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Eastern Washington will soon interview in-house football coaches Aaron Best, Jeff Schmedding

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 19, 2017, 8:10 p.m.

West Valley High product  Ty Gregorak has emerged as a potential candidate to replace Beau Baldwin at Eastern Washington. (Patrick Record / Associated Press)
West Valley High product Ty Gregorak has emerged as a potential candidate to replace Beau Baldwin at Eastern Washington. (Patrick Record / Associated Press)

Eastern Washington athletic director Bill Chaves is keeping to his promise of an “expedited search” for the successor to football coach Beau Baldwin.

Offensive line coach Aaron Best and defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding – the leading in-house candidates to succeed Baldwin – confirmed Thursday that they will meet with Chaves within the next few days.

“Soon,” Best said Thursday evening in his office, Schmedding at his side.

Of the six coaches still on staff, they were the only ones in football offices. The others are off recruiting.

Best and Schmedding were named co-interim coaches on Monday, when Baldwin announced he was taking the offensive coordinator’s job at California. Both are longtime assistants, Best since 2000 and Schmedding since 2004.

Their chances to lead the program may have improved on Thursday, as former EWU passing game coordinator Zak Hill was reported to have declined interest. Hill, hired in January 2016 as the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Boise State, was instrumental in the development of former Eastern All-American Vernon Adams Jr.

Jeff Caves, a sports talk show host in Boise, cited a “close source” that Hill gave several reasons for declining: money, his affinity for Boise and a potentially easier leap to a head-coaching job at another FBS school.

Chaves said earlier this week that he’ll make no comments on the search until a new coach has been named. However, other outside candidates emerged Thursday, all with local ties:

Ty Gregorak, the current defensive coordinator at Montana State who held the same position for four years at Montana. A West Valley High School product, the 37-year-old Gregorak played at Colorado. He’s been at MSU for just one season under new coach Jeff Choate.

Dan Cozzetto, a Spokane native and Gonzaga Prep player (Idaho class of 1979) who has longtime experience in the Pac-12. The former Washington and Arizona State offensive line coach is the head coach of Phoenix College, a two-year school in Arizona. Cozzetto is 61 years old.

Torey Hunter, a four-time all-Pac-10 cornerback at Washington State and secondary coach at Eastern from 2008 to 2011. Hunter also was the Eagles’ special teams coordinator during the 2010 national title season. A Tacoma native, Hunter has spent the last three seasons as a scout for the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League.

Another candidate, former EWU wide receivers coach Junior Adams, did not return calls about his possible interest in returning to Cheney. Adams was hired last month as offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky.

Meanwhile, most of the current EWU coaches were still on the recruiting trail Thursday. Presumably, Best and Schmedding are being evaluated in part for the current staff’s ability to preserve what still looks like a strong recruiting class.

Cherokee Valeria, the Eagles’ cornerbacks coach and recruiting coordinator, returned to the Northwest on Thursday after several days in California.

“Nailing down the guys who will be on their official visit this weekend,” Valeria Tweeted on Thursday.

So far, so good on the recruiting front: EWU has lost no oral commits since Baldwin’s resignation. The class includes a trio of receivers/defensive backs who are rated three stars by Scout.com.

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