This is the first of an eight-part series on spring football at Eastern Washington. Today: the quarterbacks.
Eastern Washington quarterbacks coach Zak Hill says he can feel the “newfound energy” in the team meeting room.
The spark was supplied on Feb. 9, when All-America quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. announced he would transfer to Oregon. Adams’ former teammates wished him well, then took an appreciative look at the revised depth chart; it showed that all four remaining quarterbacks had moved up a notch.
Not surprisingly, so have their aspirations for 2015.
“Everybody is fighting for a role,” Hill said Thursday on the first day of spring practice at Roos Field.
That echoes the words of head coach Beau Baldwin, who said he wanted to see a spirit of competition this spring, whether Adams was back or not.
The favorite is redshirt junior Jordan West, who started four games last year when Adams was sidelined by a foot injury.
Last year, the former walk-on completed 86 of 142 passes for 1,072 yards, nine touchdowns and just one interception while going 3-1 as a starter.
“I think that was huge for me to get those four starts under my belt,” said West, a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder from Maple Valley, Washington, who’s blessed with a strong arm and decent mobility for a big man.
“I have more confidence going into this season, but if I’m at the controls, it’s still 10 (other) guys out there,” West said.
Also in the mix is redshirt sophomore Conner Richardson, a 6-2, 215-pounder from Burien, Washington, who held for placement kicks. He completed all three of his pass attempts last season.
Both will be challenged by redshirt freshman Reilly Hennessey, who was a Gatorade Player of the Year at Camas High School in 2013. As a two-year starter for the Papermakers, the 6-3, 200-pound Hennessey completed 62.2 percent of his passes (364 of 585) for 6,188 yards and 64 touchdowns.
On the first day of spring practice last week, Hennessey was one of the first players on the field.
“I just want to go out and have fun,” Hennessey said. “I want to relax and play like I can, and keep that consistency where it needs to be.”
Hennessey said he learned plenty during his redshirt season, expecially the mental aspects of the game. “Taking the peaks with the valleys,” Hennessey said.
Also in camp is walk-on Gage Gubrud, a redshirt freshman from McMinnville, Oregon, who completed 59.7 percent of his passes (139 of 223) with 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions as a high school senior.
Said Hill, “I like where everybody’s at right now. What I want to see this spring is a clean operation and not a lot of mental errors.”
Coming Thursday: Part two, the running backs
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