Fall term at Eastern Washington University is still weeks away, but Saturday’s football scrimmage had the feeling of a final exam.
With coaches and most of the starters watching from the sidelines, the younger Eagles had one last chance to impress before next week’s season opener at Oregon State.
At least the coaches are grading on a curve, the learning curve that has flattened considerably over three weeks of fall camp. Now that the players have answered some of the questions, it’s left to head coach Beau Baldwin to answer the rest – namely, who will make the roster and the 70-man travel squad for the trip to Corvallis, Ore.
“We have some decisions to make between now and Oregon State,” said Baldwin, who spent equal time on the offensive and defensive sidelines Saturday morning during a 61-play scrimmage at Roos Field that offered two main themes:
• How have the Eagle quarterbacks and new receivers progressed in their timing?
• Will the young linebackers have what it takes to step up, in some cases immediately?
To a man, the offensive players and coaches are pleased with the improvement, but Baldwin said he expects it “to keep improving through the season.”
For Adams, whose playbook grew bigger last spring with the addition of pistol and zone-read sets, it’s a question of “trusting what I see, putting the O-line in the right protections and the running backs in the right spots.”
On Saturday, Adams was efficient enough, going 4 for 7 for 83 yards and accounting for three touchdowns, including a 1-yard run, a 20-yard pass to Daniel Johnson and a 37-yarder to Kendrick Bourne that Adams created by scrambling.
The question of timing was answered emphatically by the 5-foot-10 Johnson, who early in the scrimmage found a seam in the middle, leaped high against double coverage and came down with the ball for a 27-yard gain.
“Vern and I knew that the middle was there, so I took my opportunity,” Johnson said. “You know … that it’s coming to you, because of that connection with the quarterback.”
On the other side of the ball, many eyes were on the young linebackers, including true freshmen Albert Havili of Federal Way and Jake Gall of Cle Elum. Both were in the thick of the action in a scrimmage that included 37 runs and just 12 pass attempts.
“It was great to just come out and hit,” said the 6-foot-1, 216-pound Gall, who finished with four tackles. “Our biggest thing is to swarm, it’s not just one guy.”
The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Havili led the team with seven tackles – but also picked up a personal foul less than halfway through the scrimmage. “I learned from that situation and (linebackers) coach (Josh) Fetter talked to me about that,” Havili said.
Havili’s personal foul was one of two on the day by true freshmen. “It’s a great learning lesson,” Baldwin said. “But I’m going to pride myself on having a very disciplined team.”
Redshirt freshman Jalen Moore got most of the carries, rushing 17 times for 83 yards. After a day off today, the Eagles will practice for four straight days, all at 3 p.m., before leaving Friday morning for Corvallis. … Junior Ryan Seto, a tight end last year who was moved to receiver, was back at his old position for several plays and continues to be a “tweener,” Baldwin said. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Zach Wimberly, who was moved from the defensive line to tight end, caught a 7-yard TD pass.