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Is Gunner Talkington the next QB for the Eastern Washington Stallions? – Skyline Sports

By on September 24, 2022 0

Around the Big Sky conference, this was a main topic of conversation for almost 10 months.

Eric Barrière came out with a bang. The Eastern Washington record quarterback dropped, throwing a Big Sky Conference record 80 passes (and completing 47, both league records). He threw for 530 yards and five touchdowns in EWU’s 57-41 loss to Montana in the second round of the FCS playoffs last season.

Barrière finished his career with 13,809 passing yards and 121 touchdowns, setting the all-time record in both categories for the conference and an Eastern program that had as many historic quarterbacks as anyone in the the FCS.

So, one of the favorite conversations of the offseason centered around life after Barrier for the Eagles. Barriere, who won the Payton last season and earned Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year his past two seasons, is the latest quarterback signed by Beau Baldwin, a savant caller who helped develop many of the most prolific passers in Big Sky history. Baldwin also coached wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Kendrick Bourne, the former Super Bowl MVP for the Los Angeles Rams and the last starter for the Patriots.

Former Eastern Washington QB Eric Barriere, pictured here during the 2018 national title game in Frisco, Texas / by Brooks Nuanez

EWU entered this season without a marquee quarterback for the first time since Jordan West played ¾ of a season before giving way to future Walter Payton Award finalist Gage Gubrud. Barriere replaced Gubrud midway through Gubrud’s senior year and led the Eagles to the national championship game that season while Gubrud transferred to Washington State in the offseason.

EWU begins play in the Big Sky Conference for the first time since 2018 without Barriere’s name dotted atop the quarterback depth chart.

The loss of their quarterback is monumental,” said Montana State head coach Brent Vigen, who last season led MSU to its first win at Cheney since 2012. “I don’t know if you’d say a generational player, but he was player of the year in our division and he really made them last a long time.

So, by the way… who is Gunner Talkington?

Eastern Washington senior quarterback Gunner Talkington /by EWU Athletics

You may not know his name. But if the trend of the past two decades continues, Talkington is just the next to exploit Eastern’s Maserati. It’s a certainty that Talkington won’t match the 143 total touchdowns that Barriere contributed. But he will be absolutely A if not THE key if EWU wants to return to the playoffs for the 13e time since 2004 or continue its 11e Big Sky title.

“He’s a special individual,” Washington East head coach Aaron Best said. “He is a former walker who has become a full scholarship holder. Again, behind arguably the best and most illustrious career in Big Sky and Eastern Washington University history with Eric Barriere. The bar was therefore set very high. And he didn’t grab the bar to try to lower it. He knows it was set high for a reason and needs to stay high. And he seeks to achieve this.

And Talkington has a front-row opinion on Barriere, watching Barriere instantly burst onto the scene and then stay there, eventually starting 42 games at EWU. Eastern’s new quarterback is fully aware of the standard he’s trying to uphold.

“I don’t know how he makes half of those games,” Talkington said. “It was pretty amazing. Just watching him play the ball was great and it was nothing new for him. He was amazing.

It’s been hard to assess Talkington so far. He was the Great Sky Debuting Conference Offensive Player of the Week after amassing more than 400 total yards in Eastern’s 36-29 win over Tennessee State. TSU went 4-4 in the Ohio Valley Conference in Eddie George’s freshman season. Yes, that Eddie George, the former Heisman Trophy winner.

The following week was a 70-14 loss to Oregon without much takeaway other than Oregon being a Top 20 FBS team.

The only comparable mystery in the Big Sky is Montana State, the Eagles’ opponent this week.

Internally, the Eagles fully believe in the sixth-year senior turned full scholarship holder who entered this season with a career start.

It’s a very good footballing spirit,” Best said. “I think he understands what he’s capable of and takes calculated risks, but he’s also going to get rid of the ball when he needs to.”

Talkington showed good ability to move in and out of the pocket as well as a fast, high release that unleashes a ball with very good speed in the win over Tennessee State.

On Eastern Washington’s first possession, Talkington completed his first two passes and pitched incomplete on third down, leading to an EWU punt. On second possession, he threw first-down strikes at Efton Chism III and Freddie Roberson, Eastern’s top two receivers a season ago. EWU returned the ball soon after.

