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Eastern Washington backup QB Eric Barriere honing his craft and biding his time

Starting quarterback Gage Gubrud, center (8), and his backup, Eric Barriere, left, work in tandem during drills. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Starting quarterback Gage Gubrud, center (8), and his backup, Eric Barriere, left, work in tandem during drills. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The most-scrutinized player in Eastern Washington football probably won’t even see action in the season opener.

That’s the plan, anyway.

But Eric Barriere will be ready, come what may, on Sept. 2 in Lubbock, Texas.

“I’m just going through my progressions every week, just trying to get better,” said Barriere, the Eagles’ backup quarterback.

By all accounts, Barriere is progressing just fine under the Eastern coaches, but the offense remains firmly in the hands of returning All-American junior Gage Gubrud.

Unless the unthinkable happens.

Coaches are paid to think about that too, highlighting the importance of Barriere’s rapid acclimation to the college game.

The redshirt freshman from La Habra, California, is a three-star recruit with superior arm strength and mobility, and with all the promise in the world.

But he’s still 6 feet, 195 pounds of raw talent.

The stakes increased last spring when top backup Reilly Hennessey transferred to Central Washington, leaving Gubrud as the only Eastern quarterback who’s taken a collegiate snap.

Luckily, Gubrud got through 2016 with nary a scratch, though Hennessey bailed him out in a come-from-behind win over Northern Iowa in the home opener.

Experience will come soon for Barriere, hopefully with Eastern holding a comfortable fourth-quarter lead on Sept. 2.

The good news is that Barriere has been in the program for a year. After Hennessey’s departure, he stepped up the intensity in spring ball and carried it into voluntary summer workouts.

“I took it real seriously,” Barriere said. “I knew that nothing was going to be handed to me.”

Now he’s in the hands of quarterbacks coach Bodie Reeder, who’s also the offensive coordinator.

“We’re catching him up,” Reeder said. “Eric is such a unique player, you have to fine-tune your calls to cater to his abilities. But he’s been impressive in some tough situations.”

The most visible situation was the spring game in April, when Barriere was 11 for 15 for 137 yards and two scores to help the Red team beat Gubrud and the White team, 24-17.

“We hope that was a little taste of what’s to come,” said head coach Aaron Best. “He took some great strides last year.”

Best also has a keen in interest in Barriere’s development. They meet weekly, one-on-one, “talking about home, school, whatever’s on his mind,” Best said.

Best wants the soft-spoken Barriere to overcome his shyness. “We’re trying to get him to command,” Best said. “We want him to be loud and proud.”

“Physicality, that isn’t a problem,” Best said.

Also in camp are true freshmen Gunner Talkington and Nick Moore. With only two quarterbacks ahead of them on the depth chart, there’s a chance one could play.

Both Talkington (a 5-foot-10, 180-pounder from Battle Ground, Washington) and Moore (6-0, 180, Newhall, California) are “very cerebral and very tough,” Reeder said.

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