The Eastern Washington University football players were fairly pumped up for the first day of spring drills Thursday, some literally.
“I’m really excited,” said safety Jordan Tonani, who gained 10 pounds of muscle this winter on top of gaining a lot of confidence on the field last fall.
Eighty-three players stepped onto rain-soaked Roos Field for the first of 15 practice sessions. It may be another round of spring ball, but it’s never the same as last year.
A year ago, Tonani was coming off a redshirt year. “Last spring as a freshman, you really don’t know what’s going on,” Tonani said.
Now Tonani is coming off a stellar first year on the field, moving into the starting lineup when senior Jeff Minnerly was injured, then making one of the biggest plays of the season: A pick-six at Montana State that proved to be the winning score in the biggest regular-season game of the year.
“Already knowing what you’re doing is a big bonus,” Tonani said.
For linebacker Ronnie Hamlin – last year’s leading tackler – this is the time to lead by more than just example. “He’s the next leader and he’s doing a fantastic job,” linebacker coach Josh Fetter said.
“I’m ready to go,” said Hamlin, who prepped for that role six weeks ago when he helped lead the team to win the top fundraising award at the Polar Plunge at Liberty Lake.
Teammate Cody McCarthy said he misses departing linebackers Zach Johnson, Tyler Washburn, Grant Williams and others, but “I’m going to do my best and do what they did for me, and be the best leader I can be.”
The coaches are moving on, too. A year ago, offensive line coach Aaron Best was coming off an injury-plagued season; some returnees were still too hobbled to participate in spring drills.
Best tried to be philosophical.
“Life’s an uncertainty,” Best said. “It’s nice to bring a lot of guys back, but you’ve got to find a lot of wood and knock on it daily because you never know what’s going to happen.”
A few minutes later, Best was back at work, supervising agility drills. It was the same for the other coaches.
“For us being on quarters you always feel like you’re later than everybody else,” head coach Beau Baldwin said. “It’s ‘C’mon, let’s get it going.’ ”
Practice continues today, again without pads. The Eagles will put on pads for the first time on Tuesday, with the first spring scrimmage scheduled for April 13. … The annual Red-White Scrimmage will be held on April 27. … Spring drills will end on May 4.