A year ago, Albert Havili was in pain – and not just from a knee injury that kept him out of spring ball and last year’s football season at Eastern Washington.
“I just wanted to be there to support my teammates … It was hard, not suffering with then and going through all the hard work with them,” said Havili, one of several Eagles looking to get a fresh start this year.
In Havili’s case, it could be a fresh start at a new position, in a new scheme with a new position coach. That’s more change than most players endure in a college career, but Havili is embracing it.
“I don’t know what to expect – I just want to be out there with the team,” Havili said Tuesday afternoon as the Eagles donned full pads for the first time this spring.
Havili’s last game in an Eastern Washington uniform came in the fall of 2014, as an inside linebacker in a 4-3 defense. Now the 6-foot-2, 255-pounder is fighting for playing time at defensive end in a 4-2-5 formation.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about it – all the mental work … but now that we’re on the field, it’s all different,” Havili said.
Havili isn’t the only one getting a fresh start. Three weeks after being named a starter in 2014, kicker Roldan Alcobendas suffered a knee injury early that season, then endured another surgery last year and is finally healthy. In the meantime, Washington State transfer Jordan Dascalo has moved atop the depth chart at kicker and punter.
“At first it was pretty rough … I just learned to accept that I have to start at the bottom to get to the top again,” Alcobendas said. “I’ve just been working my butt off. The goal is just to keep improving every day – I can’t wait to be out there again.”
Likewise, offensive lineman Spencer Blackburn is trying to make up for lost time after a thumb injury cost him the entire 2015 season.
Currently second on the depth chart at center, Blackburn isn’t looking back. “Im just trying to lock it in,” said Blackburn, a 280-pound sophomore from Bellingham.
More than anyone, coaches appreciate the players’ sacrifice – and their positive attitude.
“It’s such a short window of opprtunity for these guys, it goes by fast,” coach Beau Baldwin said. “So you cherish it and you love to see these guys come back and be a part of this again.”
Baldwin said that the emphasis this week is on basics, especially pad level. “Ultimately it’s a process and a progression. This is just the early stages of the progression and building off those fundamentals. We have to build that foundation,” Baldwin said. … The Eagles will practice again on Thursday, then hold their first practice/scrimmage Saturday morning at Roos Field. The practice will begin at 9 a.m., with the scrimmage to follow about 45 minutes to an hour later.
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