CHENEY, Wash. — Saturday at noon Eastern Washington will gear up for their annual red-white scrimmage, so it feels like now is a good time to delve into some of the big story lines heading into this game for the Eags.
First up, the maturation of Eric Barriere. Barriere stepped in last year after now WSU quarterback Gage Gubrud was injured against Montana State. Barriere did a phenomenal job, leading the Eags all the way to the national championship game.
If Gage hadn't have gotten injured last year, then we'd be in a middle of a quarterback battle this spring. Coach Best described the situation with Gage this past fall as a bit of a blessing in disguise for the team as they don't have to entertain questions about who their QB will be.
Barriere's teammates on both offense and defense alike seem to be impressed with what he's done so far this spring.
"He's a lot more poised back there at quarterback," said wide receiver Andrew Boston. "He still has the same explosiveness, the same ability to make plays. Just really stepping up and being a leader this year."
"His running. Just getting away. He's the hardest person ever to chase because he's just so elusive in every way," said defensive lineman Jim Townsend on what Barriere has improved upon. "I think Eric's looking good. His arm is always accurate and I think he's improving on his accuracy a lot which is good to see."
The second story line is basically the general maturation for the Eags. Last years squad had 27 seniors, which is an absurd amount. Thankfully for the team this year, they have 21 seniors, so they will have a fair amount of a experience to still lean on. The process of becoming a leader sounds like it is indeed still a process for the team.
"Having so many seniors on the team last year, it's almost as if you're not rushed to be in a real leadership role," said Boston. "This year, I feel like becoming a leader, that's one of my biggest goals as well. Not only just how am I playing on the field, but how am I getting my team more tight knit off the field as well."
"What the difference is in numbers, even though they're similar, is the voices within those 21," said Head Coach Aaron Best. "We'll continue to fine tune those guys in spring and over player-run practices in the summer to be able to have a little louder voices from afar out of those 21 bodies. They're stepping into a role they weren't part of last year, much like the 27 seniors who were in this role last year as well."
Finally the third story line of spring is the actual Red-White Game Saturday. It's probably the most fun of the spring scrimmages around the region as the teams are decided via a draft by the players. It definitely felt like a competitive atmosphere at practice this week, and Coach Best wants that to come out even more on Saturday.
"Fire. Passion. A little smack talking. Just having fun. It's a culmination of 15 practices," said Best.
"Red squad. Win. White squad you're going down," said Townsend with a chuckle. "The only goal I really see is everyone to perform because it's our final test."
"Think it just really sparks competition between the guys," said Boston of the Red-White Game. "You hear people as soon as we're split up into different teams you have guys who are rooting for the white team, or the red team as well. I think it's just a competition starter."