Eastern Washington University football players selected to Big Sky Conference preseason team
Eastern players honored included quarterback Matt Nichols, wide receiver Aaron Boyce, defensive end Greg Peach and defensive tackle Lance Witherspoon. Nichols was the Big Sky's Offensive MVP in 2007 while the other three players earned All-Big Sky and All-America honors.
Nichols (Cottonwood, Calif.) and Boyce (Kent, Wash) are both just juniors while Peach (Vancouver, Wash.) and Witherspoon (Federal Way, Wash.) are seniors. The picks were made by selected media and sports information directors in the conference.
On Tuesday (July 22), the preseason coaches and media polls will be released with the predicted order of finish for the 2008 season. First-year head coach Beau Baldwin and senior fullback/running back Alexis Alexander are representing EWU at the Big Sky's Summer Kickoff.
With a large group of players returning, Eastern is hoping to continue the momentum from the 2007 season when the Eagles returned to the top of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision scene with a 9-4 finish after a dismal 3-8 record the year before. Eastern advanced to the FCS Playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons and closed the year ranked eighth in the final Sports Network poll of the year.
Alexander, who earned second team All-Big Sky honors in 2006 before an injury-plagued 2007 season, has high expectations for the 2008 season.
"Honestly, a let down is not an option," said the confident Alexander, who played three years of minor league baseball before returning to football. "This is my senior year and we have a number of other seniors on this team, and we sit down and talk all the time. We know we can do it, and it's all about staying healthy and executing our assignments. If we do all the things we're supposed to do, I don't think anybody can beat us."
A 2001 graduate of Medical Lake, Wash., High School who will turn 26 during the season, Alexander nearly signed a letter of intent out of high school to play football for Big Sky rival Montana. Now, seven years later, the 25-year-old Alexander found himself the butt of good-natured ribbing from other Big Sky players at dinner on Sunday evening.
"All the other players were making fun of me, saying, "Oh my god, are you really that old?" laughed Alexander, whose nicknames at EWU are grandpa and pops. "They saw me eating fruit and told me I needed to eat that way to stay healthy and asked if I wanted some calcium to keep my bones healthy. They were all over me but I told them that I'm used to it by now.
"Go ahead and give it to me -- I'm old, I'm old," he continued. "I'll be 26 in November playing against 18-year-olds. They call me old until I hit them."
Eastern players report for practices on Aug. 7 to begin the NCAA-mandated five-day acclimatization period. The first day of practice in pads for Eastern will be the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 12, with scrimmages scheduled for Aug. 16 and Aug. 22.
Eastern opens the season with a pair of games versus NCAA Football Bowl Division teams -- Aug. 30 at Texas Tech and Sept. 6 at Colorado. The Eagles open their home season at Woodward Field in Cheney, Wash., on Sept. 20 against Western Washington followed a week later by Eastern's league opener at home against Idaho State on Sept. 27.