For starters, this was a tougher decision than most people expected.
But in the end, Kyle Padron’s experience and physical presence won him the starting spot at quarterback for Eastern Washington’s season opener Thursday at Idaho.
“It’s tough when you try to weigh a lot of factors,” EWU head coach Beau Baldwin said. “He has less experience in our offense, but more experience in playing college football.”
Padron, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior transfer from Southern Methodist, started 21 games for the Mustangs of the Football Bowl Subdivision from 2009-11.
He completed 446 passes out of 729 attempts (61.2 percent) for 5,902 yards, 41 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.
Redshirt freshman Vernon Adams, who pushed Padron throughout fall camp, “played at such a high level,” Baldwin said, “that if he went into the game, with his athletic abilities, he would be able to drive us down the field.”
Junior Anthony Vitto will be the No. 3 quarterback.
Baldwin also confirmed the starters for other positions that were in doubt going into last weekend.
On the offense, Clay DeBord, a 6-foot-6, 290-pound redshirt freshman from Asotin, Wash., will start at left tackle. Other starters, from left to right, are left guard Steven Forgette (6-4, 300, jr.), center Ashton Miller (6-2, 300, jr.), right guard Brandon Murphy (6-4, 295, jr.) and right tackle Will Post (6-6, 310, sr.).
Despite his youth, Baldwin said, DeBord showed mental focus and understanding of blocking principles throughout camp.
“And he showed an ability to get nasty,” Baldwin said.
At tight end, Zack Gehring (6-4, 245, jr.) and Ryan Seto (6-5, 230, soph.) will see most of the snaps in two- and one-tight end sets. Both players showed the ability to run-block and be a factor in the passing game, Baldwin said, adding that the lighter Seto has a “strong upside” as a receiver.
The wide receivers are Nicholas Edwards (6-3, 200, sr.), Greg Herd (6-3, 200, sr.) and Brandon Kaufman (6-5, 215, jr.). Demitrius Bronson (5-10, 225, jr.) is the starter at running back.
On defense, junior Ronald Baines (5-10, 185, jr.) is the starter opposite junior T.J. Lee III (5-9, 170). Senior Jeff Minnerly (6-1, 200) and junior Allen Brown (5-10, 170) start at safety, with redshirt freshman Jordan Tonani (6-0, 180) coming in nickel coverage.
Baines, of Tacoma, simply “graded out a bit higher” than the competiton, Baldwin said.
The rest of the defense was more or less set: senior Paul Ena (6-2, 240) and sophomore Evan Day (6-3, 245) at the ends, with senior Evan Cook (6-3, 280) and junior transfer Andru Pulu (6-2, 290) inside.
At linebacker, starters are junior Ronnie Hamlin (6-2, 210), senior Zach Johnson (6-1, 225) and senior Tylre Washburn (6-1, 230).
Placekicking duties will be split: sophomore Jimmy Pavel (5-11, 195) will handle field goals and extra points (with Minnerly holding), and junior Kevin Miller (6-2, 195) will kick off.
Sophomore Jake Miller (6-5, 205) returns at punter and senior Jake Potter (6-5, 200) at long snapper. Herd and Lee are atop the depth chart for kickoff returns; junior wide receiver Ashton Clark (5-11, 185) will return punts.