The Eastern Washington defense is taking this “next man up” thing pretty seriously.
First there was Anthony Larry, back from a season off yet excelling as a defensive end one play and a linebacker the next at Saturday’s rather one-sided scrimmage.
Then there was safety Tevin McDonald, a transfer who showed just why he was a two-year starter at UCLA.
And finally there was former running back Jordan Talley, who was moved to linebacker in the offseason, but swallowed his pride, digested the defensive playbook and then helped chew up the Eagles’ offense on a blustery day at Roos Field.
With only three experienced linebackers, the Eagles had to move some players around. But while this isn’t Linebacker U., it isn’t “Linebacker … You!” either. The coaches felt confident enough to move John Goldwire and Jordan Pulu to the defensive line while Talley and erstwhile safety Miquiyah Zamora shifted to linebacker.
Early in Saturday’s 88-play scrimmage, Talley broke up a sure touchdown pass at the goal line, timing his jump perfectly and helping force an interception.
“I’m just trying to learn,” said Talley, a 6-foot-0, 200-pound sophomore. “But we have great leaders, and they’re taken me under their wings and I’m doing what I can.
“It means a lot that we all want each other to succeed.”
That they did, holding the offense to only 120 rushing yards on 44 carries, while holding three quarterbacks to a combined 20 completions in 44 attempts. Ronnie Hamlin’s early pick-6 off Vernon Adams set the tone.
“We really flew around out there,” said Hamlin, who also had a scrimmage-high 11 tackles. “We made some mistakes out there, obviously, that we can learn from.”
That goes doubly for the offense, which also suffered from five bad snaps and several pass blocks.
“Our challenges are getting used to terminology and game speed, especially offensively,” head coach Beau Baldwin said. “Traditionally, sometimes you are farther behind offensively than you are defensively early in camps and spring ball.
“Those are some of the challenges. That starts with me, too. I am not in the rhythm and I need to be to allow certain aspects to get better.”
On the bright side, receiver Ashton Cark caught nine balls for 93 yards and a 7-yard touchdown pass from Adams, while newcomer Jabari Wilson ran 15 times for 48 yards.
“We learned a few new things, and we have a week to get back to that Red-White and a chance to get better,” Clark said.
The annual Red-White Game is Saturday at 2 p.m. at Roos Field in conjunction with Killin Weekend at EWU.
No scrimmages will take place on May 3 or May 4 as previously listed.