2015 Year in Review
A three-way quarterback battle waged through the summer and into fall camp. While each of K.J. Carta-Samuels, Jake Browning, and Jeff Lindquist had his supporters here and elsewhere, the prevailing thought was that the (relatively) seasoned Lindquist would earn the nod heading into the first game, on the road, at Chris Petersen's old stomping grounds in Boise. But those of us that thought that (and I include me in that "us") were dead wrong, and true freshman Jake Browning was under center from game one, and for every game in which he was healthy.
The coaching staff asked very little of Browning in that first game, and Browning certainly didn't "wow" the Husky faithful with a story to be added to the annals of Husky lore. But he did show that the moment wasn't too big for him, and given the inexperience of the rest of the offense on the field that night, that might be the best you could realistically ask.
Browning made a handful of good throws early in the next game against the flagship university of our 51st state (that being Sacramento), but it was the final drive of the first half that really let Husky fans begin to believe that we had a bona fide quarterback on our hands. In 1 minute and 15 seconds, Browning executed a textbook two-minute drill, completing five straight passes for 89 yards, before Dwayne Washington plunged in from the one. On that drive (and really, throughout that game), Browning took advantage of a two-deep Hornet zone defense that allowed massive space in the middle of the field that tight end Josh Perkins was able to exploit for three catches and 61 yards. Yahtzee.
Browning by no means enjoyed a steady ride in 2015. As should be expected of any true freshman, he had his ups and downs as the season progressed, and showed that there's still a significant amount of work to be done moving forward. He lacks accuracy on his deep passes, although he had a receiving corps that didn't appear to offer much assistance in that regard. He frequently held the ball too long, especially early in the season and against top-tier defenses, and took sacks he could've avoided. Frequently, those sacks were for significant yardage, as he had a tendency to move backward or laterally in the pocket instead of forward. And Browning is at best a mediocre athlete, with mediocre arm strength. Since he plays the most glamorous position on the field, he was the primary target outside of Jonathan Smith for the struggles of the offense, even though many of the issues were due in no small part to the players in front of and along side him.
If you plotted the trend line for Browning's freshman season, the trajectory is most definitely upward. His best football was played at the end of the season, and any limitations he has were largely offset by his accuracy and anticipation in throwing the ball as or even before his receivers were coming out of their breaks. He showed a much better understanding of his reads and the offense in general as the season wore on, and it showed in the trust the coaches had in him to adjust plays at the line or even post-snap. While I personally don't like the comparisons to Kellen Moore's time at Boise State, they're apt; Browning is an extension of the coaching staff on the field, and has all of the tools to be an extremely efficient play maker as time goes on. He's the quarterback of the present, and of the future for the Huskies. When he leaves, his name is going to be all over the UW record books.
All of you that thought KJ Carta-Samuels would take the meaningful snaps behind Jake Browning, please raise your hands.
That Lindquist wasn't named the starter was a minor surprise, but that Carta-Samuels was the backup all season was definitely a shock. And while Lindquist appeared in most games in the (hopefully scrapped) wildcat role, it was Carta-Samuels that was given the unenviable task of leading the Dawgs on the road against a top-10 Stanford team. As was expected, he struggled. But he showed some toughness as a runner, and settled into the role as the game wore on. The experience he gained in 2015 should allow him to push Browning moving forward.
After that (typically) long-winded recap, here's what we said heading into fall camp last year:
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.
Who's Back, and Who's New
Husky fans breathed a sigh of relief when Browning chose to forgo the NFL draft and return for his sophomore season....
In what at least tens of Husky fans think is a mild surprise, KJ Carta-Samuels, at least to date, has elected to remain at the UW. I still consider this to be a somewhat fluid situation, but a guy, with his accolades, in the same class as the incumbent, frequently looks for playing time elsewhere. That isn't the case here, at least right now. And I'm happy about that.
This didn't get much run here or elsewhere (at least that I saw, and I'm far too lazy to try and look it up now), but this tweet from the recent UW combine is interesting:
This raises a lot of questions to me.
- Really? For his senior season?
- Is this actually true?
- Who's Kyle Waltos?
- What's a jersey shirt?
- How do I get one?
- Do all position groups have their own?