April 9, 2009
By Keenan Bowen, EWU Sports Information
Taiwan Jones just wants to make plays for the Eastern Washington University football team, and that shouldn’t be a problem after a recent position change for the sophomore from Antioch, Calif.
A superb athlete, Jones switched from cornerback to running back this spring. Where he helps the team the most has been the question Eastern has tried to answer ever since he graduated from Deer Valley High School in 2007 (located in the East San Francisco Bay Area).
He had 54 tackles and four passes broken up in seven games as a cornerback in 2008 after missing the first half of the season with a broken fibula. He also had two blocked kicks over the course of the season.
But a great indicator of what he can do with the ball in his hands came late last year when he averaged 36.3 yards on seven kickoff returns. Included was a 93-yard return against Northern Colorado for a touchdown that cemented the need to move him to offense.
"Taiwan is obviously a dynamic athlete, and he wasn’t able to show that a lot last year," explained Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "But we saw glimpses of it, like his kickoff return against Northern Colorado. He’s a special player with the ball in his hands."
After suffering the broken fibula during the first week of the 2008 fall camp, Jones saw his first action of against Portland State on Oct. 4 after starting cornerback Lonnie Hosley went down with an injury. Jones then started the next four games – including his first career start against rival Montana.
This year’s position switch has been in the works for some time. Last year, the Eagles were sporting four senior running backs, so in an effort to get the play-making Jones on the field, the Eagle coaches placed him at cornerback.
But Jones was a talented running back in high school, and his skill with the ball led the coaches to give him some repetitions at wide receiver for the Eagles late last fall. He averaged 9.3 yards per carry as a senior in high school as he finished with a total of 1,466 rushing yards and 19 total touchdowns to earn San Francisco Chronicle All-Metro honors.
Eastern will hold its third practice of the spring today (April 9) before scrimmaging Saturday (April 11) at about 1:15 p.m. Practices will continue every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday through April 30, with the annual Red-White Game at 2 p.m. on April 25.
Q: Now that you are a couple days into spring practice, how do you like your new position?
A: "It feels good to be out there at running back. My teammates expect a lot out of me so I am just out here trying to work hard."
Q: What kind of things did you learn last year as a redshirt freshman at cornerback that will translate to this year?
A: "One thing that I will carry over from playing on defense was the togetherness the defense had. We all played together at a high level and tempo, and hopefully on offense it’s the same. Hopefully I can help out with that."
Q: You suffered a fractured fibula before last season. How did that affect you going into the season?
A: "That actually made me hungrier. College football is my love, and to see that taken away from me really humbled me. I was just excited to get back when I was healthy enough."
Q: You kind of got thrown in the fire last season against Portland State and started after that. What was that experience like?
A: "When I got in at Portland State, I was just excited to get into the game. By being thrown in there, it kind of took the butterflies away because I didn’t have a chance to be nervous. I just had to go out and make plays. Going into the Montana game, I was just excited to go out and play in front of a big crowd -- it was fun."
Q: What skills do you bring to the running back position?
A: "Speed. I’m also out here proving that I can run between the tackles as well."
Q: What do you bring to the kick return game?
A: "I am just trying to be a threat out there – everyone knows I am fast. We have other returners out there that have talent, so when the other team keys on me, it helps the other guys get opportunities and helps our team."
Q: What are you looking to improve on the most this spring?
A: "I am looking forward to getting into the playbook some more. And I want to work on my footwork as well."
Q: What personal or team goals do you have for the upcoming 2009 season?
A: "I hope to lead our team to more victories. I don’t really have any personal goal -- for me it is just whatever it takes for the team to be successful."
Q: You are the fastest player on the team, but who would give you a challenge in a race?
Q: Who has been your favorite professor at EWU so far and why?
A: "I like Liza Wilcox, my English professor. She took the time to work with me and I like her teaching style."
Q: What makes all the work that gets put into being a student athlete worth it?
A: "For my family to see me doing something positive, it really makes them happy. Their happiness makes it worth it for me."