The two-lane streets and wheat fields beyond are only two reminders that Tevin McDonald is far from Los Angeles.
The differences end at Roos Field, where McDonald, a junior safety at Eastern Washington, has worked and played since transferring from UCLA last spring.
“It is a lot different, but I’ve adjusted,” McDonald said. “It’s been a positive experience here in Cheney, and I’m excited to go to war with my teammates.”
For McDonald, the first battle will be next weekend’s game with Oregon State. McDonald was 1-1 against the Beavers with UCLA. “It’s great competition every year,” McDonald said.
McDonald could say the same thing about the practices in Cheney, where he’s built a healthy respect for senior corner T.J. Lee III – “the best tackling corner I’ve ever seen,” McDonald said – and fellow safety Allen Brown, a senior captain.
“I pride myself on my knowledge of the game, and so does he,” McDonald said of Brown.
Along with another senior, starting corner Ronald Baines, the Eagles have one of the most experienced secondaries in the Big Sky Conference, more than capable in coverage and heady enough to provide run support while not giving up big yards against play-action passes.
“They do a great job of communicating and understanding,” safeties coach Jeff Schmedding said. “We have to be a big part of run support, regardless of the coverage.”
With at least three of those starters moving on next year, now is the time to pass on as many lessons as possible. Says Lee, a pre-season All-American: “We’re just trying to set a good example, telling them about their techniques and being like a younger version of the coaches.”
At corner, the Eagles have two other seniors in backups Bo Schuetzle and Christian Hudnell, but also are counting on redshirt freshmen Diamonte Wiggins and Miles Weatheroy.
“I was in the same position last year,” said Baines. “I tell them to keep working hard, and in the weight room.”
The safety position took a jolt when redshirt sophomore Jordan Tonani was lost to the season following hip surgery, so coaches are looking to Todd Raynes as the top backup, perhaps at both safety positions. “Right side, left side – they all have to know it,” Schmedding said. “But he’s going to play a lot.”
Raynes, a redshirt sophomore from Kenmore, Wash., “said he’s definitely hoping to get a lot more playing time, to just compete and have fun out there.” Raynes also figures to see action in nickel and dime coverages.
Isaiah Jenkins, a junior from Seattle; and Zach Bruce, a redshirt freshman from University High School; and Jordan Thompson, a redshirt freshman from Lacey, Wash., will offer added depth at safety.
Depth chart released
The Eagles have released their first depth chart of the season, which is subject to change – especially after today’s scrimmage. On offense, the battle continues at right tackle between redshirt sophomore Cassidy Curtis and junior transfer Jake Rodgers, a transfer from Washington State.
Injuries to running backs Demitrius Bronson and Quincy Forte mean that junior Mario Brown and redshirt freshman Jabari Wilson could see more playing time.
At linebacker, redshirt freshmen Cedric Gonzalez and Miquiyah Zamora are listed as backups behind
Friday’s morning practice, conducted without pads, was heavy on special teams drills, especially kickoff coverage and returns. … Last year’s two-headed quarterback of Vernon Adams and Kyle Padron kept opponents guessing. Now the shoe is on the other foot while Oregon State decides between Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz. Said Baldwin, “We’re not really worried about it, because we’re going to have to prepare for a great quarterback no matter who it is.” … During today’s scrimmage, Baldwin said he expects to use plenty of younger players, presumably to sort out the depth chart. Practice will begin at 9 a.m., with the scrimmage to start at 9:45. After a few situation drills with “heavy sets,” Baldwin said the rest of the scrimmage would focus on full drives. …Above Roos Field the athletic department is proceeding with two improvements, including a 500-stall parking lot northwest of the existing lot and a merchandise/concession building immediately north of the main grandstand. The parking lot is expected to be ready for the Oct. 5 game against Weber State, and the 1,600-square-foot merchandise building will be ready for the home opener on Sept. 7.