#16 Eastern Washington FCS Football 2022 Preview

Eastern Washington Eagles
Overall Rank: #16
#5 Big Sky
 Eastern Washington Logo
For a while during the 2021 season, it looked like Eastern Washington was destined for a great campaign. They started 7-0, which included a double-overtime win over UNLV. Back-to-back home losses to Weber State and Montana State, by a combined four points, put an end to their Big Sky title hopes. That cost the Eagles a bye in the playoffs too, but they fought past Northern Iowa in the first round before falling to Montana, a team they defeated earlier in the season, in the second round.
2021 Record: 10-3, 6-2
2021 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Aaron Best (41-17 at Eastern Washington, 41-17 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jim Chapin
Defensive Coordinator: Jeff Copp
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Justice Jackson, RB, 317 yards
Passing: Gunner Talkington, QB, 98 yards
Receiving: Freddie Roberson, WR, 779 yards
Tackles: Joshua Jerome, DL, 61
Sacks: Joshua Jerome, DL, 7.0
Interceptions: Demetrius Crosby, DB, 3; Marlon Jones, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR Efton Chism III, WR Jakobie James, WR Robert Mason III, TE Blake Gobel, OL Wyatt Musser, DL Mitchell Johnson, DB Ely Doyle, DL Debore’ae McClain, DB Anthany Smith, DB Tre Weed
Key Losses: QB Eric Barriere, RB Dennis Merritt, WR Talolo Limu-Jones, WR Andrew Boston, OL Tristen Taylor, LB Ty Graham, LB Jack Sendelbach, DB Calin Criner, LB Cale Lindsay
With the departure of quarterback Eric Barriere, who holds just about every passing record ever at Eastern Washington, there are some questions heading into the 2022 season. This is a program that has plugged in new quarterbacks with success over the years, but Barriere was special. Next in line is redshirt senior Gunner Talkington. He has been with the program since 2017 and has completed 32 of his 64 pass attempts for 365 yards and five touchdowns during that span. A talented group of receivers will help ease the transition. Freddie Roberson and Efton Chism III are both All-Conference honorees and Robert Mason III and Jakobie James are ready to step up. This should still be one of the most potent passing teams in the FCS, but how efficient they are could be the difference between a conference title and a team that has to win some big games in November to reach the playoffs.
With such a quick striking offense, the Eagles are going to give up some points on the other side of the ball. But this group has a ton of experience and should be able to take another step forward in 2022. The front four returns intact. Mitchell Johnson, Joshua Jerome and Debore’ae McClain are all dangerous pass rushers. The secondary has even more experience. Seven players in the secondary have starting experience, led by Anthany Smith and Tre Weed. It is at linebacker where there are big questions. Both Ty Graham and Jack Sendelbach are gone after earning All-Big Sky honors last season. Coach Aaron Best hopes that a handful of transfers can help fill the gaps.
The Bottom Line:
Eastern Washington has a lot of huge games early in the 2022 season. It is perfectly plausible that the Eagles start 1-0 with a win against Tennessee State and lose their five games. In that stretch, they play Oregon, Montana State, Florida, Weber State and Sacramento State. Those are three Big Sky favorites and, of course, a couple great FBS programs. And later they have to take a trip to Montana. There is not much margin for error and Eastern Washington better win some of those tough early games if they want to return to the playoffs for the third year in a row.
Projected Postseason:  FCS Playoffs
2021 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 155.2 (47th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 399.4 (3, 1)
Total Offense: 554.5 (1, 1)
Scoring Offense: 44.0 (2, 1)
Rushing Defense: 161.7 (74, 7)
Pass Defense: 221.5 (62, 5)
Total Defense: 383.2 (71, 6)
Scoring Defense: 27.8 (67, 6)
Turnover Margin: 0.85 (8, 2)
Sacks: 2.31 (42, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 1.85 (53, 6)