On Eastern’s third possession, Talkington continued to pitch in time and tossed Chism and Roberson. Then he hit second Nolan Ulm on the sideline with a nice back shoulder throw and a few plays later hit Ulm for a 7-yard touchdown to tie the game.

“He’s got a cannon,” Chism said. “His arm strength is insane. I don’t think people realize how strong his arm is. And very sneaky, he can run very well. We see it in practice all the time. A lot of people don’t see him, but he can really get out and run around a bit.

Talkington finished his first start, a moment he called “a real blessing,” 29 for 46 for 348 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for 60 yards en route to winning his first weekly award, an honor Barrière has claimed 12 times in his career.

“He put the ball in good places and just let us play, you know, he’s not trying to do anything out of character,” said Chism, who finished with 73 yards and two touchdowns. placing him over 1,000 yards for his career. two games in his sophomore year. “He just gives us the ball and lets us go.”

Eastern Washington wide receiver Efton Chism / by Brooks Nuanez

Montana State and Eastern Washington have engaged in a whole collection of offensively prolific battles over the years, especially the last 11 or 12.

One of the all-time classic games in Bobcat Stadium’s history, especially since the site’s renovation and expansion in 2010, came in 2014 when Vernon Adams and Cooper Kupp led EWU past Dakota Prukop and the Bobcats, 52-51. The following year, bettors appeared to be illegal and touchdowns came in a constant barrage as EWU set a Big Sky Conference record for yards per play and scored every time they touched football on the way to 55-50 win over MSU the following season at Cheney. .

These games perfectly characterized what Montana State and Eastern Washington were like. Of course, EWU goes into Saturday’s Big Sky opener against MSU at Cheney with a largely similar goal — spread the ball, play fast, eat grass (and yards) like a lawn mower, and turn on the dashboard.

But for the first time in a long time, the man playing quarterback in Eastern Washington isn’t all the men who came before him. But what else could he be but Talkington?

That’s what put Vigen on high alert in this weekend’s game.

“He has to become the best version of himself,” Vigen said. “And as a coaching staff and as a team, to kind of understand what it is, sometimes it’s hard, because I think you’ve had a guy like them for so many years, everything what you do is kind of modeled on his ability,” Vigen said.

“Their success depended so much on the plays he (Barrière) was making. The simplest thing is to say that if we can replace him with something as similar as possible, that’s the best thing. But that takes a lot pressure on that person to try to play like the previous person did, as opposed to, you know, how they can play.

Vigen has already answered questions. When he was the offensive coordinator for North Dakota State, people asked who would be able to match Brock Jensen. Well, even though Vigen left for Wyoming, Carson Wentz, Easton Stick and Trey Lance — all in the NFL now — led NDSU’s unprecedented run.

In Wyoming, Vigen’s next stop, they asked who would come after Josh Allen.

“In my experience, that next person has to be the best version of himself. And to that extent, I think the guys around him have to realize that and then probably raise their game up to that. I’ve been through this a few times.”

Eastern Washington senior quarterback Gunner Talkington /by EWU Athletics

Eastern has been living it since 2002 Big Sky MVP Josh Blankenship graduates. But who would be up to Erik Meyer? Matt Nichols. Who could ever compare to Nichols, the league’s all-time leading passer until Barrière broke the record? Oh, Bo Levi Mitchell, who led the Eagles to the 2010 National Championship and won the Payton Award the following season.

And all the way. Vernon Adams, Gubrud and Barriere maintained the string of QBs worthy of EWU’s Payton. On Saturday, Talkington will get its first test in the Big Sky Conference.

Is the Washington East No. 15 a contender or a contender coming off an early-season bye? Much relies on Talkington to find the best version of himself.

“I have to take what I’ve learned from previous quarterbacks, but all I can do is really be the best version of myself and try to help my team and put them in the best position to succeed,” Talkington said, speaking almost as if he was talking to Vigen. “So I think it’s just being the best version of myself and helping my team when they need me and helping when I need them.”

Montana State and Eastern Washington open the Big Sky game in Cheney at 2:00 p.m. MST Saturday afternoon.