Eastern takes different direction in signing impressive class
Wed., Feb. 3, 2016
In almost every way, Eastern Washington broke new ground on National Signing Day.
Instead of an after-the-fact luncheon, Eagle coaches and fans enjoyed breakfast while high school football players pledged – in real time – to spend the next few years in Cheney.
Instead of coach Beau Baldwin doing all the talking, Wednesday’s event was emceed by sportscasters Larry Weir and Sam Adams; in turn, they introduced players and assistant coaches, who offered insight and humor to a standing-room-only crowd at Northern Quest Resort & Casino.
Most importantly, instead of offering another solid class of in-state recruits, Baldwin and his staff broke from the mold by going the extra thousand miles to land what’s being called one of the best classes in school history.
Of the seven athletes rated two stars or higher by recruiting services, all but one are from outside the state of Washington. Overall 10 of the Eagles’ 19 recruits are from out of state,
“There was an opportunity there, and next year it might be different,” said Baldwin, who typically gets up to two-thirds of his class from the Evergreen State. Baldwin said the Eagles start the process in Spokane and go from there – sometimes all the way to California, if necessary.
“You have to sign the best class you can,” Baldwin said.
The headliner is Eric Barriere, a dual-threat quarterback from La Habra, California, who is already being compared with former EWU All-American Vernon Adams Jr. In three years, the 6-foot, 190-pound Barriere threw for 9,304 yards and 130 touchdowns. He also ran for 1,718 yards while leading La Habra High to a 30-8 record.
“There was no question we wanted to sign a quarterback, but we wanted to make sure we signed the right player,” Baldwin said. “We did that with Eric. He was the top quarterback since we started the recruiting process, even before his senior season.”
Barriere gave his verbal last week. Baldwin said the process was less about salesmanship than about providing Barriere with “data” from Eastern’s rich history at quarterback.
“We showed him what our quarterbacks have done and what our offense has done,” Baldwin said.
The Eagles also flew south for two other three-star prospects. Running back Antoine Custer is a speedy, 5-8, 176-pounder from national power De La Salle High School in Concord, California. One day he may be following the blocks of another three-star recruit, Tigard (Oregon) offensive lineman Conner Crist.
Also in the fold are two-star running backs Jason Talley from Portland and Tamarick Price of Albany, California.
“We probably signed one more running back than we anticipated, but we signed all three who wanted to come here,” Baldwin said. “That’s a good problem to have.”
The Eagles also signed two touted receivers in Xavier James from Buckeye, Arizona; and Kyle Olson-Urbon from Gig Harbor, Washington.
As usual, Eastern recruited heavily for linemen, eight in all, with five on the offensive side.
“We were able to sign a lot of offensive linemen again, which was key,” Baldwin said. “I know we signed a great o-line class last year, but we needed great back-to-back classes to keep that depth and the numbers where they need to be.”
Only six players are on the defensive side. Baldwin said that’s because the Eagles already have “a lot more scholarship dollars invested in defense; meanwhile they lost seven offensive linemen to graduation and will lose wide receivers Cooper Kupp, Kendrick Bourne and Shaq Hill after the 2016 season.
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