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Sports >  EWU football

Eastern Washington football opens spring camp for first time since 2020

UPDATED: Tue., April 5, 2022

Eastern Washington head coach Aaron Best meets with his team during the first spring practice Tuesday.  (Courtesy of EWU Athletics)
Eastern Washington head coach Aaron Best meets with his team during the first spring practice Tuesday. (Courtesy of EWU Athletics)
By Justin Reed The Spokesman-Review

Spring football practice in Cheney means blaring speakers, graupel falling from the sky and sixth-year head coach Aaron Best sifting through 90-plus players to fill out his depth chart.

Tuesday was the first time since 2020 that the Eagles have held spring practice, because of the global pandemic, meaning a large portion of the roster has never experienced spring workouts.

That means even though it might be normal, it doesn’t feel normal – at least not yet.

“We’re definitely trying to get into a little bit of a rhythm … we’re starting to feel normal, but it’s still new for a lot of people,” sophomore wide receiver Efton Chism said.

“So I’m excited, it’s going to be new for a lot of us. We’re going to go out there and just have some fun.”

As players ran through drills, it was evident that the team was just excited to have on pads while running around Roos Field.

The energy was high and players were bouncing from drill to drill.

“We’ve done a lot of good work in the offseason,” Best said. “And so it’s time to see kind of how that has transpired.

“And we’ll show on the football field.”

A lot of the work will be determining the rest of the roster, specifically at linebacker, a couple of offensive lineman and a wide receiver or two.

For redshirt senior Mitchell Johnson, his focus is on bettering his play and helping develop the rest of the defensive roster, specifically those who will be behind him on the football field as all starting linebackers graduated.

“They’re really good athletes, they’re smart players, nice kids, and I got 100% faith in them,” Johnson said.

“And so I’m not necessarily going to be on their neck about everything, because a lot of growing is freedom.”

The most pressing position is quarterback, with five players ranging from a redshirt freshman to a redshirt senior.

But the lack of Eric Barriere or any other experienced quarterback isn’t the only thing to watch moving through the offseason.

As of Tuesday, EWU has a full coaching staff after hiring Matt Ulrich as defensive line coach and Wes Nurse as cornerbacks coach.

Those additions were made in addition to hiring Jim Chapin as offensive coordinator and Jeff Copp as defensive coordinator.

“Football is football, it’s tackling, it’s blocking, it’s throwing, it’s catching – the basics of football haven’t changed,” Best said.

“At the end of the day, they’re going to have their own influence on their side of the ball in their position with their staff, so it’s exciting to have both new on each side.”

Even though Best’s fingerprints will be littered throughout the offensive and defensive playbooks, the new coaches will have the flexibility to construct their own styles.

“There are a few tweaks, obviously with a new DC, but coach Copp is a really good X’s and O’s coach, he has a really good idea of how he’s going to put everybody in a position to succeed rather than maybe just one position,” Johnson said.

On the offensive side of the ball, Chism said the same about Chapin and the offensive staff.

“There’s definitely some new stuff, for sure,” Chism said. “But we’re trying to keep it a lot of the same, but you know coach Chapin is super smart. I love coach Chapin and (new WR) coach Harden, both great coaches, they know what they’re doing. I’m going to let them just take the wheel pretty much.”

Best said that he has seen all his new coaches from afar and has respected their work. He hopes by the conclusion of spring practices at the end of April that he and the rest of the staff have enough worked out as they head into summer conditioning.

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