Washington opens the season against the defending FCS national champions Eastern Washington in Seattle on September 3rd.
It marks the first time that the Huskies have scheduled a lower division opponent since the FCS/1-AA classifications were created.
The Eagles are led by fourth year coach Beau Baldwin who was previously the head coach at Central Washington. Baldwin came in and cleaned up the administrative mess left behind by Paul Wulff when he left to take the WSU coaching job. Four years later the Eagles are off probation and are defending national champs.
On offense the Eagles are led by QB Bo Levi Mitchell who is a transfer from SMU is one of the better QB's in the FCS. He throws a real nice ball and he knows how to execute the Eagle offense well. Mitchell had three TD passes in the second half of the national championship game to lead the Eagles to victory.
When the Eagles air it out expect Brandon Kaufman, Cory Mitchell, and Nicholas Edwards to be Mitchell's prime targets. Kaufman won AA honors in 2010 while catching 76 passes for 1,214 yards and 15 touchdowns. The Eagles are loaded with plenty of depth and talent at these positions.
Mario Brown and UW transfer Demetrious Bronson lead a running game that should still be productive even though leading rusher Taiwan Jones has taken his act to the NFL. FB Darriell Beaumont who is also a special teams demon led all the rushers during the spring game.
C Chris Powers anchors a very competent offensive line. Powers has started 27 games during his career at Eastern and has earned AA honors.
Eastern finished the 2010 season ranked 22nd in the FCS in total offense (397.1 yards per game), as well as rankings of 26th in passing (241.0), 49th in rushing (156.1) and 18th in scoring (31.5). They have enough parts returning that they just might improve on those numbers in 2011.
DT Renard Williams will anchor the defensive line. He had nine sacks to earn first-team All-Big Sky Conference honors in 2009. He finished with 6 1/2 in the 2010 season to repeat as an All-Big Sky selection and earn All-America honors in 2010. He has a total of 34 tackles for loss during his career despite being double teamed most of the time.
DE Jerry Ceja prvides the pressure from the outside. He had 23 tackles with five sacks, three forced fumbles and three quarterback hurries in 2010. He had two sacks and a hurry against Villanova. Paul Ena will move over from LB to fill the other DE position. UW transfer Andru Pulu is also in the mix to start.
WLB Zach Johnson has started 25 straight games. In the championship game he led the Eagles with 15 tackles and 2 sacks. He had 134 tackles on the year. MLB Tyler Washburn returns after sitting out the spring recovering from knee surgery.
The Eagles lost their top three CB's from 2010. Ronald Baines, Jeremy Chaten, and Shane Stagg looked like the leaders coming out of the spring but the battle for starting jobs will continue in the fall.
SS Matt Johnson has started 38 straight games and is the twin brother of Zach Johnson who was mentioned above.. Matt has 15 career interceptions and is only three away from the all time Eagle career record. FS Jeff Minnerly lines up beside Matt.
EWU vs Washington
Eastern Washington is a very good football team that could give Washington trouble at times in the opener. Can the Eagles pull off an Appalachian State/Michigan style upset? Since they are the best that the FCS has to offer going into 2011 they are capable of it but I don't see it happening unless the Huskies completely self destruct via the multiple turnover route.
I think the Eagles will be competitive early and then the size, speed, and athletic ability of Washington will simply wear them down as the game goes on. Most of the focus going into the game will be on UW QB Keith Price who is replacing Jake Locker. Price is going to surprise people. He isn't the athlete that Jake Locker is...of course who really is...but I think he will end up being a much better college quarterback.
Washington 45 Eastern Washington 10