The Dearly Departed
Keith Price concluded a record-setting career at the University of Washington in 2013 by passing for 2,966 yards and 21 TD's against only 6 interceptions. He also added 5 TD's on the ground. After struggling in 2012 with a new cast of receivers and a porous offensive line, Price bounced back in a major way to lead one of the most efficient and effective offenses in school history. He leaves the Washington with a handful of season and career records, and ranks in the top 5 in just about every major passing statistic in Husky history, including leading the way all-time in TD's and passer rating.
There are fans that are critical of Price, and some of it is probably deserved. Maybe he held on to the ball too long at times. He just never seemed healthy in the second half of any of the three seasons he started (although that's probably true of most players). He didn't lead the teams to enough wins to ever approach the adoration of QB's past. But there were things completely out of his control that will likely keep him out of the conversation for "Greatest Husky Quarterback Ever." He belongs there. Arguably, maybe not at the top. But in the conversation.
Key Returning Players
Cyler Miles (RS Soph): 37/61 (60.2%), 418 YD, 4 TD, 2 INT 23 Rushes, 200 yards
Jeff Lindquist (RS Soph): No passes, 2 rushes, 10 yards
Troy Williams (RS Freshman): Redshirted and saw no game action
K.J. Carta-Samuels almost literally fell into the Huskies' lap very late in the recruiting process. The 4* (#23 at his position according to scout.com) regional Elite 11 competitor had committed to Vanderbilt in the summer of 2013, and was poised to follow his brother there. When James Franklin left Vanderbilt, Carta-Samuels decided to decommit and reevaluate his options. He was offered by the Huskies on January 19th of 2014 following an official visit, and committed three days later.
Carta-Samuels is very strong and athletic, and even though he is projected as a "pocket passer" in college by recruiting services, the double wing offense he ran in high school called on him to carry the ball about as often as he threw it. He has a high upside due to his athleticism, but he's fairly unrefined as a passer. He's going to need a redshirt season to process the complexity of a college passing offense. If he plays in 2014, it's a bad sign for the Huskies.
It's almost impossible to say that we really know how this is going to end up August 30th against Hawaii, and how much the player that takes the first snap actually matters once Cyler Miles' one-game suspension is served. Interviews with the coaching staff thus far in fall camp are mostly an exercise in "Talking About Quarterbacks for Two Minutes Without Actually Saying Anything." Both offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith and head man Chris Petersen have proven very adept at this. The practice reports mostly highlight single plays (both good and bad) from the quarterbacks without a great deal of detail about the entirety of the day for any (I'm sure this is by design, as Petersen has a history of playing things close to the vest). But if I had to bet some of my internet millions, I'd wager the coaches have a much better idea of the pecking order than they're willing to let on. But since they're not going for the next week or even 10 days, you, the lucky reader, get on man's opinion of what we know, what we think we know, and more than a few SWAG's based on the tiny bit of information available.
What we know (and maybe don't): Last year, under a prior coaching staff, Cyler Miles was ahead of Jeff Lindquist. We don't really know how big the margin was, but Miles was the obvious backup. In meaningful game action (not counting mop-up duty against Idaho State, ASU, Cal, or Colorado), Miles completed 31 of 51 passes for 317 yards, with 3 TD's and 2 INT's. His performance in the second half at UCLA was very good for a freshman playing on the road and with a deficit. He kept the Huskies in the game until desperation time when his final two passes were intercepted. It's tough to read too much from his start at Oregon State the next week in a shocker of a game that was dominated by Washington's defense and rushing attack, but Miles didn't make any mistakes, and he threw a nice 28-yard TD to Kevin Smith to close out the first-half scoring. He was mostly hum-drum in relief duty against BYU in the bowl game, but suffered from at least one drop and had a nice 32-yard run in the drive that lead to the Dawgs' final score.
I might be alone in the wilderness here, but I don't really think we have any real clue where Troy Williams stood in the pecking order last season. Baring a catastrophic injury situation, I don't think there was any chance he was ever going to see the field. So, maybe he was ahead of Miles. Maybe he was behind Lindquist. People that saw him throw in practice raved about his arm strength and his accuracy.
In virtually every preseason breakdown and prediction I've read the past few weeks, Miles has been anointed as the starter come the Eastern Washington game. It might very well be the case, but I take those predictions with a huge grain of salt because for the most part, they're based on the fact that Miles was the backup last year and are from people that aren't particularly close to the program. You can largely tell they're written from box scores and newspaper articles. We've got no idea what the new coaching staff thinks of the old depth chart. And since Miles missed the spring, we've really only have the past 10 practices, and the scant information that comes out of them, to judge.
