With Bo Levi Mitchell back under center, Eagles expect to run 60 or 70 plays in a not-so-situational scrimmage starting at about 10:40 a.m.
Eastern Washington ended the 2010 season with three of perhaps the most amazing scoring drives in school history.
On Saturday (April 16), the Eagles and quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell will get that opportunity again -- but not if EWU's defense has anything to say about it.
Eastern will conclude its second full week of spring football practice at Roos Field with what head coach Beau Baldwin expects to be a scrimmage consisting of 60-70 plays. The scrimmage is free and open to the public, and will begin at about 10:40 a.m. (Eastern will begin warm-up at about 10 a.m.).
After last week's situational scrimmage, Baldwin said this week's affair will be more game-like with the offense able to drive down the field to score. En route to winning the NCAA Division I Championship in January, the Eagles had scoring drives of 80, 89 and 63 yards in the final 16:48 to defeat Delaware 20-19.
Mitchell, the MVP of the national championship game, sat out last week's 34-play scrimmage with a minor knee injury but will be back in action on Saturday. In his absence, a trio of his backups combined to complete 14-of-19 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Anthony Vitto had two of the TDs and was a perfect 6-of-6 for 97 yards.
However, Eastern rushed for only 24 yards on 14 carries against an experienced Eagle defense, not including a sack for a loss of another five yards. Baldwin said Eastern's running game, without two-time All-American Taiwan Jones in the lineup, will be a work in progress right up to EWU's season opener at Washington on Sept. 3. Running backs getting the majority of carries in last week's scrimmage were senior Darriell Beaumonte (3-6), sophomore Mario Brown (2-10) and University of Washington sophomore transfer Demitrius Bronson (4-9).
"They all ran it a little bit and we have to keep working at it," Baldwin explained. "Sometimes run blocking and the continuity you need on the offensive line takes more time. It is an emphasis for us to get better with our base runs. We aren't necessarily going to have the home run hitter that we had in Taiwan, so we are just going to have to be consistent."
Jones was Eastern's uuber-talented running back who had a year of eligibility remaining but declared himself eligible for the NFL Draft. The junior rushed for 1,742 yards and scored 17 total touchdowns in 10 full games played and parts of two others in 2010. He finished his career with five plays in his career of at least 80 yards, 10 of 70 or more, 16 of at least 60, 21 of at least 50 and 36 of at least 32 yards.
"I'm excited about the crew we have and the consistency they can have and the ability to really control the clock," Baldwin added. "They still have the ability to spring one, but it's not going to be 80 all of the sudden to start a game. It's a good thing to sustain a drive because you eat up the clock and keep your defense off the field. That's something we can keep improving, and we'll hit it a lot this spring."
Mitchell is one of several injured players who have sat out practices thus far -- most as precautionary. With 15 starters and 54 total letter winners back, watching younger players take snaps and developing depth has become more of a priority this spring.
"We have a long way to go with that," he said, "but the young players out there -- especially the ones getting more reps because of injuries -- are going to keep getting better as we go through the spring. When we get healthy we're going to have potentially an even deeper team than we had last year, which is huge if you want to have success late in the year."
Baldwin isn't predicting another 13-2 finish quite yet, however.
"This is a new team," he cautioned. "Good or bad, I don't get caught up with last year's team. Our goals right now are more based on having a better April than a year ago. We want to always think in terms of being better. We're going to take the same approach over the summer and next fall. You have to stay in this moment, and try to be better in that moment than you were a year ago."
After Saturday's scrimmage, the Eagles will scrimmage two more times in the remaining seven practice sessions of spring. Next Saturday's (April 23) scrimmage will take place in the 10 a.m. hour before the Eagles end spring drills with the annual Red-White game at 2 p.m. on April 30 that will be televised live regionally by SWX.