Grab some more chairs, because the running back committee at Eastern Washington just got even bigger.
With the Eagles’ top two returning backs already questionable for the opener at Oregon State, there will be room for some new faces, along with an old one who can’t wait to get back on the field.
That would be Mario Brown, a key part of Eastern’s FCS title drive in 2010 but sidelined last year by injury.
“I feel great, and I’m ready to make my presence known and be an impact player,” said Brown, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound redshirt junior who suffered a groin injury after the 2011 season.
“I’m ready to get out there,” Brown said.
So are redshirt freshmen Jabari Wilson and Jalen Moore, who had nine carries each in Saturday’s scrimmage.
Returnees Demitrius Bronson (mild high ankle sprain) and Quincy Forte (hamstring) are day-to-day for the season opener on Aug. 31 at Oregon State.
“I told the coaches, I’m tired of being hurt,” said Bronson, who missed part of the 2012 season with a hamstring injury.
Last season, Forte ran for a team-high 597 yards and two touchdowns, while Bronson rushed for 472 yards and 11 touchdowns, while the third-leading rusher, Jordan Talley, was moved to linebacker last spring.
Head coach Beau Baldwin said both players are “working hard on rehab, but we’re not going to force anything.”
No problem: Baldwin’s committee approach to the position – adopted since Taiwan Jones left for the NFL two years ago – should pay off again this year.
“The starting piece really doesn’t matter,” Baldwin said. “I like the fact that we have a number of guys who can perform as starters.”
In fact, with the Eagles showing some new looks on offense, those parts may be even more interchangeable than ever. “They’ve become multidimensional,” Baldwin said. “If any of them had weaknesses before, they’ve worked on them and made them their strengths.”
Two of the biggest impact newcomers this fall are Wilson, a 5-foot-11, 200-pounder from Carson, Calif.; and Moore a 5-10, 195-pounder from La Puente, Calif. Both have shown elusiveness and power during camp.
Wilson, who had 42 yards in Saturday’s scrimmage, “has been emerging for a while,” running backs coach Kiel McDonald said. “He’s going through the trials of showing that maybe he can be the guy for us.”
For Wilson, that means “That I can’t act like a pup (true freshman) any more. I’ve got to act like a veteran.”
The new-look offense, which McDonald says is merely an “evolution of the offense we already have,” now includes zone-read and pistol formations, something new for most of the backs.
“I’ve never played that style,” said Forte. “But I’m learning to be more comfortable with the offense, and with it you get to see things a little differently.”
For Bronson, the zone-read in particular is “teaching us to be patient, to see the hole and key our reads.”
After viewing film, Baldwin said he thought Saturday’s scrimmage was “relatively clean for 80-plus plays.” He also was encouraged that “defensively we were getting calls in even when (the offense) was in up-tempo mode, even with playing up to eight freshmen. … With the season opener at Oregon State just 11 days away, Baldwin said his initial impression of the Beavers is that they’re “very talented, and that’s a tribute to coaches and the stability coach (Mike) Riley brings to that program. It’ll be everything we can handle.” … Baldwin said that the Eagles will announce team captains today. … The Eagles are finished practicing on the grass fields behind Reese Court; all remaining sessions through the end of the season will take place at Roos Field. The Eagles have two more two-a-day sessions on Wednesday and Friday; all other practices will start at 3 p.m. … The second and final scrimage is Saturday at 9:45 a.m.