After nearly 5 months of a 3-way quarterback competition we finally have an answer as to who will start against Kent State for the Huskies. And it’s who we just about all suspected as Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr. has won the starting job over incumbent Dylan Morris and redshirt freshman Sam Huard.
Michael Penix Jr. is Washington’s starting QB, Kalen DeBoer announces.— Christian Caple (@ChristianCaple) August 23, 2022
Despite this being his first season with the Huskies, Penix Jr. has the most experience working with Coach Kalen DeBoer. Deboer was the offensive coordinator at Indiana in 2019 when the 6’3 quarterback had his best season as a collegian. In 6 games with the Hoosiers as a redshirt freshman Penix Jr. completed 68.8% of his passes with 8.7 yards per attempt plus 10 TDs and 4 INTs. Penix Jr. isn’t a prototypical dual threat QB but he did add in 119 yards on the ground on 22 attempts plus a pair of rushing TDs that year. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury in week 6 against Northwestern and missed the remainder of that season.
Health has been the biggest issue for Penix Jr. throughout his career as he has never played more than 6 games in a season and suffered a season-ending injury each of the last 3 years. While Penix Jr. put up monster (albeit much less efficient) numbers in 2020 before his injury he struggled mightily last season throwing for only 5.8 yards per attempt with 4 TDs against 7 INTs. Indiana fired OC (and now UW TE coach) Nick Sheridan after the year so it’s unclear how much of the blame falls on Penix Jr. versus the offense that Sheridan ran which collapsed in every respect in 2021.
For now though Penix Jr. appears to be fully healthy and when that’s been the case in DeBoer’s system he has shown he can be an above average QB option. That is more in question for Dylan Morris and Sam Huard who will be the #2 and #3 options for now. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them listed as OR at 2nd on the depth chart but DeBoer said that for now Morris would be the next one in the game if something happened to Penix although Huard is right on his heels.
Last season Dylan Morris averaged 6.8 yards per attempt with 14 TDs against 12 INTs playing in the moribund John Donovan offensive system. That followed up what looked like a solid debut in the COVID-shortened 2020 season when Morris threw for 8.2 yards per attempt with 4 TDs and 3 INTs. While the system definitely hurt, Morris has thrown as many career interceptions as Penix in 5 fewer games and did not appear to have corrected his turnover-prone play throughout the spring and preseason practices. Meanwhile, former 5-star Sam Huard struggled mightily in his single start as a true freshman in the finale Apple Cup with 4 picks playing for an interim head coach and OC.
In the current era with freedom of movement in the transfer portal it has to be considered that one of Morris or Huard could transfer on the heels of this decision. A few years ago Washington had Jake Haener transfer just before the start of the season (ironically to Fresno State where he starred for Kalen DeBoer) after losing the starting QB job to Jacob Eason. There’s no longer much incentive though for a midseason transfer since Morris or Huard would be eligible somewhere else next year no matter what if that’s what they chose. Especially given Penix’s injury history it certainly makes sense (from our perspective at least) for the #2 on the depth chart to stick around and be one play away from reclaiming the starting job.
Penix Jr. is in his 5th season of college football but still has one year of eligibility remaining after this due to a redshirt and the COVID-19 mulligan. If he stays healthy and whether he decides to come back for a 6th year in 2023 will likely go a long way towards deciding what the rest of the depth chart looks like next season. The Huskies are bringing in South Dakota recruit Lincoln Kienholz in the class of 2023 to provide additional depth.