EWU football spring practice begins April 4
There may be some new faces in a few spots, but the Eastern Washington University football team has plenty of experience to help make the spring seem more like a re-loading than a re-building.
The Eagles will begin preparations for the 2013 season when EWU opens spring practices April 4. The Eagles will spread out their allotted 15 practices over the course of five weeks, instead of cramming them into four like last year.
For the most part, Eastern will practice Tuesdays and Thursdays, and have scrimmages Saturdays.
The annual Red-White Game takes place Saturday, April 27 at 2 p.m. at Roos Field, but the Eagles will follow that with one more week of practice.
Head coach Beau Baldwin, who enters his sixth season at the helm, expects to have 83 players participating this spring, including 48 returning letterwinners. Among those are seven starters on offense, a similar number on defense, as well as the school’s punter and kickoff specialist.
Two All-Americans (linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, cornerback T.J. Lee) and three others who earned Freshman All-America accolades (quarterback Vernon Adams, safety Jordan Tonani and return specialist Shaquille Hill) are among the returning players.
The Eagles lost all three of their starting wide receivers, three of four starting defensive linemen and a pair of starting linebackers. But at each position, EWU has plenty of returning letterwinners, plus a strong group of redshirt freshmen waiting in the wings.
“Our goals were, and they will be next year, to take games one at a time,” Baldwin said. Some of those 2013 games include Oregon State, Toledo and Sam Houston State, all on the road.
“Winning the Big Sky is first, but we are still going to think in terms of winning the whole thing. We always will. If you are not thinking that way, then why are you doing it? That’s my approach, and that’s my opinion. I know our players would say the same.”
The Eagles are one of just five schools in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision to advance to the playoffs six times in the last nine seasons (2004-2012), and EWU hopes to add to that this year. Eastern’s 2012 season ended with a 45-42 loss to Sam Houston State in the semifinals, denying the Eagles a repeat trip to Texas to play for the NCAA Division I title they won in 2010.
Eastern, which ranked fourth in the final regular season Sports Network Top-25 poll and was seeded second in the playoffs, finished the 2012 season 11-3. It was the fourth 10+ win in school history (joining the 2010, 1997 and 1967 squads), and came on the heels of EWU’s sixth Big Sky Conference Championship in football.