The night before the first practice of spring, Vernon Adams was so nervous he couldn’t sleep.
And that’s a good thing, Eastern Washington head football coach Beau Baldwin said.
“You’re happy when a guy is nervous, that it means something to him to be out here,” said Baldwin, who promises more than enough snaps for Adams and Anthony Vitto, the only returning quarterbacks at EWU this spring following the stellar career of Bo Levi Mitchell.
“You work all winter for this moment,” said Vitto, a junior, earlier this week. “It’s definitely exciting to be able to go out and work with the ones.”
“The ones.” The words rolled slowly off Vitto’s tongue as he walked onto the turf at Roos Field.
That would be the starters, and right now that would be Adams and Vitto as the Eagles try to find the right guy to pass to what may the best receiving corps in the country in Nicholas Edwards, Greg Herd and Brandon Kaufman.
“You know they’re going to come down with the ball almost every single time,” said Vitto, who wants to be the guy who makes it that much easier.
Vitto and Adams, a redshirt freshman, will get a season’s worth of experience under center by the time of the Red-White spring game on April 28.
In the fall, the battle for the starting spot will be joined by high school recruit Bowe Merin and possibly Kyle Padron, who replaced Mitchell at SMU and hopes to do the same at Eastern. Padron’s status is unclear. He plans to enroll for summer classes while awaiting a ruling on his request for a medical hardship that would give him a sixth year of eligibility and allow him to play this fall.
That puts the spotlight on Vitto and Adams, who’ve leaned on each other even as they chase the same dream. Before Tuesday’s practice, “Vitto helped me relax,” said Adams, “and I think I did OK out there.”
The first three days of practice have been heavy on fundamentals: handoffs in the backfield, 7-on-7 passing drills without pads and with a pocket that closes but never collapses. Both showed command of the playbook.
“I think you can see that they’ve put in a good amount of time in the winter mentally to prepare,” Baldwin said Wednesday. “We’re going to see improvement after every practice from Day One all the way to Day 15. I like what they were able to from a Day One standpoint, but at the same time there’s lot of corrections on film.”
Vitto, a 6-foot-1, 195-pounder from Simi Valley, Calif., has been in the system for three years, redshirting in 2009, then backing up Mitchell the last two years. He has played sparingly in games, attempting just 10 passes in the past two seasons.
Still, Baldwin said he was impressed with Vitto’s “comfortableness in running the huddle, comfortable with where guys were going to be, and comfortableness with schemes, and he operated in that sense like a veteran.”
Vitto said he was comfortable with the short patterns, but hopes to improves his accuracy on deeper throws.
Adams, a 6-foot, 180-pounder from Pasadena, Calif., showed poise in the pocket during drills.
“He didn’t act nervous once he was on the field,” said Baldwin, “but we are expecting improvements today and all spring.”
The Eagles put on pads for the first time Friday afternoon – upper pads only, to prepare for today’s scrimmage. … Speaking of which, the times have changed slightly: Regular practice begins at 10 a.m. and will run at least an hour, with the scrimmage to follow. … Bystanders on the sidelines Friday complained of the bitter cold and wind, which hit 20 miles an hour and contributed to several drops by players fielding punts. Because of the cold, players were loudly encouraged by the coaches to get plenty of time to warm up and stretch. … After a few drills, Vitto and Adams moved the offense during full contact, 11-on-11 drills from midfield into the red zone. … Wide receivers coach Junior Adams says his unit “is still trying to catch up on some timing things, but we’ll be all right. To be honest, they (Vitto and Adams) are playing really well, and they’re making their throws.”
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