Nichols leads Eastern offense with something to prove - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Eastern Washington - Football

Nichols leads Eastern offense with something to prove

Posted: Updated:
EWU QB Matt Nichols was selected as a preseason candidate for the Walter Payton Award (Photo: EWU Athletics) EWU QB Matt Nichols was selected as a preseason candidate for the Walter Payton Award (Photo: EWU Athletics)
  • Eastern Washington - FootballNichols leads Eastern offense with something to proveMore>>

  • Eastern Washington - Sports

    EWU marching band saved from chopping block

    EWU marching band saved from chopping block

    Thursday, August 13 2009 8:01 PM EDT2009-08-14 00:01:18 GMT
    (Photo: EWU)(Photo: EWU)
    CHENEY, Wash. - Time marches on and so will the Eastern Washington University marching band, despite news earlier this week that said the program was being cut because of the state's budget woes.More >>
    CHENEY, Wash. - Time marches on and so will the Eastern Washington University marching band, despite news earlier this week that said the program was being cut because of the state's budget woes.More >>

Senior QB has experienced receiver corp

by EWU Athletics

The offense has something to prove in 2009, and the leader of that effort is senior quarterback Matt Nichols. He led Eastern to nine victories as a sophomore in 2007 when he passed for 3,744 yards and 34 touchdowns, and had another 392 yards on the ground. As a junior, his numbers (in two less games) slipped to 3,293 yards and 21 touchdowns passing, and 83 yards rushing.

"I've been extremely impressed with his approach to his senior season, especially with the unfortunate news of the postseason ban," said Baldwin. "One of the comments he's made is, ‘it's only a penalty if we make it a penalty. They could have slapped us with that last year and it wouldn't have mattered, right?'  That's the right approach, and we have to earn the right for that to really be a penalty. He's going out there with the idea that we are going to make that a penalty if the appeal does not go our way."

EWU Football on SWX!

Sept. 5 vs. W. Oregon 
Sept. 19 vs. N. Colorado 
Oct. 24 vs. Montana St. 

Nichols will have a seasoned and experienced wide receiver unit returning, headlined by Aaron Boyce, Brynsen Brown and Tony Davis, who was Eastern's second-leading receiver a year ago with 53 catches and three scores. That trio has combined for 456 catches, 6,329 yards and 43 touchdowns in 98 games worth of experience (80 starts).

Other returning letter winners at wide receiver include Nicholas Ramos and Ashton Gant. Ramos finished with eight catches for 88 yards, and Gant added three catches.

At tight end, Nathan Overbay returns after catching 28 passes for 364 yards and a pair of scores. Also back is junior Matt Martin, who added 11 catches for 118 yards.

The offensive line was young and inexperienced in 2008, and actually gave up fewer sacks (18) than it did the previous season (25). But the Eagles generated only 98.5 yards per game on the ground - nearly 70 less per game than the year before. It was the lowest average per game for the Eagles since 1987 when Eastern played the first of what is now 22 seasons as a member of the Big Sky Conference.

The line is led by a pair of honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference selections in senior Chris Thomas (6-foot-5, 300 pounds) and junior Brice Leahy (6-7, 295), although Leahy will have to redshirt in 2009 because of a non football-related injury. The other returning starter is senior Ryan Forney (6-3, 295), but Eastern also returns three other letter winners in Gabriel Jackson (6-4, 275), John Rice (6-7, 295) and Nikolai Myers (6-4, 275).

Eastern lost four senior running backs, but have three letter winners returning who are capable of filling that void. Tyler Hart was working his way up the depth chart and had 84 yards rushing with two touchdowns in 2008 before his season was ended with a broken scapula.

Also back - but in a different position - is speedster Taiwan Jones (See story: Eastern pins hopes on converted offensive weapon). He had 54 tackles and four passes broken up in seven games as a cornerback in 2008 after missing the first half of the season with a broken fibula.

Taiwan Jones said he's feeling more comfortable on the offensive side of the ball, but still has a lot to learn (Photo: SWX)

But Jones was a talented running back in high school, and his skill with the ball led the coaches to give him some repetitions at wide receiver for the Eagles late last fall. He averaged 9.3 yards per carry as a senior in high school as he finished with a total of 1,466 rushing yards and 19 total touchdowns to earn San Francisco Chronicle All-Metro honors.

Jones had a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown for the Eagles last season against Northern Colorado, which further cemented the need to get the ball in his hands as a running back.

"Taiwan is obviously a dynamic athlete, and he wasn't able to show that a lot last year," explained Baldwin. "But we saw glimpses of it, like his kickoff return against Northern Colorado. He's a special player with the ball in his hands."

The third returning letter winner is tailback/fullback Darriell Beaumonte, who rushed for 25 yards and had three tackles on special teams.

 "Tyler Hart is a tremendous running back, and had he not been injured, he could have had a very, very successful freshman season," Baldwin said of the running back corp. "We also have some younger players who can step-in. We're excited about that group as a whole, and Taiwan just adds an extra piece to that group that already had the potential of being very strong. They still have a lot to prove, but we're excited about the players that are there." 

Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 SWXRN. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.