When junior linebacker Chris Ojoh wasn’t delivering loud, pad-popping hits during Eastern Washington’s second spring scrimmage Saturday, he was terrorizing the first-team offense by other means.
He had a scrimmage-high seven tackles and picked up a fumble in the backfield before racing toward the end zone.
Ojoh, who ranked second on the team in tackles in 2018 despite not starting until late in the season, has picked up where he left off.
“I’m definitely more confident now, with starting (in the spring), but I’m still learning the game and a student of the game,” Ojoh said.
On offense, it was Ojoh’s former high school teammate, wide receiver Johnny Edwards, moving the chains. Edwards, a speedy 5-foot-10 junior, hauled in a scrimmage-high five passes for 60 yards.
Edwards was among the first-team receivers that included 6-5 targets Andrew Boston and Talolo Limu-Jones and sturdy, 205-pound senior Jayson Williams.
With the graduation of All-Big Sky talent Nsimba Webster, Edwards looks to step into a similar role as the smaller, more explosive receiver of the bunch.
“With (Webster) gone, I feel like I have to step into that role,” said Edwards, who had 14 catches for 198 yards and two touchdowns last season. “It’s something I’ve been looking forward to ever since I got here. I’ve been playing slot and outside.”
Ojoh and Edwards attended Bishop Alemany in the Los Angeles area – the same high school as ex-EWU star quarterback Vernon Adams– and both were true freshmen at EWU in 2017.
“Without looking at the stats, those two kids (Ojoh and Edwards) definitely stood out today,” EWU head coach Aaron Best said.
More than a half-dozen contributors to last season’s defense sat out for various injuries. On offense, presumed starters Tristen Taylor (left tackle), Will Gram (left guard) and Jayce Gilder (tight end) were also out.
With Gilder sidelined (shoulder), tight end Trent Harris had four catches for 67 yards,
Neither first-team unit dominated, but the first-team offense played a quick tempo in the 82-play scrimmage, often employing a no-huddle offense.
Running back Antoine Custer was big in the Eagles’ five-play, 75-yard opening scoring drive, taking a short pass 25 yards for a touchdown.
The defense – paced by defensive end Jim Townsend’s three sacks and a forced fumble – didn’t allow a score the next three drives.
A week after a rainy, turnover-heavy first scrimmage, no quarterback threw an interception. Junior starter Eric Barriere completed 11 of 16 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown. Backup Gunner Talkington was 7 for 14 for 138 yards and a score.
Best said he liked the play of cornerback Ira Branch, who broke up two passes. Tamir Hill added six tackles and two breakups.
“(Branch) has solidified himself as a bona fide corner, but we need someone opposite of him, a third guy,” Best said. “We need to continually build depth through reps, because when you lose four (senior cornerbacks), that’s tough.”
Junior kicker Andre Slyter went 1 for 3 on field-goals attempts, connecting on a 47-yarder. He made all four of his extra-point attempts.
EWU’s final spring scrimmage – the annual Red and White Game at Roos Field – is slated for noon Saturday.
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