Football back in action at spring practice


Freshman Quarterback Jordan West does some front and backwards stepping drills at spring practice.

By Peter Sowards, Senior Reporter

One image lingered in the mind of redshirt sophomore quarterback Vernon Adams during the offseason after a disappointing playoff loss.

“That game, Sam Houston State, 45-42. We just have unfinished business.”

That was the prevailing thought on the minds of coaches and players at EWU’s first spring football practice on April 4 at Roos Field. “We’re ready to finish some business from last year,” Adams said.

Coach Beau Baldwin said players are using the bitter taste left in their mouths as motivation for the season. “There’s guys with that newspaper headline in their locker. They remember it. It’s going to naturally drive competitive people,” Baldwin said.

Adams enters the spring as a clear-cut favorite for the quarterback job but does not view himself as having earned anything. “I don’t even look at it like that,” Adams said. “We still have two other quarterbacks [redshirt senior Anthony Vitto and redshirt freshman Jordan West]. I’m just coming out here to compete and try to win the job. I don’t want to come in here and have everybody say, ‘Oh, this is your job.’ I don’t think like that.”

Baldwin saw Adams grow immensely throughout the 2012 season. He flashed a sheepish grin when asked about the influx of running quarterbacks in the NFL and if it spurred his creative juices. “[Adams] is definitely someone that is just going to present problems,” Baldwin said. “No matter what you do, he’ll present problems, even if it’s just a broken play.”

The wide receiver corps to which Adams will be throwing in practice underwent a makeover in the offseason with Brandon Kaufman declaring for the upcoming NFL draft and the departing of seniors Greg Herd and Nicholas Edwards. Replacing the “Big Three” are seniors Ashton Clark and Daniel Johnson, juniors Cory Mitchell, Nick Lenoue and Larren Wright Jr., sophomore Shaquille Hill and freshmen Cooper Kupp and Keylin Huddleston. Clark finished third on the 2012 roster with 49 catches for 650 yards, and Hill earned All-Big Sky Conference honorable mention for his return abilities.

“Whenever you have a position that you lose some guys that were substantial, it takes other positions to always kind of pick that group up,” Baldwin said.

The running back position looks to pick up some of the slack left by the vacating wide receivers, returning all of its seven backs. Senior Demetrius Bronson and juniors Mario Brown, Quincy Forte and Jordan Talley have each started at least five games in their EWU careers and have combined for 2,473 rushing yards and 27 total touchdowns.

Defensively, Eastern gets back two All-Americans in linebacker Ronnie Hamlin and cornerback T.J. Lee, III, as well as Jordan Tonani, who earned freshman All-American honors. Tonani, a graduate of Ferris High School in Spokane, said he added 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason in preparation of the spring practices. “We’re all just bigger, stronger [and] faster and ready to get out here and play some spring football,” he said.

Tonani looks forward to a familiarity with the defense and being more comfortable in his safety position. “Coming in last year in the spring as a freshman, you really don’t know too much going on, especially when you redshirt,” Tonani said. “You don’t know too much about the defense — at least I didn’t. This is where you really pave it out and learn. Coming in already knowing what we’re doing is obviously a pretty big bonus.”

The Eagles have a total of 15 spring practices spread out over five weeks, including the Red-White spring game on April 27 sandwiched between scrimmages on April 20 and May 4.

EWU will play a 12-game regular-season schedule for the first time in school history, but Baldwin believes that is of little importance. “Our expectation is we’re going to play more than 11 every year anyway, and that’s our thought process,” he said. “We played 14 last year and 15 a couple years ago.”

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