Washington received exciting news this morning as Indiana grad transfer QB Michael Penix Jr. announced on Instagram that he has committed to the Huskies. The 6’3 Penix Jr. will have 2 years of eligibility remaining.
Former Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr. has committed to Washington pic.twitter.com/dfuIt7oRbX— Max Olson (@max_olson) December 14, 2021
It looked like Fresno State QB and former Husky Jake Haener would be the obvious QB addition when he entered the portal (on the same day as Penix) a few weeks ago. However the fit due to schedule/credits/opportunity just didn’t quite work and Haener decided to return to Fresno. Penix was the next most obvious option since he was the QB when new UW head coach Kalen DeBoer spent 1 season as the offensive coordinator at Indiana and that simple pattern matching on the part of fans has come to fruition.
There’s no question that Penix thrived in DeBoer’s offense the first time around. As a redshirt freshman in 2019 Penix set career highs in almost every category completing 69% of his passes at 8.7 yards per attempt with 10 TDs and 4 INTs in 6 games leading Indiana to a 5-1 record. The past 2 seasons without DeBoer, Penix completed just 55% of his passes at 6.7 yards per attempt with 18 TDs and 11 INTs in 11 games although by far the worst of that came this past season. Pro Football Focus gave Penix an 84.0 grade in 2019 followed by 82.9 and 69.3 the past 2 seasons. For context, Dylan Morris had an 81.5 and then 67.9 grade the last 2 years so a very similar drop off in their 2nd year under a new OC.
Injuries have been a consistent problem for Penix and a right sternoclavicular injury in 2019 ended his season prematurely when he was playing for DeBoer. That’s in addition to ACL tears both in 2018 and 2020 as well as a sprained AC joint that ended his 2021 season early this year.
Prior to Penix’s arrival the Huskies had only 2 scholarship QBs on the roster (Dylan Morris and Sam Huard) and their QB in the 2022 class decommitted following the coaching change so depth at the position through the transfer portal was sorely needed.
However there are serious red flags around Penix. As noted above he has suffered a major injury in each of the past 4 seasons. Even if Penix ends up winning the job out of fall camp and becomes the starter the Huskies will need to feel very comfortable with their backup situation because history says Penix won’t make it through a full season unscathed.
There’s also the matter of Penix’s declining play. The optimistic view is that he’s a great fit for DeBoer’s system and that his stats the past 2 seasons are a result of playing under an OC whose tenure lasted about as long as John Donovan’s. The pessimist view is that so many injuries have taken their toll on Penix and that unfortunately we’re never going to see the blossoming star that appeared to emerge under DeBoer in 2019.
We’ll see what this addition means for the 2 quarterbacks already on scholarship: Dylan Morris and Sam Huard. It would not be a huge surprise to see Morris opt to transfer after Huard started the season finale following a year’s worth of struggles for Morris. However Penix, unlike Haener, seems much less assured to win the starting job and it would not be a surprise to see all 3 go into spring practices and see how they perform in the new offense before making any other decisions about the future.
Welcome to Seattle, Mike and let’s hope you’re able to recapture the magic found in Bloomington back in 2019. Go Dawgs!