Eastern football wraps up fall camp with scrimmage

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

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The Eastern football team wrapped up its fall camp with a scrimmage on Saturday afternoon and ended the day by speaking with local media as part of media day.

Head Coach Kim Dameron said he was pleased with the camp’s results, as the Panthers prepare for their first game of the season on Thursday, Sept. 3, at Western Illinois.

“We made some decisions which we had to make, so I feel good about where we are as a football team,” Dameron said. “We need to get some guys healthy because we banged against each other for the last two weeks, but I feel good about where we are as we get set to prepare for the Western Illinois game.”

Senior linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill said facing senior quarterback Jalen Whitlow in practice can really help the defense compete against a dual-threat quarterback.

“It’s great, especially because our league has a lot of running quarterbacks,” Grugier-Hill said. “I would say Jalen’s probably the best running quarterback in the league. Practicing against him every day is going to get our defense ready, especially with the scrambles and the naked bootlegs.”

Whitlow had 140 carries for 792 yards last season in his first year as starting quarterback.

He returns in his senior year as 1-of-32 players who have been named as preseason favorites for the College Football Awards Performance Football Championship Subdivision National Performer of the Year Award.

Whitlow said he is looking to go into this season as not only a quarterback, but a leader as well.

“If we win, all these preseason accolades will take care of themselves,” Whitlow said. “I feel like we can take this school to where it’s never been before.”

The Panthers’ offense did not take any hits during the scrimmage on Saturday since the players were called down if the defender touched them.

Whitlow said he is looking for more consistency from the offense as the season progresses, especially at the line.

“We need to make sure we’ve got the right calls. We check a lot of things at the line, which takes time,” Dameron said. “We need to be physical up front and protect the passer.”

The Panthers’ offense scored a pair of touchdowns with backup quarterbacks Jared Pilson and Austin Green in the scrimmage. Pilson, a redshirt freshman, scored on a three-yard scramble, while Green, a redshirt sophomore, connected with redshirt sophomore wide receiver Addison Bounds on a long pass play.

Eastern enters the season ranked in many of the Football Championship Subdivision preseason rankings, but Grugier-Hill said those preseason honors do not necessarily mean anything at this point in the season.

“Well the thing is, the preseason is just numbers,” Grugier-Hill said. “We look at it, but obviously we want to be No. 1, and we’re not going to accept anything under that. We look at that and push every day to get better.”

Eastern has also been focusing on the mental aspects of the game, as well as the physical ones throughout the preseason. That includes Whitlow, who has been trying to learn from last season’s games.

“The mental aspects are important because you can never stop learning,” Whitlow said. “I’ve been watching tons of film in the offseason, rewatched every game, to see what I can do.”

 

Blake Nash can be reached at [email protected] or 581-2812