Highly-Regarded Eagles a Top Six Pick

Aug. 1, 2008

When Eastern Washington University players report for football practice next week, they'll start with a huge target on their backs.

The Eagles have been picked to finish anywhere from fourth to sixth in the NCAA Football Championships Subdivision in various pre-season rankings released this summer. In fact, Eastern is listed at No. 6 in the consolidation of rankings distributed by College Sporting News (http://www.collegesportingnews.com).

That's a far cry from last year at this time when Eastern was nowhere to be found in the national picture after a 3-8 season in 2006. But Eastern climbed the national rankings in 2007 en route to a 9-4 finish, including a convincing 44-15 first-round FCS Playoff victory over previously unbeaten and second-seeded McNeese State.

Eastern narrowly lost 38-35 in the quarterfinals to Appalachian State, which went on to win its second-straight national title. As a result of its late-season surge, Eastern finished eighth in both the Sports Network and FCS Coaches Poll.

While it doesn't have any bearing on the 2008 season, first-year EWU head coach Beau Baldwin appreciates the vote of confidence in his team, which returns 15 starters and 43 total letter winners. The Eagles have advanced to the 16-team FCS Playoffs in three of the last four seasons.

"There is some merit to be near the top because that can help you when it comes to the playoffs," said Baldwin. "That can sometimes make it a little easier to stay in the top 16 rather than to have to climb all the way into it.

"Honestly, I don't look at them even though some people have told me where we are," he added of the summer rankings. "I don't know where we are and it really doesn't matter. I just don't think you want to get caught up in that. But I do think success in the past can help you (in the preseason rankings) towards the end of the year. It helps you to start up there.

"But from a standpoint of how good you are going to be, who knows?"

Eastern's highest preseason ranking came from The Sporting News, which has Eastern fifth. Three organizations -- Lindy's Preview, Phil Steele's College Football and Sports Media Entertainment Network -- all rank the Eagles sixth. Anygivensunday.com rates Eastern as the ninth-best team in FCS and the SME Network (http://www.smebroadcasting.com) also picks Eastern as the favorite to unseat Montana as Big Sky champions.

In the consolidated poll, Montana is ranked fifth and Appalachian State is picked to win the title a third-straight year. James Madison is second, Richmond is fourth and North Dakota State, which will be eligible for the playoffs for the first time this season, is ranked third.

Besides the team rankings, junior quarterback Matt Nichols, junior wide receiver Aaron Boyce and senior defensive end Greg Peach are again highly-regarded nationally after Boyce and Peach earned a variety of All-America honors last season and Nichols garnered the Big Sky's Offensive MVP award.

Entering 2008, Nichols was selected as the FCS Offensive Player of the Year by Lindy's and was ranked as the fourth-best FCS quarterback by the Sports Network (http://www.sportsnetwork.com). Boyce received second-team preseason All-America honors from Phil Steele's College Football and Peach earned the same honor from Lindy's.

The top-rated quarterback according to the Sports Network and the FCS MVP according to Lindy's is Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards. The multi-dimensional Edwards rushed for 126 yards for a touchdown and passed for 221 yards and two scores in last year's playoff victory over EWU.

Edwards finished the 2007 season with 1,948 yards passing, 1,588 rushing and accounted for 38 touchdowns. Nichols finished the 2007 season with 3,744 yards passing, 392 rushing and had a school-record 34 touchdown passes.


First Practice in Pads is Aug 12th in preparation for Aug. 30 opener . . .

First-year head coach Beau Baldwin expects about 65 veteran players and another 20 new players on hand when players begin reporting on Aug. 7. Eastern will practice three weeks in preparation for its opener at Texas Tech on Aug. 30.

After one day of split practices on Aug. 8-- rookies in the morning and veterans in the afternoon -- the team will practice together for the first time on Aug. 9 at 2:15 p.m. Eastern will continue its NCAA-mandated five-day acclimatization period before practicing in pads for the first time on Aug. 12 at 2:15 p.m.

A scrimmage free and open to the public will take place at about 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 16. Another scrimmage is scheduled to take place on Friday, Aug. 22 at about 10:30 a.m. Both scrimmages will take place on the EWU practice fields while the track re-surfacing project at Woodward Field continues.

Classes at EWU don't begin until Sept. 24. Eastern has been picked to finish second in the league by both the media and coaches. Montana has been picked to win its 10-straight title, having won or shared the championship every year since 1998. Eastern is the last team other than Montana to win the Big Sky title outright, with that taking place in 1997.


Tentative Schedule of EWU Practices

(practices usually last for two hours. Media interviews take place after practice or 1/2 hour before the time listed)
Friday, Aug. 8 - Newcomers 9 a.m., Veterans 2:15 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 9 - 2:15 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 10 - 2:15 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 11 - 2:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 12 - 2:15 p.m. (first practice in pads)
Wednesday, Aug. 13 - 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
thursday, Aug. 14 - 2:15 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 15 - 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 16 - Scrimmage at approximately 10:30 a.m.
Sunday, Aug. 17 - 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 18 - 2:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 19 - 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 20 - 2:15 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 21 - 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 22 - Scrimmage at approximately 10:30 a.m.
Saturday, Aug. 23 - Off
Sunday, Aug. 24 - 3 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 25 - 2:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 26 - 3:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 27 - 2:15 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 28 - 2:45 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 29 - Travel Day
Saturday, Aug. 30 - EWU at Texas Tech, 4 p.m. Pacific Time
Sunday, Aug. 31 - 1:30 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 1 - Off
Tuesday, Sept. 2 - 3:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 3 - 2:15 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 4 - 2:45 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 5 - Travel Day
Saturday, Sept. 6 - EWU at Colorado, 12:30 p.m. Pacific Time
Sunday, Sept. 7 - Off
Monday, Sept. 8 - 1:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 9 - TBA
Wednesday, Sept. 10 - TBA
Thursday, Sept. 11 - TBA
Friday, Sept. 12 - TBA
Saturday, Sept. 13 - TBA
Sunday, Sept. 14 - Off
Monday, Sept. 15 - 2:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 16 - 3:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 17 - 2:15 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 18 - 2:45 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 19 - 4 p.m. walk-through
Saturday, Sept. 20 - EWU vs. Western Washington, 6:05 p.m. Pacific Time
Sunday, Sept. 21 - 1:30 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 22 - Off
Tuesday, Sept. 23 - 3:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 24 - 3:30 p.m. (classes start at EWU)
Thursday, Sept. 25 - 3:45 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 26 - 4 p.m. walk-through
Saturday, Sept. 27 - EWU vs. Idaho State, 12:37 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 28 - 1:30 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 29 - Off
Tuesday, Sept. 30 - 4:30 p.m.

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