Eastern Washington quarterback Eric Barriere was named the Big Sky Conference’s preseason Offensive Player of the Year on Friday.
Barriere, who burst onto the Football Championship Subdivision scene in 2018 when he went from backup to helping the Eagles reach the national title game, was a third-team All-Big Sky selection the previous two seasons.
The redshirt senior is 16-7 as a starter with 6,300 passing yards and 1,219 rushing yards with 56 career passing touchdowns, 17 rushing touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
“He can run and he can throw, so you have to watch out for him because he can scramble at any second,” Cal Poly linebacker Matt Shotwell said on Friday during the Big Sky Conference’s virtual media day.
The preseason All-Big Sky team was released before players from the 13-team conference answered submitted questions in a video conference on Pluto TV. Coaches answered questions on Thursday.
Montana linebacker Jace Lewis was the Big Sky’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
EWU sixth-year senior offensive tackle Tristen Taylor was also named to the preseason All-Big Sky offensive team and Idaho linebackers Christian Elliss and Tre Walker were named to the defensive team.
Barriere and Elliss represented their schools in the virtual media session. Here are some of the questions they answered.
Eric, what should we expect to see from you in your senior year?
Barriere: My ultimate goal is to keep on getting better. I was good for the most part in 2019, but I was lacking things, so I think I want to improve my completion percentage and just be more dominant. Take over the game and not think too much.
Eric and Christian, what do you hope to help EWU and Idaho accomplish this season? Personal goal and team goal.
Barriere: Team goal is to win the Big Sky and get back to the national championship game, because I want to win it. Personal goal is to win player of the year ; I want to win the Walter Payton Award.
Elliss: I want to be an All-American. Team goal is to win the Big Sky, make the playoffs and do better than we did last year. A personal goal is to force more turnovers and get the ball back to our offense.
Christian, what’s been the missing link for Idaho in its return to the Big Sky the last two seasons?
Elliss: Honestly, I would say it’s a sense of leadership, a sense of someone taking command and be able to drive our team forward. There were definitely some leadership issues that I know coach (Paul Petrino) and some of the others leaders on the team have been focusing on, so hopefully this year we’ll turn it around.
What will Idaho need to do to become a title contender?
Elliss: Our defense needs to stay on top of it. It needs to not allow as many points as we did this past season. We’re getting everybody back except for two defensive backs, and we have some new DBs that came in, so hopefully, as a defense we can focus on shutting down offenses. Keep our offense on the field.
Eric, why is it so hard to win a road game in the Big Sky?
Barriere: I do not know, because we definitely struggled with that last year. Any team can go out there and lose on Saturday. For us, I know it was definitely hard. We’d go through a week of practice, then Saturday came – hell. But it’s all good.
What was the hardest part of not having spring football?
Barriere: Not being with my teammates and not having that spring ball, especially as a senior. I was looking forward to that spring ball. And just not knowing what to expect with everything that is going on.
I remember when I left (to visit home in California) before COVID-19 started, I only took two weeks’ worth of clothes with me and I ended up staying for three months.
What team in the conference gives you the hardest time?
Elliss: Montana, every year. They’re always our Achilles’ heel. Every other team, we can have a good plan for them, do all that stuff and play well. But some reason Montana gets under us.
Barriere: Weber State. In my first start at Weber, they tore me up. I look at them as the defensive (leader) in the Big Sky.
Where is your favorite place to play in the Big Sky?
Elliss: Montana and Idaho State. Montana has the iconic stadium that’s fun to be in, and there’s just something about Idaho State with that entrance and the way they turn off the lights.
Barriere: I like playing at Sacramento State and Cal Poly. I’m a California dude, so I like having my family there to support me.
Who is the most dynamic player in the conference you’ve gone up against?
Elliss: The biggest pain is (Barriere). I remember our game last year in the fourth quarter, we start pass-rushing and he just kept running sideline to sideline, and I’d be chasing him. I just got tired. This dude just needs to stand still so I can sack him.
Barriere: I’d probably say (former Montana linebacker and current Philadelphia Eagle) Dante Olson or (former Sacramento State defensive end and current Cleveland Brown) George Obinna. He was a big boy.
Which team in the conference do you enjoy beating the most?
Elliss: I’d say Montana, but we haven’t done that since I’ve been here. So I’d say Eastern Washington. That was a game I enjoyed winning.
Barriere: I know we didn’t beat them last year, but it would be Montana, or Portland State since it’s kind of a rivalry game.
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