Continuity follows Best's hiring as Eastern Washington coach

(STATS) - Aaron Best's introduction as Eastern Washington's new coach Monday was a formality.

An introduction was hardly necessary because the soon-to-be 39-year-old is well-known and well-respected within the Eagles' nationally strong program, having spent 20 of the last 21 seasons as either a player or an assistant coach.

The first-time head coach, and 21st in Eastern Washington history after being promoted Saturday, succeeds Beau Baldwin, who resigned January 16 to become Cal's offensive coordinator.

In nine seasons under Baldwin, Eastern Washington won five Big Sky Conference titles and the 2010 national championship. He led three other semifinal appearances in six playoff seasons and compiled an 85-32 record, including 12-2 in 2016.

"Searches are about the right fit at the right time," Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves said. "You always try to look at some degree internally, and we're just so excited that the right fit was within our four walls at this stage of the game. Coach Best knows the DNA of our program after two decades."

"Words can't express my feelings. It's not even for the football, it's for the university," Best said. "The way it went down (doesn't) matter, it's the way we're going forward. And I'm glad Bill sees this as a seamless opportunity for us to continue continuity, along with (school president) Dr. (Mary) Cullinan."

Defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding, who last week was named co-interim head coach along with Best, is remaining on staff for a third season. But wide receivers coach Nick Edwards followed Baldwin to Cal, and offensive coordinator Troy Taylor and running backs coach Kiel McDonald left for positions at Utah. So Best is retooling his coaching staff as his program finalizes its recruiting class for national signing day February 1.

Along the way, Best will celebrate his birthday Friday.

Best played high school football in Tacoma before moving on to Eastern Washington. He played center from 1996-99, earning All-Big Sky first-team and All-America honorable-mention honors as a senior, and has been as an assistant coach since 2000 for all but the 2007 season, when he was the offensive line coach with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL.

As Eastern's O-line coach, he helped produce 14 All-America linemen from 2002-06 and 2008-16. The Eagles had to replace all five starters plus two key seniors from their 2015 offensive line yet this past season's offense set nine school records and was the FCS leader in passing yards per game (401), ranked second in total offensive yards per contest (529.6) and was third in average points (42.4).

"It's not going to change, but what I will say is that we need to be more balanced," said Best, who served as the running game coordinator as well as the program's long-time academic coordinator.

"We are still going to be pass-first and I took notes about how to throw the ball forward and maybe what routes to run, so we're not going to become a wishbone, triple-option veer team. So Eagle Nation, rest assured, we are still going to be explosive and fun to watch."

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