For the second straight year, the Eagles are picked to finish second in the Big Sky Conference behind Montana State. That’s not surprising, since Eastern returns 13 starters from a team that tied for the conference title with MSU and Cal Poly and finished in the semifinals of the FCS playoffs with an 11-3 record.
SHAPING UP NICELY
Call it a conditioned response, but head coach Beau Baldwin said he appreciates the fact that most of his players stayed on campus during the summer for voluntary conditioning. “It’s huge that we don’t have to spend time getting guys back into shape,” said Baldwin, who said he hopes that their offseason conditioning will be tougher than what the players face in August. “You hope that’s the norm and the standard,” Baldwin said.
IT’S ADAMS’ TEAM NOW
A year ago, quarterback Vernon Adams said he felt like “a chicken with his head cut off.” And that was during spring practice. But since his surprise start in the Big Sky Conference opener at Weber State last season, Adams has grown up – especially mentally. “I’ve seen a lot of growth in him, even from spring ball until now,” said Baldwin, noting that during his spring exit meeting, Adams was very critical of himself and seeking to improve. That comes after a redshirt freshman season which saw Adams finish fourth in the nation in pass efficiency. “He’s really stepped up,” Baldwin said.
VETERAN OFFENSIVE LINE
There will be no changing of the guard this year. Or at tackle, for that matter. In contrast with last year, the starting offensive lineup is all but set. Redshirt sophomore Clay DeBord, who had a strong freshman year, is back at left tackle, while Cassidy Curtis is the heir apparent to All-American Will Post at right tackle. The interior line is manned by three senior starters: left guard Steven Forgette, center Ashton Miller and right guard Drew Reynolds.
THE KICKING GAME
Baldwin’s biggest concern entering fall camp isn’t about the wide receivers or linebackers; it’s the kicking game, “I would say the number one thing is solidifying the battery,” Baldwin said, explaining that while returning backup Kevin Miller has experience, he also must replace starters at holder, long snapper and kicker. “That’s one area I’m really interested in,” Baldwin said.