Eastern Takes First Step in Replacing Seniors

April 11, 2009

Experience at most positions is not an issue for the Eastern Washington University football team. But with eight seniors lost from the running back and defensive line positions, those areas were watched closely as the Eagles concluded their first week of spring practice with a 35-play scrimmage on Saturday (April 11).

Eastern will also scrimmage next Saturday (April 18) at 12:30 p.m. before playing its annual Red-White Game on April 25 at 2 p.m. at Woodward Field. Spring practice concludes on April 30.

The offense had 197 yards on those 35 plays, with a trio of quarterbacks combining for a 12-of-21 performance for 152 yards. Three touchdowns were scored during the "red zone" offense portion of the scrimmage, which was mostly situational.

Senior quarterback Matt Nichols was 6-of-14 for 89 yards, while redshirt freshman Jeff Minnerly out of Ferris High School in Spokane completed all four of his passes for 63 yards. Freshman redshirt Nicholas Edwards had three catches for 33 yards and Aaron Boyce had three for 34 yards.

Nichols had touchdown passes of 18 yards to Nathan Overbay and 20 yards to Boyce, while Minnerly accounted for the other touchdown with a 5-yard run. The only other score in the scrimmage was a 32-yard field goal by Mike Jarrett.

Defensively, safety Kevin Hatch had four tackles, as did linebackers Bobby Gentry and Bryan Karwacki. John Roberts and J.C. Sherritt each had three tackles and a pass broken up.

Second-year head coach Beau Baldwin and his coaching staff watched closely a group of running backs that is replacing four seniors. The four backs in action Saturday were converted defensive back Taiwan Jones, returning letter winners Tyler Hart and Darriell Beaumonte and freshman redshirt Grant Williams. They combined for 40 yards on 12 carries, led by the 18 of Beaumonte and 14 by Williams.

"They all did well," said Baldwin. "It was only Taiwan’s fourth day on the job, so it’s a work in progress. He showed some good things. Tyler Hart has had a good off-season and has come back from his injury (broken scapula). We’re excited about what he brings. He was on his way of having a very productive freshman year last season.

"And Beaumonte has consistently run hard and well whenever he’s had the opportunity," Baldwin continued. "That goes back to last fall when he was behind a lot of seniors. The fourth piece to that is Grant Williams, who we are planning to use as our fullback. But right now we’re not running too much two-back, so we just want to get him in there carrying the ball even though his role will be more as a fullback in the fall."

Baldwin looks forward to seeing the progress of that group, which also includes freshman redshirt Chase King, who did not play Saturday.

"A lot of times running backs will get stronger as they get more reps and more carries," Baldwin said. "They get stronger and they get better, and they get used to seeing the different lanes where the runs are hitting. I feel very strongly about the group we have right now."

Baldwin feels the same about his team’s group of eight defensive linemen. Although four seniors were lost, six returning players are back and join a trio of freshmen redshirts.

"They are doing a great job," Baldwin said. "We have great leadership from some of the older players who haven’t gotten to play as many snaps -- Tyler Jolley, Josh Jacobson and Jacob Kragt. They are stepping right in and have the opportunity to play more football than they ever have. And we also have some good young players who are fitting in nicely."


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