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Eastern to play it safe with Cooper Kupp on punt returns

Sat., Aug. 9, 2014

By putting more footballs in the hands of one of his most exciting players, Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin is merely playing it safe.

And if that doesn’t make sense, you don’t know much about special teams.

All-American wide receiver Cooper Kupp is expected to return punts this year – not only because he’s a threat to make something happen.

For Baldwin, Kupp is the obvious choice because “the first thing I look at is whether he is going to secure the ball, and are we going to keep possession.”

“That’s where I think Cooper has the edge on everyone else,” Baldwin said of a position that for three years had been in the sure hands of graduated receiver Ashton Clark.

Kupp said he fielded punts at Davis High in Yakima, “but there were a lot of bad punters in our league, so I didn’t really have a chance to catch that many,” Kupp said.

“I love catching punts, and it’s another chance to make a play,” said Kupp who last year caught 93 balls for 1,691 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Game experience is another reason Baldwin has all but settled on Kupp.

“Regardless of how camp goes, I would still suspect that it’s Cooper because it’s a live-bullets deal, and Cooper’s been there,” Baldwin said.

And that’s not all: along with quarterback Vernon Adams, Kupp is in the mix to hold for field goals and extra points.

“Either way, we’ve got a guy who’s a bit of a threat,” Baldwin said. “It adds a dimension if you want to play games and mess around a bit.”

Ultimately, the holder will be the player that the kicker – either Roldan Alcobendas or Jake Miller – is most comfortable with, Baldwin said.

Scrimmage details set: Today’s scrimmage is the first chance for Baldwin and his staff to get a game-like look at their team. “We’ll get into a decent amount of situations on Saturday,” Baldwin said. “I’m not worried about a winner or loser – we’re worried about seeing as many situations as we can that we’ll see on Saturdays. Baldwin said fans can expect more red zone and two-minute situations. “We want to put the players and coaches in different scenarios from a live aspect. We want it to be as game-like as we can and get guys to think on the run in those situations.” The second scrimmage is scheduled for Aug. 16.

Kickoff celebration planned: EWU alumnus and radio personality Colin Cowherd will lead the EWU Kickoff Celebration on Aug. 22 at River Park Square in downtown Spokane. The event begins at 5 p.m. with a pep rally in the atrium at River Park Square, followed by a celebration on the parking garage rooftop until 9 p.m. Admission is $10 and includes a full-service beer garden and live music.

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