Eagles Back at Practice Eager to Be ‘Sponges’

Eagles Back at Practice Eager to Be ‘Sponges’

Ranked sixth in national preseason polls announced recently, 95 Eagles open practice Wednesday morning

EWU 2015 Preseason Practice Schedule

Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin likened them to sponges.

An energetic group of 95 Eastern Washington University football players opened practices for the 2015 season on Wednesday morning (Aug. 12) at the Sports and Recreation Center practice fields in Cheney, Wash.

"They are sponges – that's a good term to use with this team," said Baldwin, who enters his eighth season at the helm and 12th overall at EWU. "They want to be coached and they want to get after it and be better the next day."

The Eagles will practice in pads for the first time on Saturday, Aug. 15 at 9:15 a.m., followed by their first of five days of two-a-day practices on Aug. 17. The Eagles are expected to exclusively use the practice fields through Aug. 20, after which Roos Field will be utilized leading up to the team's Sept. 5 opener at Oregon, which will be televised live nationally at 5 p.m. Pacific time on the Pac-12 Networks.

"This was a unique summer," said Baldwin, whose team has begun the season in August in each of the last three seasons. "It just felt like, 'it's got to get here at some point.' Today would have been about practice 15 or 16 last year. It was good to finally get back at it and get back in rhythm."

Baldwin was most impressed by how hard the team worked as a group in the summer, when summer conditioning is essentially the only organized activity allowed until practices begin.

"They came in physically and mentally ready, which comes down to being self-motivated," he explained. "There is so much voluntary work they are doing in the summer when we can't be involved. We saw some things on Day 1 that showed us that they were taking care of business from spring ball to the first day of camp. I was pleased to see that."

One player said Wednesday that upwards of 60 players were voluntarily on campus in the summer. Baldwin said the team's upperclassmen and leaders took control.

"We don't keep track of that, but the players know and the leaders on the team were pushing for it to help with the culture of the team," Baldwin said of the large group. "From the things I had heard and in talking with players, they were also structured with how they did things."

Two-time All-America wide receiver Cooper Kupp was one of the leaders of that effort. Kupp enters his junior season as the preseason choice to win Big Sky Conference Offensive MVP honors, and is also a first team NCAA Football Championship Subdivision All-America selection on teams selected by STATS, College Sporting News and College Football America. STATS picked him as one of 22 players nationally for its FCS Offensive Player of the Year Award Watch List.

Baldwin says Kupp and his fellow players – including a total of 43 returning letterwinners and 13 total starters – are from the same mold.

"They have the ability to improve – whether it's from the start of the week to the end of the week, or from week one to week three or from week three to week five," he explained. "Even if things aren't perfect, they have an incredible ability to figure it out and want to be coached. They want to be better, move forward and find ways to be better and not get stagnant. That was one thing that jumped out at me in the spring. We made the biggest jumps week-to-week and position-by-position that I can remember in any spring. That's a good quality to have. You want to peak at the end of the spring and the end of the season."

The Eagles ranked sixth in both the STATS preseason media poll and the coaches poll, which were announced recently. National magazines have the Eagles pegged fifth (Sporting News), sixth (Athlon) and eighth (Lindy's).

"Our expectations are very high as we put together our steps to success," said Baldwin. "The top of the mountain for us is going after a national title, but granted, there is still a lot in between. We have to have the ability to understand the process and think about today, but it's also about moving towards a common goal. Our expectation is to go after things at a high level in the Big Sky, and if we're able to hit that then we're chasing things at a high level nationally. That's the way our players think and process it."

 
 

List 2015 Preseason Individual Honors Thus Far

#10 - Cooper Kupp - WR/PR - Jr. - Yakima, Wash. (Davis HS '12)
FCS Offensive Player of the Year Award Watch List (STATS/one of 22 players selected)
First Team Preseason FCS All-America Team (STATS)
"FCS Starting Lineup" Preseason FCS All-America Team (College Football America)
"Fabulous 50" Preseason FCS All-America Team (College Sporting News)
Big Sky Conference Preseason Offensive MVP
Big Sky Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year (College Sports Madness)
Big Sky Conference Preseason All-Conference Team
First Team Big Sky Conference Preseason All-Conference Team/WR (College Sports Madness)
First Team Big Sky Conference Preseason All-Conference Team/PR (College Sports Madness)

#72 - Aaron Neary - OG - Sr. - Richland, Wash. (Hanford HS '11)
Second Team Preseason FCS All-American (STATS)
Big Sky Conference Preseason All-Conference Team
First Team Big Sky Conference Preseason All-Conference Team (College Sports Madness)

