Football season is three months away, but Eastern Washington already is on a winning streak.
Two senior starters are back in the fold, while the national media is predicting big things this fall for Aaron Best’s veteran team.
“The games aren’t played on paper, but any coach would be silly not to embrace that,” said Best, whose team is not only an early favorite to win the Big Sky Conference but ranked in the top 10 by most experts.
The Eagles, who went 7-4 last year and narrowly missed the FCS playoffs, return 18 starters.
“From an experience standpoint, that helps a lot,” said Best, who noted that the Eagles will have more seniors on the roster this year than the last two seasons combined.
Last week, senior cornerback D’londo Tucker was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Tucker missed the entire 2014 season and most of last year to injury.
Tucker’s return gives the Eagles four seniors at corner. “That allows us to have competitive depth, maybe play three corners at a time and have different packages on defense,” Best said.
“We have a ton of playmaking ability at that position,” Best said.
The Eagles also expect to have starting senior defensive end Keenan Williams, who still faces misdemeanor charges stemming from a hit-and-run incident. A pre-trial hearing is set for June 14 in Cheney Municipal Court.
Williams has been lifting with the team during the offseason.
“He’s done his due diligence, and unless something goes way different from what we expect, I don’t foresee him not being part of the team in 2018.
Eastern will open fall camp on Aug. 3 for the first of 25 practices. Scrimmages are tentatively set for Aug. 18 and 25 ahead of the season opener on Sept. 1 at Roos Field against Central Washington.
Eastern will have as many as 56 returning letterwinners. Seven offensive players and five defensive players have previously earned All-Big Sky honors.
Last season, the Eagles posted a winning season for the 20th time in the last 22 seasons.
Eastern Washington’s Big Sky Conference game against Portland State has a new date and site. Originally scheduled Nov. 17 at Providence Park in downtown Portland, the game has been moved to Nov. 16 at Hillsboro (Oregon) Stadium, with a tentative kickoff time of 7 p.m. … EWU will play at Washington State at 5 p.m. on Sept. 15 in a game that will air on the Pac-12 Networks, the Pac-12 announced Thursday.