Spring practice officially kicks off today so let’s start with the most intriguing position on the team, QB. It’s important to remember that spring is more about teaching technique and running through drills than doing full team work and installing plays (though some of this will happen, of course). So while we’re all fairly certain that Jacob Eason will win the starting job, I wouldn’t expect to hear much from Petersen in that regard. In fact, I’m sure Petersen will make us beg and we won’t know the starter until the last possible moment.
A reminder of who’s in the QB room under coach Bush Hamdan:
- Rs. Junior Jacob Eason: 6-6, 228 pounds
- Rs. Sophomore Jake Haener: 6-0, 196 pounds
- Rs. Freshman Colson Yankoff: 6-4, 210 pounds
- Rs. Freshman Jacob Sirmon: 6-5, 235 pounds
- True Freshman Dylan Morris: 6-0, 195 pounds
And another reminder of the combined UW stats for those signal-callers: 9/13, 107 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. Those numbers all belong to Haener, and most of them from one game which we probably all remember too well but would rather forget (but we still won the Pac-12 so Cal can suck it). Eason has his freshman year in the SEC which will no doubt serve him well, but he hasn’t posted any UW stats just yet. Yankoff and Sirmon are coming off redshirt years and are no doubt eager to make their mark on the QB competition. Dylan Morris, as the early entrant, is probably destined to ride out this season as a redshirt.
Let’s get into it.
The Eason Effect
He actually transferred and sat out a season. Can you believe it? Since he wasn’t eligible last year, his reps in 11-on-11 team periods were limited—they were given to Browning and Haener, since they actually could play in games. Now, though, we’ll finally get a real glimpse of the former 5-star Georgia transfer to see what he can do at the reins of the UW offense. We know he has the arm talent to sling the rock wherever he wants, but is he accurate? How consistent is he? Can he read a defense? Does he have chemistry with UW’s young, talented receivers?
Petersen won’t reveal much in terms of a QB pecking order, I’m sure, but all eyes will be on Eason this spring, and we should get a decent idea of how ready he is after 15 practices with plenty of first team reps.
It’s Haener Time?
While Eason is the odds-on favorite, Haener was last year’s backup. He has experience in UW’s offense and is a guy Petersen likes. I’m sure it will be a genuine competition, and Haener won’t go down easy, but if Jacob Eason is who we think he is, how much of a chance does Haener stand?
He’s got the fire, and he plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’s also keenly aware of the outside perception of the QB competition. After great reviews from a strong 2018 fall camp, he didn’t play well in the one meaningful situation he was thrust into (it was a tough situation and probably the wrong choice from Petersen, but he owns that pick-6). So again, while we won’t know the official QB depth chart after spring, we’ll get plenty of opportunities to assess Haener’s ability as either QB1 or a serviceable backup.
The big question is, does spring practice set up for a true Haener vs. Eason winner-take-all QB competition in the fall? Or do the next 15 practices simply cement Eason as the clear choice?
Roles for the Rest
That leaves Jacob Sirmon, Colson Yankoff, and early enrollee Dylan Morris. Let’s just put Morris away for the time being; he’s going to redshirt this year and could factor into the competition in 2020, or 2021 more likely. Jacob Sirmon is really intriguing with size, arm strength, and athleticism. We should all be hoping to see improvement in his game: accuracy, understanding and reading defenses, and limiting turnovers. While Haener is the likely favorite to “win” the backup job, Sirmon and fellow redshirt freshman Colson Yankoff could nip at his heels with strong spring practices. Both Yankoff and Sirmon should get long looks with the #1 offense to assess if they’re viable candidates for the QB2 role.
But more than likely, we won’t see Sirmon in the 2019 season while he continues to develop. The same could be said of Colson Yankoff, but his athletic traits are hard to ignore and he could carve out a role for himself. Jeff Lindquist made it onto the field as a depth QB, so I don’t see why Yankoff can’t as well.
In the recent Husky combine, Yankoff took home top honors in the 3-cone drill (6.5 seconds exactly), besting Kyler Gordon and Myles Bryant. He was also fifth in vertical leap. Petersen has shown a willingness to find roles for talented players who put the team first and who otherwise can’t crack the depth chart, and Yankoff may fit that role. Who knows how much of that we’ll see in spring, but if they plan to play him in the fall, we could see glimpses.
The final nugget I’ll leave you with is: as I write this, Jake Haener just threw the first interception of spring camp, picked off by true freshman LB Josh Calvert. GO DAWGS!