#78 - Clay DeBord - OT - Sr. - Asotin, Wash. (Asotin HS '11)
Third Team Preseason FCS All-American (STATS)
Big Sky Conference Preseason All-Conference Team
First Team Big Sky Conference Preseason All-Conference Team (College Sports Madness)

#91 - Samson Ebukam - DE - Jr. - Portland, Ore. (David Douglas HS '13)
Big Sky Conference Preseason All-Conference Team
First Team Big Sky Conference Preseason All-Conference Team (College Sports Madness)

#1 - Shaq Hill - WR/KR - Sr. - Stockton, Ca. (Brookside Chr.  HS '11)
Second Team Big Sky Conference Preseason All-Conference Team (College Sports Madness)

#49 - Miquiyah Zamora - LB - Jr. - Pasco, Wash. (Chiawana HS '12)
Second Team Big Sky Conference Preseason All-Conference Team (College Sports Madness)

#94 - Matthew Sommer - NT - Jr. - Salem, Ore. (West Salem HS '13)
Third Team Big Sky Conference Preseason All-Conference Team (College Sports Madness)

#27 - Victor Gamboa - CB - So. - Tacoma, Wash. (Washington HS '13)
Third Team Big Sky Conference Preseason All-Conference Team (College Sports Madness)

#9 - Zach Wimberly - TE - Jr. - Tumwater, Wash. (Tumwater HS '12)
Third Team Big Sky Conference Preseason All-Conference Team (College Sports Madness)

#50 - Alek Kacmarcik - LB - Fr. - Woodinville, Wash. (Woodinville HS '14)
Big Sky Conference Preseason Freshman of the Year (College Sports Madness)

Head Coach Beau Baldwin
Big Sky Conference Preseason Coach of the Year (College Sports Madness)

 

EWU in National Preseason Rankings

6th (STATS) . . . also #1 North Dakota State, #2 Illinois State, #3 Sam Houston State, #4 Villanova, #5 Coastal Carolina, #10 Northern Iowa, #11 Montana State, #13 Montana, #22 Idaho State, #28 Cal Poly, #32 Northern Arizona.

6th (Coaches) . . . also #1 North Dakota State, #2 Illinois State, #3 Villanova, #4 Sam Houston State, #5 Coastal Carolina, #10 Northern Iowa, #11 Montana State, #12 Montana, #24 Idaho State, #29 Cal Poly, #30 Northern Arizona.

5th (Sporting News) . . . also, #1 North Dakota State, #2 Sam Houston State, #3 Illinois State, #4 Villanova, #9 Montana State, #11 Northern Iowa, #13 Idaho State, #15 Montana, #22 Northern Arizona.

8th (Lindy's College Football) . . . also, #1 North Dakota State, #2 Villanova, #3 Sam Houston State, #4 Illinois State, #11 Montana State, #14 Northern Iowa, #16 Montana.

6th (Athlon College Football) . . . also, #1 North Dakota State, #2 Illinois State, #3 Sam Houston State, #4 Jacksonville State, #5 Villanova, #11 Northern Iowa, #13 Montana State, #17 Montana, #18 Idaho State, #24 Cal Poly.

 

2014 Team Rankings

The Sports Network (FINAL): 1. North Dakota State; 2. Illinois State; 3. New Hampshire; 4. Eastern Washington; 6. Sam Houston State, 13. Montana; 20. Montana State; 24. Idaho State.

FCS Coaches Poll (FINAL): 1. North Dakota State; 2. Illinois State; 3. New Hampshire; 4. Eastern Washington; 6. Sam Houston State, 11. Montana; 20. Montana State.

 

2015 Big Sky Conference Preseason Polls

(first place votes in parenthesis)

Media: 1. Eastern Washington (17) – 553; 2. Montana State (17) – 541; 3. (tie) Montana (5) & Idaho State (5) – 446; 5. Cal Poly (1) – 433; 6. Northern Arizona (1) – 399; 7. Sacramento State – 278; 8. Southern Utah – 255; 9. North Dakota – 226; 10. Weber State – 160; 11. UC Davis – 145; 12. Portland State – 133; 13. Northern Colorado – 127.

Coaches: 1. Montana State (6) – 134; 2. Eastern Washington (6) – 133; 3. Montana (1) – 121; 4. Cal Poly – 111; 5. Northern Arizona – 95; 6. Idaho State – 90; 7. Sacramento State – 66; 8. Southern Utah – 64; 9. (tie) Portland State & North Dakota – 51; 11. Weber State – 43; 12. UC Davis – 33; 13. Northern Colorado – 22.

 
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