Washington made a major addition to their quarterback room for 2024 when they received a commitment from Mississippi State transfer Will Rogers. The 6’2 Mississippi native is the second leading passer in SEC history with 12,315 career passing yards, trailing only former Georgia QB Aaron Murray, and has thrown for 94 TDs against 28 INTs. This is his final season of eligibility. The news was first reported by ESPN's Pete Thamel and that story was reposted on Rogers' IG page.
NEWS: Former Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers tells ESPN that he’s committed to transfer to Washington. Rogers is the SEC’s No. 2 all-time passer with 12,315 yards. He has one year of eligibility remaining. pic.twitter.com/TIWOrNb1pG— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) December 16, 2023
It seemed likely that Washington would choose to look for another veteran option in the transfer portal this offseason after Heisman candidate Michael Penix Jr. runs out of eligibility. Upcoming 6th year senior Dylan Morris would’ve been the presumptive favorite among the remaining options as a former two-year starter during the Jimmy Lake/John Donovan era. It became clear how the coaching staff felt though once Morris entered the portal before Rogers had committed.
Four-star Austin Mack redshirted this past season after enrolling in college at Washington at age 17 this fall. It would make sense if the coaching staff assured Mack that the plan is for him to take over the reins after one more year of development behind Rogers given that he should’ve been a high school senior this past fall anyways.
The Dawgs also added San Diego State transfer William Haskell this past offseason and are set to have incoming three-star freshman Dermaricus Davis on the roster as well.
Rogers was a mid-three-star prospect coming out of high school in the class of 2020 and the 24th ranked pro-style quarterback per the 247 Sports Composite. Rogers played in an air raid style offense in high school and had 3,500+ passing yards with 38 TDs and 3 INTs as a senior. He committed very early to home state school Mississippi State but had an offer from Washington State and Mike Leach. It was coincidence though that the day that Rogers enrolled early at MSU was the same day that Leach took over the coaching vacancy there and brought his air raid system to the SEC.
In the shortened COVID season, Rogers played as a reserve from day one and struggled initially with 4 interceptions in his first 3 games. But he settled down once becoming the full-time starter in their 4th game and finished the year with 10 TDs and 3 INTs the rest of the way. His best year though came as a sophomore when with a full offseason as the starter under his belt Rogers threw for 4,687 yards with 36 TDs and 9 INTs. He still only averaged 6.9 yards per attempt because of the nature of the air raid but earned an elite 88.4 PFF grade.
His numbers dipped as a junior throwing for just under 4,000 yards with one fewer touchdown and interception. But the advanced numbers got much worse. PFF charted him with 14 Big Time Throws (downfield into tight windows) versus 19 Turnover Worthy Plays after putting up 27 and 14 respectively as a sophomore. The number of passes batted down at the line of scrimmage also more than doubled.
Sadly of course, Mike Leach passed away after the 2022 season and new head coach Zach Arnett chose to veer away from the air raid in hiring away Appalachian State’s OC. It didn’t go very well. Rogers had a few standout games against Arizona and South Carolina but struggled against the best SEC teams on MSU’s schedule. He combined to complete 48% of his passes on 3.8 YPA combined against Alabama and LSU.
A shoulder injury against Western Michigan knocked Rogers out for several games and he returned for the final 2 games of the season to complete 56% of his passes on 5.3 YPA. Overall, Rogers finished the year with 1,624 passing yards on 6.8 YPA with 12 TDs and 4 INTs. Head coach Zach Arnett was let go after just the one year and replaced with Oklahoma OC Jeff Lebby to improve the offense.
There are certainly both reasons for hope as well as red flags in Rogers’ resume just as there were with Penix when he transferred in from Indiana. Penix had a history of injuries and struggled outside of a certain system. It just so happened though that system was specifically Kalen Deboer’s and he always had all the physical tools.
Rogers is also a system quarterback and that system has been the air raid. He is certainly still capable of throwing the ball downfield but Rogers has never had an average depth of target higher than 8 yards downfield. Penix has never had an ADOT lower than 10 yards downfield. Those 2-3 yards make a big difference in how an offense functions. If Rogers wins the job then expect a lot more short to intermediate throws next year. That may not be a terrible idea with YAC merchants Germie Bernard and Giles Jackson expected to be prominently involved.
The other worry point with Rogers is his mobility. Post-knee injuries, Penix is definitely not a dual threat quarterback. But he is mobile enough to navigate the pocket and is superb at throwing the ball away rather than getting sacked. The only season that Penix was sacked on more than 10% of pressures was his last in Indiana in a largely broken offense. Meanwhile, Rogers has been sacked on between 18-25% of pressures every year of his career. He’s a true statue in the pocket and UW will be relying on a much better pass blocking offensive line to keep him upright.
Still, this is a quarterback with over 2,000 dropbacks playing in the SEC. He has played against dozens of future NFL stars and seen just about every defensive look you can throw at a quarterback. You can be sure that the coaching staff spoke with RB Dillon Johnson who played the previous 3 years with Rogers as his QB and the MSU S&C coach who used to play linebacker under DeBoer to make sure that he is a fit. Expect the Huskies to do a lot more throwing underneath and over the middle next year than they did this season if Rogers is at the helm.
This is likely the first of many transfer portal additions this offseason as Washington expects to lose so many key contributors including at a minimum: Michael Penix Jr., Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk, Troy Fautanu, Bralen Trice, Tuli Letuligasenoa, and Edefuan Ulofoshio. We’ll be here to keep you informed on all of that excitement over the next month plus as we await the upcoming CFP game against Texas in the Sugar Bowl.