(STATS) - It's been business as usual during Eastern Washington's spring practice. The offseason hiring of longtime assistant Aaron Best as head coach has brought continuity to a team that is replacing an outstanding senior class.
As departing All-America wide receiver Cooper Kupp said during the brief period between former coach Beau Baldwin leaving for a position at Cal and Best's promotion, the returning players weren't going to accept anything below the usual standard of offseason preparation.
Best, who has spent 20 years in the program as a player or coach, has noticed.
"I love this team, I really do," he said. "I told them I really liked 'em in the winter. I was kind of in the dating phase in the winter when we were in the winter conditioning phase. Then I kind of blushed a little bit when I told them I was becoming kind of in the lust phase with them. I absolutely love this team. You look at these guys' eyes and they want to play, they want to compete, they want to wear the red and white, they love this university and we love them."
Eastern will conclude the spring with its annual intrasquad game Saturday at Roos Field. Best is keeping a similar offensive system with quarterback Gage Gubrud at the controls and defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding stayed on as part of Best's coaching staff.
Last year's team won a share of its fourth Big Sky title in five seasons and reached the FCS semifinals in a 12-2 campaign. The big losses are at wide receiver and on defense.
"They've been really solid up until this point in terms of the controlled chaos we present during the week and then on Saturdays (with scrimmages) taking it to their own level," Best said.
"The better we are on one side of the ball, the better we'll become on the other side. And that's what competitive teams do."
The first month of the Best era will be challenging. The Eagles have visits to Texas Tech, Fordham and Montana and a home game against North Dakota State.