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Spring Football Preview: Quarterbacks

Sign this petition to get Uncle Rico as QB1. He’s still got eligibility left, right?

Washington v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Hi friends. If you’re reading this, that means you almost made it an entire 13 of an offseason since college football ended, and you should be proud of yourself that you’ve avoided a football-withdrawal breakdown this long. Pat yourself on the back. Unless you haven’t avoided a football-withdrawal breakdown, in which case... well, mental health is important so you have nothing to be ashamed of. Pat yourself on the back anyway, yo.

Luckily, we’re almost to spring practice and today we’ll be talking about the quarterbacks.

I present to thee...

The Starter

Sure, people love to talk about the possibility of a True Freshman Wunderkind Extraordinaire™ magically winning the job over a three-year starting incumbent and then having the arm strength to run Four Verts every play but, let’s be real, that’s not happening. As human people with moderately-functional critical thinking skills, we all know the battle this year (and, realistically, 2019) is for QB2.

As far as QB1, we pretty much know everything there is to know about Jake Browning at this point. We know his strengths, we have clearly made our opinions known on his weaknesses, and we love pointing them out the Monday after a game. A lot.

Regardless, save a big ol’ shake up, he’s our starter and it’s not too intriguing. I suppose we could be watching to see if he’s put any more zip on his throws, but he’s not gonna be back at spring practice spinning it 60 miles per hour on drag routes all of a sudden.

Moving on.


We thought he was in Westwood but it turns out he’ll now be at...

Good luck KJ!

Which brings us to...

Who’s QB2?

Since KJ’s gone and Jacob “Can Throw a Football Over Them Mountains” Eason has to redshirt per NCAA transfer rules, it gives us these possibilities for Browning’s immediate backup:

  • Redshirt sophomore Daniel Bridge-Gadd
  • Redshirt freshman Jake Haener
  • True freshman Jacob Sirmon
  • True freshman Colson Yankoff

It appeared last season that Haener had passed up DBG as the third string despite the latter’s seniority, so this spring is a month-long opportunity for him to solidify that position. From what Haener’s shown so far, he’s pretty much a Jake Browning-lite — accurate, undersized, not gonna wow you with physical tools, but also without the “I Was a Big Old Deal QB in High School Who Makes #EveryThrow and — oh Crap I Just Threw a Stupid Stupid Pass Into Quadruple Coverage” Syndrome that frequently accompanies young, more imposing quarterbacks.

In other words, for half of you he’s your nightmare quarterback and for half of you he’s great, depending on your take on this offense.

And although it makes much more sense that either of the true freshmen will end up taking the reins in the long run, there’s two big reasons (besides just being older) that Haener has the upper-hand as far as winning the backup role for the 2018 season.

For one — and almost nobody on here needs reminding of this — there’s a big fat learning curve going from quarterbacking in high school to a Power Five program, both mentally and physically. We’ll see some of what Yankoff and Sirmon can do this spring against better competition, but it’s common sense that neither will likely be “ready” as a quarterback in the Pac 12.

The second factor is the arrival of Eason from Georgia, who will presumably be the starter in 2019. Granted, it’s possible that Sirmon/Yankoff beat him out a year and a half from now, but let’s just assume, for this analysis’ sake, that that won’t happen. (Sirmon and Yankoff are both fantastic recruits, but the chance of two redshirt freshmen beating out a guy who started 13 games in the SEC and was a better prospect coming out of high school is... unlikely.)

So — let’s say either Yankoff or Sirmon does prove during Spring that he adjusts quickly to the college game all while having better tools than Haener. Even so, it all but certainly wouldn’t be by much.

And while it’s true (or at least, coaches like to say it’s true) that the quarterback who plays will be “the guy who gives us the best chance to win,” it would be pretty darn stupid under normal circumstances to burn a player’s redshirt — sacrificing an entire season off of someone who’s potentially the face of the program in the long run, all while he’s not even close to developed — just to get that .5% better performance from the offense, when presumably this hypothetical Sirmon/Yankoff wouldn’t even be starting in 2019 since Eason will almost certainly be a better choice by then.

Long story short, Haener will probably end up QB2 this season. He’s only six feet tall and barely 200 lbs, but I expect to see him showcase why he’s the quintessential Petersen quarterback this spring; not super exciting, but smart, accurate, and good enough physically to get the job done even if his physical ceiling limits the offense’s explosiveness.

Before we finish, however, I feel like I’ve mentioned Colson Yankoff and Jacob Sirmon enough times without actually introducing their skillset, although they’re both highly-touted enough that most of you probably don’t need a re-hash of that. (If you are well acquainted with what these two bring to the field, by all means feel no obligation to keep reading. Otherwise, continue on.)

For those of you who didn’t obsessively follow these guys during recruiting, here’s the basics of what you need to know:

Jacob Sirmon is a local from Bothell who committed to Washington approximately One Billion Years Ago™ in 2015. If you’re looking for a simple comparison, he’s a lot like Eason give or take a couple details — a big dude (6’5” 225 lbs) with a big arm who makes big throws. Unlike Eason, he comes from a high school offense that put him under center a bit more and is probably a bit more mobile (file that under the “pros” category) but he also was less accurate coming out of high school (aaaand file that under “cons”). If there’s something to watch with him this spring, it’ll be his decision making and accuracy against this fast of a defense; if I had to put money on it, he’ll have a significant learning curve when it comes to finding out that — although he physically can huck it 60 yards every play — he shouldn’t, and that check downs and intermediate throws are his friend.

Then there’s Colson Yankoff, a not-quite-local-but-pretty-much-local from Coeur d’Alene who’s the Huskies first Idahoan QB since Cody Pickett. He’s almost as tall as Sirmon but is a bit leaner and much more mobile, although he doesn’t have the rocket arm that Sirmon has either. Although Sirmon fits more traditionally into a Coach Pete-led offense, Yankoff’s ability on the ground — he had one of the top five times in the pro agility drill at the Husky combine a few weeks ago (as a freshman. And a quarterback. I mean WTF, mate?) — would add a huge dimension if he ends up leading the offense in a couple years. Watching him in motion reminds me a lot of Colin Kaepernick; he’s not necessarily the fastest guy on the field, but he’s speedier than his long strides look to defenders, who subsequently often misread him, take a bad angle, and once they’re left behind are rarely able to catch up.

Whatever happens this spring, you can put money on one thing: A bunch of dudes named Jake are gonna throw a lot of passes.

Heard it here first.

Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.