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EWU spring football: Cheney High’s Keenan Williams gets early start with Eagles

On his last day as a 17-year-old, Keenan Williams was walking purposefully toward his future. It lies on the red turf of Roos Field, where Williams was toiling Tuesday afternoon on the first full-pads practice of spring football at Eastern Washington. Barely a month ago, Williams was still a senior at nearby Cheney High School, but he graduated early so he could enroll at Eastern and “come out and help my team get better and win a national championship.” Those are lofty goals, but Williams has snagged a few already: he was dunking basketballs as an eighth-grader before becoming a 4-year letterman and two-way all-star at tight end and defensive end in high school. He also finished high school with a 3.45 grade-point average. A three-star recuit who was courted by several larger schools, Williams chose to live at home and play for the Eagles. At 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, he’s more than a boy among the other men on the defensive line. The college game is faster, allows Williams, who will play defensive end. “The intensity is different, and it’s way better – it’s awesome.” Having Williams in the fold early is also pretty awesome for the Eagles, who were forced by injury to burn six redshirts last year on the D-line. In Williams’ case, the Eagles can make an early assessment of his readiness while he gets in 15 extra practices and gets acclimated to college life. “He could still redshirt, but I don’t want him thinking that way,” EWU coach Beau Baldwin said. Early-admission football players are common enough at larger schools but a rarity at the FCS level. However, Baldwin said Williams “was excited about wanting to do this. And I said ‘heck, yeah, if that’s what you want to do.’” Indeed it was, enough for Williams to give up his last season of track at Cheney, where he was a standout sprinter. High school days aren’t quite over, however. “I still get to go to prom, so I’m happy,” Williams said.
The Eagles will practice again on Thursday, then hold a scrimmage on Saturday – the first of two ahead of the Red-White Spring Game on April 25. “I would barely call it a scrimmage, maybe 75 percent practice and 25 percent plays,” Baldwin said. The scrimmage, which is open to the public, will begin at about 10:30 a.m. … Baldwin said he’s pleased with the players’ mental preparation before spring practice. “They had truly prepapred themselves to be productive, which allows us coaches to move through things faster because the players are on point,” Baldwin said. … Defensive lineman Albert Havili suffered a knee injury last week and his status is unclear pending a medical report. “Regardless of what it is, even if it takes long rehab, I’m excited about what he can do for us on the D-line,” Baldwin said.
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