Beau Baldwin hasn’t coached at Roos Field in Cheney in more than four years, but he will do so again on Saturday – and he’s bringing a convocation of former Eagles players and coaches with him.
“I’m just excited (to come) back. It was a place that treated me really well, nothing but good memories,” Baldwin said earlier this week. “But I’m excited for the opportunity of this Cal Poly squad (and) going up there to compete against a really good football team.”
Baldwin won Eastern Washington’s only FCS national title with the Eagles in 2010, his third season as the team’s head coach. In nine seasons with Baldwin, the team won five Big Sky Conference titles and went 85-32, the second-most victories for any EWU head coach and the best winning percentage (.726).
After spending the previous three seasons as the offensive coordinator at Cal, Baldwin is now in his first season as head coach at Cal Poly. The Mustangs (0-2) and the Eagles (2-1) are scheduled to kick off at 1:05 p.m. Saturday.
But Baldwin isn’t alone in returning to Eastern this weekend. Paul Wulff – the man Baldwin replaced at Eastern when Wulff became Washington State’s head coach after the 2007 season – is also on the Cal Poly staff as the team’s offensive line coach and running game coordinator.
This will be Wulff’s second return visit to Roos Field, following a 2017 game as a member of the Sacramento State staff. This is a region Wulff knows well: He played at Washington State from 1986-89, coached at Eastern from 1993 to 2007 and coached at WSU from 2008-11.
“My first 19 years only in two places, the last 10 I’ve been all over,” the 54-year-old Wulff said Wednesday. “A lot of times it’s reversed. What I can tell you is I’ve been around so many different coaches. I’ve learned more football in the last 10 years than the previous 19. It’s been awesome.”
After his time at WSU, Wulff was a senior offensive assistant with the San Francisco 49ers, and held a variety of titles at South Florida (2014), Iowa State (2015), Sacramento State (2016-2018) and UC Davis (2019) before Baldwin called and offered him a job at Cal Poly.
“You never stop learning, and it’s made me such a better teacher and coach because of my experiences,” Wulff said. “To do it when you’re older, you’ve seen a lot of things already. Things stick with you a little better. I’ve developed a lot.”
That Wulff was willing to join his staff at Cal Poly was a boon for Baldwin, who was Wulff’s offensive coordinator at EWU from 2003-06.
“He’s a legitimate guy I can talk with about things and run ideas by. He’s been there and done that,” Baldwin said. “He does things with no ego. It’s so fun to be around a guy who’s been at every level of football, but if you’re around the guy you wouldn’t know it.”
Wulff said he is content at Cal Poly and is excited about the potential of the program, which hasn’t had a winning season since 2016.
“This school has all the possibilities to become a nationally branded college football program,” said Wulff, who praised the San Luis Obispo community for being a wonderful place to live. “It was really simple. It was more about my family and being around a healthy coaching environment than my career. For the time, a true family-first decision.”
As Baldwin assembled his staff, he purposefully filled it with some familiar faces but also some unfamiliar ones.
The first category includes three former EWU players: Nick Edwards (offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach), Erik Meyer (quarterbacks) and J.C. Sherritt (defensive coordinator and linebackers coach).
“The staff itself has a good combination of guys who understand our culture, but guys who can come in and challenge things that we can do better,” Baldwin said. “That’s the only way you have growth.”
Since Cal Poly joined the Big Sky in 2012, it has ranked first or second in total rushing yards every season while simultaneously ranking last in total passing yards. In all of the 2019 season, the Mustangs attempted just 74 passes while rushing the ball 660 times.
That’s a sharp contrast to the Baldwin years at Eastern, specifically from 2012-16 when Cal Poly and EWU were in the Big Sky. During each of those seasons, the Eagles ranked first or second in passing while the Mustangs ranked 13th.
“At the end of the day, you definitely wanna mold things around players,” Baldwin said, “but when you’re coming in and switching an offense to this extreme, you’re gonna have to build.”
But that process excites him.
“No matter how long it takes, we’re gonna fall in love with the step-by-step process,” Baldwin said. “Sometimes change has rough patches before it gets better, and that’s in anything, anytime you’re pushing for significant change. You have to stay persistent.”
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