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Eagles sell potential recruits on total package

EWU football (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
EWU football (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

When Beau Baldwin visits a football recruit, he’s looking for the total package. Usually the recruit wants the same thing, which goes way beyond the field – red or otherwise.

Eastern’s head coach is in the final, hectic days of recruiting ahead of Wednesday’s national signing day, trying to fill gaps large and small on both sides of the ball. His message to recruits: EWU can match up with anyone, on and off the field.

“We sell the whole package,” Baldwin said. “In addition to football, we talk about what we have for helping them in the classroom and everything that the Spokane and Cheney area have to offer.”

On the field, he can point to a string of recent successes that include a national championship in 2010, plus individual honors including two recent Payton Award winners, emblematic of the top player in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Baldwin and his staff have stuck to the same recruiting strategy that has helped put Eastern in the national spotlight – regardless of the previous season.

“I think it’s more than the success of 2010,” Baldwin said. “When we recruit, we are we talking about what we’ve been doing for a long time, and we can put our five- or 10-year run up against a lot of teams.”

Baldwin wouldn’t trade anything for that national title, but that success – the Eagles finished their season on Jan. 7, 2011 – took time from recruiting. This year, the pace is a bit less hectic, while the program still gained national attention without extra practices – Bo Levi Mitchell won the Payton Award.

Wednesday is the first day recruits can sign national letters of intent.

So how is recruiting going? The rules prevent him from elaborating, but Baldwin said the Eagles hope to sign one or two players at each position, and may find immediate help in the secondary and on the offensive line.

And then there’s the quarterback position.

As of Friday, Eastern was in the hunt for two in-state quarterbacks, including second-ranked Drew Austin from Graham Kapowsin High in Graham. Other schools competing for Austin’s services include Arizona State, Boise State, UCLA and Idaho, according to lists Eastern as the top preference of Kamiak (Mukilteo, Wash.) quarterback Anthony Berg, ahead of Idaho, Montana State and Montana.

Outside the state, Eastern is listed as the second preference of Paris Penn, quarterback of Grant High in Portland, behind Arizona State and ahead of Oregon, Oregon State and Portland State.

Finally, quarterback Malik Watson of Pittsburg, Calif., lists EWU as his second preference, behind California. Other schools competing for his services are Fresno State, Idaho and Montana.

Regardless, Baldwin said that in-state recruiting will always be a priority for the Eagles.

“It all depends on the year, but ideally we’re going to continue to have over 50 percent (of our recruits) from the state,” he said.

The Eagles return eight starters to each unit. On defense, they lost linemen Renard Williams and Charles Moetului, plus cornerback Alden Gibbs. On offense, the departed includes quarterback Mitchell, left tackle Gabriel Jackson and center Chris Powers.

“You can never have enough good offensive linemen,” said Baldwin, who suffered through a rash of injuries last year on the line.

Special teams are in good shape; kicker Mike Jarrett is gone, but the Eagles have other kickers in the program.

On Wednesday, Eastern will hold a letter-of-intent day luncheon at Northern Quest Resort & Casino Airway Heights, which will include information, including videos about the recruits. The event is open to the public, but registration ended Friday.