July 31, 2014 in Sports

EWU starting out on top

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

Eastern wide receiver Jalani Phelps makes a reception during the first day of football practice, Thursday, July, 31, 2014, at Eastern Washington University.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

With 10 minutes left in Thursday’s opening football practice at Eastern Washington, the loudspeaker began to blare out the 1990 MC Hammer hit, “U Can’t Touch This.”

Almost on cue, receiver Cooper Kupp took a short pass from Vernon Adams, juked past one defender and busted a 15-yarder up the middle – untouched.

Moments earlier, Kupp had wowed teammates and coaches on a long pass from Adams, faking the defender left, then cutting back toward the middle of the field for an easy score.

It was just like old times for Adams and Kupp, whose All-American performances last year helped the Eagles win a second straight Big Sky Conference title and set the table for a preseason No. 1 ranking by every expert in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Which is nice, but …

“We’re not entititled to anything,” coach Beau Baldwin said after practice. “I haven’t had to tell them much; they’re proud of their Big Sky rings, but they don’t walk around with those or talk about them.

“Their mind is always going forward,” Baldwin said of his players.

Linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, another All-America candidate, said the presason accolades are “very cool,” but didn’t mean much in 2011, when the defending FCS champion Eagles were No. 1 before the season began – and 0-4 before September was over.

“That’s not going to happen this year,” Hamlin promised after the first of 20 practices before the season opener at home against Sam Houston State on Aug. 23.

If Thursday morning was about rekindling the magic of last year’s 12-3 season, it also was about getting better.

“You never play the perfect game,” said Baldwin, who saw room for improvement in the turnover margin, red-zone production and third-down conversions – on both sides of the ball.

Said Kupp, “You just have to restart, and forget about last year. You just add to it, trying to improve – you’re always driving for something.”

Notes

Baldwin confirmed that running back D. J. Martin, a Prop 48 qualifier last year, failed to make the team because of academic difficulties. Martin, a former Cal recruit, signed with Eastern in 2013, and attended school last season. True freshman receiver Simba Webster also failed to qualify academically, but Baldwin said he’s hopeful that Webster will arrive in winter term. … Safety Tevin McDonald looked 100 percent Thursday, nine months after suffering a torn meniscus. … The Eagles practice again today and Saturday at 9 a.m., then don full pads on Sunday, and open two-a-days on Monday. The first scrimmage is Aug. 9 at 9:50 a.m.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email