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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eastern Washington promotes linebackers coach Eric Sanders to defensive coordinator

Eastern Washington Eagles sign the school fight song after a game against the Weber State Wildcats at Roos Field on Sat. Oct. 21, 2023 in Cheney.  (James Snook/The Spokesman-Review)
By Dan Thompson The Spokesman-Review

Eastern Washington head football coach Aaron Best promoted Eric Sanders to be the Eagles’ new defensive coordinator, the program announced on Wednesday.

Sanders was the team’s linebackers coach last season, his first with the program.

Best said that Sanders “is going to give us a different perspective, a connective energy and an aggressive unit,” according to a team release.

Over the past two seasons, Eastern’s defense ranked at the bottom of the 12-team Big Sky Conference in many categories, particularly in run defense, where it ranked 12th both years. Eastern went 7-15 over that stretch, and Jeff Copp – the coordinator both seasons – was not brought back after last season.

Sanders, a 2005 graduate of UC Davis, previously coached with Oakland (2010-14), Cleveland (2016-18) and the New York Jets (2019) of the NFL and with three college programs.

Before joining Eastern, he was Stanford’s inside linebackers coach from 2020 to 2022. He was previously a defensive assistant at Stanford (in 2015), the linebackers coach at UC Davis (2008-09) and a graduate assistant at Utah State.

This will be the first time Sanders has held a coordinator position at the professional or college level.

“We want to attack. We will encourage anticipation and fast decisions,” Sanders said in the release.

“We want the guys playing aggressively and showing enthusiasm when they make a play. We want to be creative with how we use our players and make offenses react to us, not the other way around.”

Sanders will continue to coach Eastern’s linebackers.