The very early look at OSU's opener vs. EWU

THIS ISN'T A great season opener for Oregon State. Eastern Washington is an FCS school and there isn't much credence given to FCS schools by the media and fans -- the Beavs, likely to be a preseason Top 25 team, will be expected to roll. The problem is, EWU has come within an eyelash of a Pac-12 upset the past two years and it looks like they're again going to be a very good football team in 2013.

Eastern Washington finished up last year ranked No. 4 in the FCS. They barely lost to Washington State 24-20 in 2012 and the year before, they all but pulled off the upset against UW in a 30-27 loss. In both games, the Husky game in particular, they decisively won the total yards battle -- (EWU 469 – WSU 355); (EWU 504 – UW 250).

And if you're still not convinced, consider that 69 Eagles since 1989 have either been drafted or signed free-agent contracts with the NFL or the Canadian Football League.

PREPARING FOR ANY season opening opponent is always a challenge due to the lack of film. And when OSU faces off at Reser Stadium against Eastern Washington on Aug. 31, they'll face a team that's been adding some offseason wrinkles.

EWU this spring worked on incorporating the read option out of a pistol and sprint formations, to take advantage of quarterback Vernon Adams' speed. And there were a number of new formations EWU was tinkering with this spring under coach Beau Baldwin (44-19) entering his sixth year at the helm.

Defensively, Eastern is adding a "BUCK" linebacker, a hybrid defensive end/linebacker. One thing that won't change is up-front rotation. Much like Oregon State, EWU employs a lot of rotation on the defensive line – probably even more than the Beavs do. So although EWU will be replacing three of four d-line starters, they have letterwinners ready to now assume starting jobs.

EASTERN WILL FEATURE new faces at receiver and at the linebacker positions, and spring ball showed there's work to be done there. (Linebacker was especially hard hit, losing six players off last year's roster. But they do return Ronnie Hamlin, an All-America pick.)

The offense was hot and cold at times this spring, but a good running quarterback can render moot a lot of inconsistency with just one play. Eastern is trying to improve the consistency of their running backs and while they appear to have a number of good backs and solid depth, they might not have that star-type on the roster.

The secondary, meanwhile, is the strength of the team. Former UCLA safety Tevin McDonald now lines up for the Eagles. And T.J. Lee III, another All-America selection, is a very good corner. While those two may be the headliners in the defensive backfield, there is a lot of depth and other potential first-team, all-league types.

Eastern returns four of its five starting offensive linemen: redshirt sophomore LT Clay DeBord and three seniors - left guard Steven Forgette and center Ashton Miller and right guard Drew Reynolds. Cassidy Curtis looked to be the heir apparent to All-American Will Post at right tackle but that may have changed this week, (see notable notes.)

Eastern returns 48 letterwinners in 2013 -- (25 offense/21 defense/1 punter/1 kicker). They have a decent number of starters back – 15 total in all (7 offense/6 defense, 1 punter, 1 KO specialist.

The biggest question marks might be on special teams, where the Eagles will need to find a number of replacements including placekicker, punt returner and long snapper.

NOTABLE NOTES:
  • Two former Pac-12 scholarship players at WSU, o-lineman Jake Rodgers and wide receiver Blair Bomber, have transferred to EWU and will suit up this season for the Eagles. Rodgers had 15 career starts at WSU and might be ticketed for right tackle.

  • OSU lost their 2011 season opener to FCS school Sacramento State.

  • Oregon State will face Weber State in their 2015 season opener. Next year, they kick things off against Portland State.


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