eastern Washington: Running back Demitrius Bronson finds a hole, finds the first down, and keeps going – even when he doesn’t have to.
It’s as if to say, “I’m not a third-down back anymore.”
Not bad for a player who a year ago got only a handful of carries, and who in the spring was standing on the sidelines with a major hamstring injury.
Now he’s the heavy favorite to start in the backfield when the Eagles face Idaho on Aug. 30; if the Eastern Washington offense wants to be more balanced this season, Bronson may well be the fulcrum.
The EWU coaches saw his potential all along. “We could see it in winter conditioning,” said head coach Beau Baldwin. “He took winter conditioning really seriously, but with the injury, he really didn’t get to enjoy the fruits of his labor.”
But after dealing with the frustration of the sideline, Bronson worked himself back during summer conditioning and quickly emerged as a force in fall camp. For that, he credits the coaching staff, especially Baldwin’s newest hire, running back coach Kiel McDonald.
“He has a lot of tools,” laughs Bronson, referring to McDonald’s truckload-full of agility-drill equipment. “But it has a lot to do with coach McDonald, “and he’s making us the hardest-working unit.”
“We’re gassed after every practice, and he’s done a good job of getting us there.”
For Bronson, getting “there” has been a long road. The junior out of Kent, Wash., signed in 2009 with the University of Washington, and played in seven games that fall as a true freshman with the Huskies. He carried the ball 13 times for 89 yards, including 31 yards on just three carries in a 42-10 win over No. 19 California.
In the 2010 Husky spring game, he was the leading rusher with 72 yards, but never played the next season as Chris Polk and Jesse Callier rotated in at the tailback spot. Bronson decided to transfer to Eastern in search of more playing time.
But the 5-foot-11, 225-pound Bronson definitely didn’t get it – nine carries for 14 yards, mostly in third-down situations.
And now? “He’s not a third-down back, he’s a tailback,” Baldwin said. “We’ve always known he’s strong, but he’s shown a lot more speed.”
Yes, people have noticed.
Freshman suspended after arrest
According to a university press release issued late Monday afternoon, true freshman wide receiver Dalis Bruce was arrested early Sunday morning for alleged third-degree sexual assault. Bruce has been suspended indefinitely from the team pending the disposition of his case. No other information was available Monday night. Bruce arrived on campus late last week after having been cleared to practice by the NCAA clearinghouse on grades.
On the field, the Eagles took it slowly Monday afternoon following a full-pads workout in the morning. “We’re at the point where I knew I wasn’t going to do back-to-back practices in full shoulder pads,” Baldwin said – not because of the heat, but because “you just want to make sure that they’re mentally sharp but physically fresh.” … Defensive end and team captain Paul Ena had an MRI Monday afternoon for a possible fracture in his left elbow, but results were not available at press time. Ena was at practice Monday afternoon wearing a sling over his left shoulder. Wide receiver Greg Herd has a fracture in his right pinkie finger but is expected to play in the season opener. Several other players were held out as a precaution… The Eagles will resume practice today at 3 p.m. at Roos Field; in fact Baldwin said that all future practices are planned for Roos. … The Eagles will hold their last two-a-day on Wednesday, with the final scrimmage set for Thursday; practice begins at noon, with the scrimmage scheduled to begin at about 12:20 p.m.