Come Saturday afternoon, Southern Utah will surely bring the heat. But on Tuesday, new Eastern Washington starting quarterback Jordan West handled the media blitz with the calm of a veteran and hardly missed a read.
“I’ve just got to get the ball into the playmakers’ hands and just do my job,” said West, who will get his first collegiate start this weekend after Vernon Adams suffered a broken foot Saturday during the Eagles’ 56-53 win over Idaho State.
In other words, nothing will change as the second-ranked Eagles continue to chase a third straight Big Sky Conference title: Not the schemes, not the play selection and certainly not the attitude that coach Beau Baldwin said has carried the 5-1 Eagles this far.
Baldwin said Eastern will move into the second half of the season with the same mindset, “by just letting it rip and having fun.”
“We’re going to call the same stuff; he (West) believes in himself, and he should – he’s here for a reason and he’s very talented.”
He’s also 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, but the redshirt sophomore from Maple Valley, Washington, gained even more stature this week, working with the number one offense while coaches ran practice as they always have. Adams was on the field as well, offering moral and technical support.
“I told him to just be confident, don’t be nervous – it’s his time to show what he’s got,” said Adams, who was on crutches with his right foot in a soft boot while West and the other quarterbacks went through their routine.
Adams is expected to miss three to six weeks, meaning West will lead the offense for at least three games, and he’ll have to do it without leading rusher Quincy Forte, who’s expected to miss two more weeks with a shoulder injury.
On the other hand, the Eagles face a less-demanding schedule this month, starting with Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds are 1-5 overall, having beaten Weber State 31-28 on Sept. 27. Next up are Northern Colorado (2-3), Northern Arizona (3-3) and North Dakota (2-4).
Regardless of the opposition, Baldwin said he “doesn’t expect Jordan to be Vernon, because everybody has to elevate themselves.
“It’s like a family, like any tight-knit group – that’s when you find out who you are,” Baldwin said.
So who is Jordan West? The grandson of a four-year NFL-caliber running back, West was an all-KingCo selection his senior year at Liberty High in 2011, he completed 58 percent of his passes and rushed for 386 yards despite missing several games to injury.
He redshirted in 2012 and didn’t see action last season, but put up solid numbers during Eastern scrimmages during fall and spring.
West saw limited action this season against Montana Western and UC Davis, going 7 for 11 for 62 yards and one touchdown.
Quarterbacks coach Zak Hill said he likes West’s “big arm and his confidence.” He also offers a run threat despite his size.
“We joked with Vernon that he may have more quickness, but Jordan has more straightahead speed,” said Baldwin, who added that the only change this week may come in “simplifying some things, because you want him to play fast, without thinking.”
Safety Todd Raynes suffered a knee injury against Idaho State and is expected to miss this week’s game. … The Northern Colorado game on Oct. 18 is a sellout, and the Nov. 1 game against North Dakota is almost sold out. The crowd of 11,256 for Idaho State was the third-largest at Roos Field, behind two games against Montana. The Eagles drew 11,702 against the Grizzlies in 2010 and 11,583 in 2006.
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