Considering the damage Eastern Washington quarterback Gage Gubrud inflicted the last two seasons, Year 3 could be nightmarish for opposing secondaries.
But even if it isn’t, this much is certain: Gubrud’s decorated career in Cheney is over at season’s end.
The progression of Eric Barriere is making the All-American’s impending departure an easier pill to swallow for the red-clad contingent.
Barriere, a second-string quarterback getting some first-team snaps in practice this week, showed flashes of brilliance in 2017, winning his lone game as a starter at North Dakota and tallying 138 passing yards, a touchdown and 48 yards on the ground.
This past spring, Barriere completed 50 percent of his passes for 334 yard two touchdowns in scrimmage play.
The redshirt sophomore – one of the more decorated recruits in program history, a three-star talent from Inglewood, California – is among the Eagles’ most electric players, dangerous with both his feet and arm.
The game is beginning to slow down for Barriere as he goes through his progressions and makes the right reads. He’s substantially more confident than he was a year ago, he said, and wants to continue polishing his game.
“(I’ve been improving at) coverages and just understanding the whole field because as a quarterback in college, you have to know everything,” Barriere said. “The plays, recognized defenses, defensive line front, everything. I’m just mentally trying to improve my game.”
Gubrud, who’s tallied nearly 10,000 total yards in two years, said Barriere has made big strides.
“He’s progressed so far. He came in, like I did, not knowing much about defenses and came from an offense where you didn’t have to do too much but make plays,” Gubrud said. “But now he’s got the offense down. The only thing he needs to do now is take control of the whole offense.
“We all know what he’s got and his talent is off the top of the roof, just gotta let him get his chance and go out and play. He’s a great player and we know that.”
A big part of of Barriere’s progression has been watching Gubrud, he said
“He’s the All-America quarterback, so you have to look what he’s doing, because obviously he’s successful,” Barriere said. “I’m just trying to take knowledge from him while he’s here.”
Second-year quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Bodie Reeder is high on his capable backup.
“Eric is night and day from where he was a year ago, especially his command of the offense,” Reeder said. “He is a freakish athlete. He can do everything in the world that he wants to do, athletically, but now he’s starting to figure it out in his mental process.”
Gubrud and Barriere are the clear-cut 1 and 2, and redshirt freshman Gunner Talkington has been getting the most third-team reps.
“I have five Division I quarterbacks, and you only play one of them,” Reeder said. “There’s a lot of competition, but it makes them better.”
EWU opens its season Sept. 1 at home against NCAA Division II Central Washington.
Eagles ranked 9th
EWU checked in at No. 9 in the STATS FCS preseason Top 25, which was released Monday.
The Big Sky Conference preseason favorite Eagles were one spot behind rival Weber State, last year’s conference co-champion.
Montana was ranked 24th in the poll. Defending national champion North Dakota State and runner-up James Madison were voted first and second, respectively.
EWU has been ranked in several preseason Top 25 polls this summer, and as high as No. 4 by HERO Sports.
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