Coming out of the spring, it seems like most people gave the nod to Lindquist over Williams from the one practice we got to see. I thought Williams looked a fair bit better in the individual drills, and it wasn't really a fair fight in the team stuff at the end; Lindquist mostly played with the first-string offense against the second-team defense while Williams mainly had the second-team offense going against the first-team defense.
The play on the field is going to determine who gets the start in week #2. With each practice, the impact of Miles missing the spring is lessened, and with rules changes that allow coaching staffs to have more interaction during the course of the summer, the sheer number of days available to work make the time between spring and fall more important than the spring itself in a lot of ways. That's my long-winded way of saying that if Miles isn't the starter, it won't be because he missed the spring.
Time for some SWAG's: I like Jeff Lindquist. I think it's tough to appreciate what his football "team" experience was like unless you understand the apathy of Mercer Island for football. The Islanders literally suited up 25 players for their varsity games. Lindquist was the biggest, fastest, strongest player on the roster, and there wasn't a close second. It was pretty obvious that the offense consisted of "Jeff, go win us this game." The crowd cheered louder for the marching band, all 250 members strong, at half time than it did for anything that happened on the field. The only teaching he had came from the work he did in the offseason of his own volition, notably with QB guru Steve Clarkson. Clarkson raved about Lindquist's coachability and fundamentals, but I believe that success is very important to reinforce that sort of coaching. And even though Mercer Island made the playoffs in Lindquist's senior season, Lindquist the "Best Athlete on the Field" was the primary reason why. That Lindquist has really only played quarterback on a "team" for the past two seasons I think is part of the reason that the game has yet to slow down for him the way it has Miles.
Both Williams and Miles played high school at perennial powers and for legendary coaches. They played with and against other FBS and FCS-caliber every day in programs that were expecting to win each week. In addition each of those two got the same individual offseason work that Lindquist did to refine their abilities as quarterbacks, but they had the benefit of seeing that work pay off in the form of state titles, city sectionals, and gaudy win-loss records. There's value in the confidence of that. Based as much as anything on seeing Lindquist in person, Miles on TV a couple of times, and just about all of the high school tape I could find on all three, Williams and Miles seem a little more "instinctive" at the position. That's nebulous, I know. But when you watch them play, they just seem to understand the game a little bit better. That's not a knock on Lindquist's intelligence by any means. But at the same time, I don't think it's something that can be taught. A lot like Jake Locker was as a Husky (and still is), Lindquist is coachable. He'll do what you ask as far as footwork, release point, etc. But he's a little mechanical, and seems to have to think his way through things instead of them just happening naturally.
I has a sad when I watch Miles throw the ball. It sure seems that someone along the way would've fixed his mechanics. He's shown the ability to mitigate them with tremendous anticipation in his reads and throws, but I can't help but think, "What if you combined that anticipation with a more compact motion?" Brett Hundley happens, that's "what if." It hasn't happened now, so it's probably not going to. I'm trying to get over that fact. But it's hard. His accuracy helps. A lot. I worry about what happens to that accuracy over the course of a season when he doesn't consistently get that extra fraction of a second he needs to get the ball out. Or the big boy throws he's going to have to make when he just can't generate the velocity he needs. The second pick against UCLA comes to mind...
I wish I had seen Williams play more to this point, because, man, his highlight tapes are impressive. He was ever-so-slightly more accurate than Miles was in high school, but with far more down-field throws. The ball just jumps out of his hand, and it looks like there's no effort involved (see the first pass on his Hudl highlights here as an example - 40 yards in the air on a rope). It didn't look like he wanted to run very much, but he made the most of it when he did, and was more than fine to just get out of bounds. He might trust his ability to thread the needle a little bit too much, which might not translate as well at the UW. He's not the biggest guy either, at 194 pounds right now.
Get Over Yourself Brad. Quit Being so Pedantic. Just Make a Prediction.
When it's all said and done, I think this race is going to come down to Williams and Miles. I'd feel comfortable if Petersen chose any of the three, but I think there's a little more in terms of upside with the other two. I think Williams starts the first game, and if he plays well, he could end up holding the position for a long time. If he doesn't, the competition will continue into the second week of the season, and maybe beyond.