To a man, the Eastern Washington tight ends expect to be more involved in the passing game this year.
And why not? Seniors Jake Withnell and Terry Jackson II and junior Zach Wimberly can make a pretty good case from last year, when they combined for 31 catches for 411 yards and five touchdowns. That’s almost double the output from 2013.
For a variety of reasons, those numbers could rise further, and Jackson was quick to point out why before practice Thursday at Roos Field.
“We’re definitely a veteran group, and with the changes in our offense, runing the ball more, we’re definitely looking to help the team any way we can and take a little pressure off the receivers,” Jackson said.
Coach Beau Baldwin agrees, to a point.
“They may get the ball more simply because of the fact that they may be on the field a little more and fit into certain (offensive) concepts,” Baldwin said, without going into details.
“There’s no question that could happen, but every game’s a little different – they’re just going to have to be ready.”
Several factors point to more balls being thrown in the tight ends’ direction:
• Quarterback Jordan West is more of a pocket passer than his predecessor, Vernon Adams. He also stands 6-foot-4 – five inches taller than Adams – and is more likely to see a target just beyond the linemen over the middle;
• Quincy Forte and Mario Brown, last year’s go-to running backs in the passing game, are gone, and their successors, Moore and Jabari Wilson, are minimal threats in the passing game. However, they can move the pile, thereby improving the odds for play-action passes.
• Wimberly (6-2, 240 pounds), Jackson (6-4, 235) and Jake Withnell (6-2, 245) have been in the EWU system for at least three years, and have the speed to get open.
Says Wimberly, “I’m really excited. Jordan is doing a great job running the offense and seeing who’s open.”
Whether that somebody is Wimberly, the Eagles will find out soon enough.
Notes: Thursday’s two-hour practice was focused on special teams, capped by a best-of-five, field goal kick-off between returning starter Tyler McNannay and redshirt freshman Brandyn Bangsund. With players choosing sides and making as much noise as possible, the left-footed Bangsund was a perfect 4 for 4, while McNannay missed two of five attempts. The kicker competition will continue into the season opener at Oregon, said Baldwin, who will take both players to Eugene. … The Eagles will practice today at 9:15 a.m. …. Saturday’s scrimmage, the second and last of the camp, will begin at 9:45 a.m. and will emphasize driving the ball downfield under game conditions, with referees. The scrimmage is free to the public.