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Why WSU QB Zevi Eckhaus committed without taking a visit — and why he’s glad he did

PULLMAN – Zevi Eckhaus had everything set up for his flight to Alabama, the site of Jacksonville State, where he had signed to play football.

The former Bryant quarterback was ready to move on, ready to play at a higher level, when his phone rang.

On the other end was Ben Arbuckle, Washington State’s offensive coordinator, making a push for Eckhaus in January.

“We’ve got an open spot,” Arbuckle said. “We’re looking for a guy. It’s an open competition. Do you wanna be the guy?”

“I wanna say it took me less than 24 hours to get back to him,” Eckhaus said. “I might have just slept over it.”

The next day, Eckhaus rearranged his plans. He decommitted from Jacksonville State – transfer portal players don’t enter binding agreements until they enroll on campus – and signed with WSU. Without taking a visit to Pullman, without a guarantee he would see the field next fall, Eckhaus became a Cougar.

“I think it’s just the name, the reputation that this school has,” Eckhaus said. “They’ve obviously produced a lot of great players. We have a couple players that are going to be in the (NFL) draft this year. The name speaks for itself. It was an opportunity to put myself in a great position as an athlete.

“I feel like, whether you’re a high school athlete, or Pop Warner, or whatever it is, I think every kid’s dream is to play (Power Five) one day, and I was given that opportunity. I was very fortunate, and I couldn’t pass that one up.”

Washington State may not enjoy the Power Five status the way it did for the past century – WSU and Oregon State are using a two-year grace period to attempt to rebuild the Pac-12, playing as Mountain West affiliate members next season – but it did have enough status to lure Eckhaus to Pullman.

In Eckhaus, the Cougars landed an agile quarterback, last season’s Big South-OVC Offensive Player of the Year, a finalist for the 2023 Walter Payton Award, which goes to the top FCS player in the country. Eckhaus matched the school record for single-season touchdown passes last season with 28. He’s also the school record holder for career touchdown passes, total offense and completions. He spent three years with the Bulldogs (2021-23), starting nearly all three seasons.

Last season, the 6-foot-1 Eckhaus completed 238 of 379 passes (62.8%) for 2,907 yards, 28 TDs and seven seven interceptions, leading Bryant, of Smithfield, Rhode Island, to a 6-5 record.

During WSU’s spring practice schedule, including the ninth installment on Saturday, Eckhaus has been taking reps mostly with the second team. Rising junior John Mateer, the incumbent at the position, has been working with the first team, signaling he is likely in the lead for the starting spot at the moment.

But Eckhaus may not be far behind. This spring, coaches have worked with Mateer on limiting interceptions, which he did in the practices that followed. Coaches added that Eckhaus offers a slightly different skill set, a mobile quarterback compared to the pocket passer Mateer.

Receivers like rising sophomore Carlos Hernandez also note there’s a difference between the two quarterbacks – Mateer throws a harder ball, Hernandez said – but WSU coach Jake Dickert has taken care to note that nobody’s job will be won during the spring.

That’s good news for Eckhaus, who said he’s still adjusting to football with the Cougs, still adjusting to Arbuckle’s schemes and calls. It may be a learning curve – “Just asking as many questions as I can to try to learn the verbiage, the terminology, to improve my game and help everybody else around me,” he said – but he’s enjoying the process.

“The Air Raid is really fun,” Eckhaus said. “Coach ‘Buck’ loves to throw the ball. Obviously, we have a great run game. Our O-line does a great job. The run obviously sets up the pass.”