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UWDP Roundtable: Post-Spring QB Thoughts

What does the QB battle look like now that we’ve made it through spring practices?

Indiana v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

After having watched the spring fling (that’s what I’m calling it cuz that’s more fun than “spring preview” or whatever), what are your quarterback thoughts? Are they changed at all from your presumptions beforehand?

Max Vrooman- I wrote some of these up in my notes on the site already but there were positive and negatives for all 3. Huard consistently looked the best all day but he also almost never was going against the #1 defense. It also meant he wasn’t working with the #1 offense mostly which we saw when he had a touchdown dropped by walk-on Nick Juran. But Huard showed touch and accuracy on his deep balls which is what we expected for him coming out of high school and was missing last year.

Penix was late on several throws one of which resulted in an easy interception for Alex Cook. For the most part though when someone was open he managed to find them and throw it to them accurately which wasn’t something that could be said about last year’s QBs. He took a couple early sacks where it looked like he forgot it was 2-hand touch for the QBs and was waiting to throw it away until the very last second. He made the adjustment later and got rid of it before the DL made contact. It sounds like from DeBoer that he had been great taking care of the ball the rest of the spring and so is probably still the favorite to start come the fall if healthy.

I thought Morris looked really good up until the moment he threw the ball. He had a lot of moments where he was constantly under pressure and evaded the rush, got outside the pocket, and found an open receiver. The problem was those throws were just slightly off target and didn’t result in completions. But other than that...Between DeBoer’s comments and the previous week’s open practice it was Penix, Morris, Huard coming into the preview and then Huard, Penix, Morris on that day. Hopefully it’s a confidence builder for Huard and he can at least challenge for the backup spot if not win it in the fall.

Gabey Lucas- Yeah Huard looked better than I was expecting. Granted, that might say more about me and my propensity to pump the breaks on expectations as a reaction to fans’ tendency to do the opposite (not exclusive to UW of course, but just fans of everything ever, generally).

I feel like you summed up Morris yesterday quite well — I thought he looked better than I was expecting up until the moment of, ya know, actually getting the ball to the target. I know people like to leave Morris analysis at “lol he sucks” but I think it’s wildly unfair to not actually look at his pluses and minuses at a more granular level, and within the context of Washington the last three years. IMO the spring game confirmed what we were mostly all thinking, that his opportunity to be a starter at Washington is effectively over — but I think it also gave some evidence that he doesn’t have to be a lost cause somewhere else.

Also think we were seeing the same thing on Penix re: a few throws not being on time. I’m quite glad DeBoer brought him in because he raises the floor of this group by a TON (given that with just Huard and Morris, the floor was pretty much nonexistent), but I feel like if Huard builds upon his spring game performance in fall camp that he has quite a legitimate shot at surpassing Penix. Obviously it’s just one scrimmage but I feel pretty good about both of them, and better about Huard’s progress.

Max- I also wasn’t at the Saturday practice from the week before but it sounded like from Coach B that Huard was by far in 3rd place that day. Still, it’s good to know that Huard is capable of having a good day where he looks the best of the 3 because then it becomes an inconsistency issue rather than a “just not all that good” issue. Progress.

Gabey- Yeah same, I think that’s why I was rather impressed with his showing Saturday.

Coach B- After watching the replay of the spring preview, my big takeaways from the QBs are pretty similar to the rest of you guys. Huard had the best performance on the day, followed by Penix and Morris.

Huard looked way more comfortable than he did at the previous open practice, and I think it has a lot to do with him getting longer stretches of snaps with the same receivers to find his rhythm. He made week over week strides in getting ball to the open receiver on time and on target and he also showed off his arm talent later in the scrimmage in targeting Junior Alexander.

The two have a strong connection from their Kennedy Catholic days, and the chemistry showed towards the end of the scrimmage when he repeatedly targeted Alexander. The QB aspect of a dominant QB-WR combo sometimes gets forgotten when an offense spoon feeds targets to a single WR, but back shoulder fades and over the shoulder fades are still tough throws for a QB to get right. Huard showed off his arm making those exact throws to Alexander. Alexander is probably the most talented receiver that was running with the 2nd group, and he looks like he has some of the most consistent hands on offense. I would be surprised if he didn’t break into the rotation this season.

One other thing that I noticed was that Penix and Huard also made solid throws under duress. They slid around in the pocket and made accurate passes with free runners in their face on several occasions. Penix is still slightly ahead of Huard in this area and in reading the offense (rather than focusing on specific match ups), but the gap seems to be closing.

To your guys’ point about Morris, I think he is still working through the mental scar tissue from the last two years. His stats looked a lot worse because of drops, and he showed off his arm talent rifling in passes into tight windows, but he took off much faster than the other two. This eliminates his safety valve options within the system and would make me hesitant about his ability to operate the offense long term.

Gabey- Yeah completely agree

Max- So with all that said, what is your vision for the best possible outcome for UW Football over the next 2 seasons with regards to the QB position?

My best case scenario is Penix wins the job in camp but definitely gets pushed by Huard who wins the backup job and seems to really have had the light come on for him. Penix stays healthy and has a monster year which convinces him to try to go pro rather than risk getting hurt again and Huard is ready to take over as the clear best option to start come 2023.

Coach B- I think my best case scenario is the same as yours. I’d add that our schedule is conducive to Huard getting reps throughout the year if the offense steps up like we think it will. On paper, our roster is talented enough to run up the score on Kent St., Portland St., and possibly one or two of the Pac-12 South teams on our schedule. If Penix wins the job and produces well on the field, but Huard keeps progressing over the course of the fall, then I’d expect us to be good enough on offense that we can get a healthy lead and get Huard 2nd half reps that should prepare him for taking over in ‘23.