With the retirement of Cyler Miles and the transfer of Troy Williams, the Huskies once again find themselves entering the fall with little experience at the quarterback position and no clear-cut leader for the job coming out of the spring, although it seems that redshirt junior Jeff Lindquist holds at least a slight lead over redshirt freshman KJ Carta-Samuels, true freshman Jake Browning, and junior Tony Rodriguez (who wasn't enrolled for spring). There is certainly talent and potential in this group, but someone has to step forward to maximize it and give the Huskies better production from this oh-so-critical position in 2015.
Who's Gone (2):
Following the conclusion of the 2014 season, Cyler Miles took a voluntary leave of absence that extended through spring practices and in to the offseason. He ultimately decided to retire from football due to a hip injury that had plagued him since high school and apparently didn't heal properly after the surgery he had prior to enrolling at the University of Washington. Miles made the difficult decision that life after football was more important than a couple of more years on the field, and will remain as a student at Washington.
Miles' statistics in 2014 weren't bad by any stretch, but he struggled with some of the throws needed to fully open up the Husky offense. How much of that was due to his injury, his mechanics, or an overly conservative game plan has been the fodder for much offseason debate. He wasn't able to become a playmaker with his legs, almost undoubtedly due to the injury he played through all season. In every respect but the velocity he generated on the football, Miles was far more "young" than he was "limited," and his future was much brighter than his past.
Troy Williams made the decision to transfer immediately following his redshirt freshman season, and I really wonder how he feels about that decision given the way that the UW QB battle has gone since that time. By all accounts, including head coach Chris Petersen's, Williams had supplanted Jeff Lindquist as the backup quarterback by the seventh game of the season (after Lindquist was given the starting nod in game one while Miles served a suspension) against Oregon, and began what this author at least hoped was a bright future at Washington in game eight against Arizona State while Miles recovered from a concussion. But it wasn't to be, as game-time conditions included the all-too-common Seattle rain, but coupled with winds that reached more than 60 miles per hour that night. Williams struggled with the conditions, as all QBs would, but there seemed to be more than just the weather that he dealt with. Petersen was diplomatic in his comments about Williams, but after that night, he wouldn't see the field again, and announced his intent to transfer shortly after the conclusion of the season. Had he known of Miles' imminent retirement, many wonder if he would have made the same decsion ...
Who's Back (2):
|no statistics - redshirted the season
With Miles serving a one-game suspension for the UW's opener at Hawaii, Jeff Lindquist earned the starting nod. After finishing an efficient but unspectacular first half (outside of one very nice throw to John Ross), Lindquist and the entire Husky offense struggled to find yards either through the air or on the ground. As the pressure from the Warriors' defense front mounted on Lindquist, the game plan in the second half included more rolling pockets and true rollouts for Lindquist, and he never appeared to get settled. The complete lack of any help from the running game added - greatly - to this.
One game does not a career make, and many quarterbacks have struggled in their first action. So, as with Williams, that Hawaii game on the road isn't a great barometer for Lindquist moving forward. But that the offense struggled so mightily against such a weak defense was certainly disappointing.
Lindquist was brought in a couple of times to run the ball out of a pseudo-Wildcat look, and managed two touchdowns against Georgia State. He was also brought in to throw end-of-the-half hail maries on a couple of occasions, narrowly missing John Ross on the Frozen Tundra of the Palouse. (Side note: He threw a great ball to Ross - one of the best pure passes of the season - but that it was dropped shows just how difficult those long passes are to complete. Even against air. Or, in this case, the Cougar secondary. Just a low percentage pass no matter what.)
By almost every account, Lindquist has the lead for the QB position heading in to fall camp. The margin of that lead is up for debate. Lindquist possesses a very strong arm, and is a good runner. He seems to fit the Petersen Mold of protecting the ball and taking what the defense gives him. All of the physical tools are there. If the mental aspects of playing the quarterback position follow, then Jeff - who is an intelligent and well-grounded person - is poised to have two very good years leading the UW offense.
KJ Carta-Samuels redshirted the 2014 season, and picked up Offensive Scout Player of the Year honors. This spring, he was neck-and-neck with Lindquist, but likely finds himself on the wrong end of that battle at this time due to a slightly higher propensity to turn the ball over. Like Lindquist, Carta-Samuels possesses a linebacker's build, and was known for his abilities as a runner in high school more than as a passer. By all accounts, he's developing well in that regard, and if he can show a mastery of the offense in the fall, could usurp Lindquist as the starter in September. On the road. Against a good team. After not playing any real football for around 20 months. Gulp.
Who's New (2):
Jake Browning was the crowning jewel of Coach Petersen's 2015 recruiting class. And after a record-setting high school career that saw him throw for nearly 17,000 yards and 229 (!) TD's, he enrolled in time for spring practices at Washington. Browning isn't the running threat that either Lindquist or Carta-Samuels are, and to be quite honest, I was very surprised (pleasantly) to see him listed at 6' 2" and 205 pounds. But at the high school level, he showed very good pocket awareness and the ability to both slide and step up in order to buy extra time to get the ball down the field.
While his peers were trying to learn how to shave correctly (no, that peach fuzz goatee doesn't really work with your bone structure) and score dates for the prom, Browning was attempting to evade JoJo Mathis and keep the ball away from Budda Baker. And he struggled with interceptions this spring. But make no doubt about it, Browning is the future of Husky football. He just seems to "see" the game differently than any of the other QB's on the roster do. The biggest question for him is if the future is right now, or a year or two down the road. Many Husky fans really hope he's afforded the opportunity to redshirt, which is likely why ...
... Tony Rodriguez was added after National Signing Day as a late addition to the roster. An All-Conference performer at City College of San Francisco, Rodriguez committed in early June. He's a junior with three years to play two, so he may very well end up redshirting (and hopefully adding a pound or two to that frame). Rodriguez is a heady quarterback, as evidenced by the fact that of the 18 TD's he threw last year at CCSF (against only four interceptions), 11 came on audibles he called at the line of scrimmage. While not a true runner, Rodriguez is sneaky-athletic, and can use his feet. An apt comparison would be Jake Plummer during his time at Arizona State in the mid-90's.
While there are still significant questions surrounding this position for the Huskies, we'll start to get some answers in a little over a week's time (or not, since fans don't actually get to know anything about the team anymore). There's a substantial amount of talent at this position, but a dearth of experience. No matter who wins the job, a team that's living on the margins on offense needs positive play and an increase in production from the QB position in 2015 to meet the modest success of 2014. And since it's the offseason, and we're all filled with hope, here's hoping that a player emerges that can lead this team on and off the field.
Crisp, cool days like this one make me think of football. It's just about that time, folks. GO DAWGS!!!