Heading in to the fall, here's what we said about the quarterback position for 2014:
All of these guys bring significant physical skills to the table, and one thing we should be able to say with confidence is that the QB will be a legitimate running threat in 2014, something that really hasn't been the case since Locker graduated. All are former 4-star prospects, and while replacing a 3-year starter at QB is never easy, the soft four-game out of conference slate to start the 2014 season provides a nice cushion to break in a new starter.
Two starters, actually. And while that early schedule did provide a soft landing for the quarterbacks, we ended the season in a position not unlike the one we began it with - questions, concerns, and not a lot of confidence in the position heading in to the offseason and in to 2015.
2014 In Review
Three different guys ended up getting at least one start in 2014, and all three had a fair amount of playing time throughout the year. The stats:
Cyler Miles - 219-326, 2,397 yards, 66.6%, 7.29 Y/A, 17 TD's, 4 INT, 142.2 PR; 118 Carries, 327 Yds, 4 TD's
Jeff Lindquist - 10-30, 162 yards, 33.3%, 5.40 Y/A, 1 TD, 0 INT, 89.7 PR; 16 Carries, 63 Yds, 2 TD's
Troy Williams - 23-36, 176 yards, 63.9%, 4.89 Y/A, 0 TD, 2 INT's, 93.8 PR; 16 carries, 25 Yds, 1 TD
Everyone knows how the season played out - after being suspended from the team in February of last year, Cyler Miles missed all of the spring prior to being reinstated in the summer. Troy Williams and Jeff Lindquist split reps during the spring, but both failed to really capitalize on the opportunity to lay claim to the starting role. Right before the start of fall camp, it was announced that Miles would be suspended for the season opener at Hawaii. Lindquist was given his fist start and after a decent first half, struggled mightily in the second against the Warriors. Miles was announced as the starter for week two almost immediately, and would end up starting every game but the home contest against ASU after suffering a concussion the week before in the loss at Oregon. Troy Williams had moved past Lindquist in to the backup role at some point along the way, and got the start in some of the worst weather conditions in recent memory at Husky Stadium. With Williams failing to move the ball with any consistency in the loss, Miles resumed his starting role and Williams wouldn't see the field again for the Huskies.
Cyler Miles' throwing motion has been the subject of much conversation here, so there's really no need to rehash it again, other than to say that to fix it requires a complete restructuring of his mechanics from head to toe, and the likelihood of it happening during his time as a Husky is low. In just about every measure of a quarterback but the ability to generate velocity on the ball, Miles is, at worst, average. He's able to read defenses, he makes the right decision more often than not, he's got fairly good accuracy, he's an above-average runner, and he appears to have the respect of his teammates. In all, he should be a quarterback the team can win a lot of games with. But that throwing motion - that ceiling he's set for himself - keeps him from being that guy.
When you look at Miles' stats, things look pretty good. But when you watch him play, it becomes pretty clear that the numbers don't accurately reflect his ability to generate offense for the University of Washington. Admittedly, he played behind an underperforming offensive line, with a group of running backs that didn't live up to expectations. He had a receiving corps that would charitably be called "average" in the conference. But as the guy with the ball in his hands on every single play, and the greatest ability to affect the outcome of a game for his team, it's hard to argue that Miles was even as good as his numbers would suggest, and was probably quite a bit worse.
Any coach is going to start the quarterback he feels gives the team the best chance to win. I'm sure that's the case with Chris Petersen and Jonathon Smith in choosing to keep the reins in Miles' hands. What none of us know, though, is the criteria they use to determine the "best chance to win," and how it's weighted. When we see a conservative offensive design, we don't know if it's due to the desires of the coaches themselves, or to the limitations of the players on the field. With as limited as Miles is as a thrower, though, it's either a very harsh indictment of the other QB's on the roster, or it suggests that the positive impacts a quarterback can make on a game are much less important than avoiding the negative, or that Williams' and Lindquist's knowledge of the offense was so poor that they couldn't be trusted to be on the field.
Cyler Miles didn't cost the Huskies any games in 2014 by any stretch. He didn't afford them an opportunity to win any, either. He was a net neutral at the quarterback position, Thanks to the rest of the realities on the roster, that's not a position the Dawgs could afford in 2014, and it's not one they can stand in 2015 and moving forward. The Huskies needed better this past season, and they absolutely need more moving forward.
Looking Forward to 2015......And Beyond?
Cyler Miles is the incumbent quarterback in 2015, and possibly, in 2016. He's got the potential to improve on certain aspects of his game. With time and coaching, he could improve on his decision making. He could become a more decisive and effective runner. He could assert himself more as a leader, both of the offense and the team as a whole. I expect him to do all of these things. But he's imposed his own limits as a quarterback if he chooses to not improve his velocity with the ball as a passer.
If Miles makes the very difficult choice to reinvent himself as a thrower, he's an NFL candidate. The work required is immense, but Miles has all of the physical and mental talents to be very, very good. If he resigns himself to the work necessary, the sky is the limit. 'the question is, if he doesn't take on the challenge, what happens to the Huskies?
A lot of fans are putting their eggs in the Jake Browning basket. He's a great talent, but the simple fact of the matter is that he's no where near physically ready to run the show at the UW. He's a guy that absolutely needs to red shirt, get significantly stronger, and readjust himself physically to the college game. He's the future, but he's not the answer in the short term.
The fact of the matter is that the Huskies need vastly better quarterback play. In 2015, the answer comes from one of three camps. If I was going to handicap the potential outcomes, it'd go like this:
K.J. Carta-Samuels is the Real Deal: Carta-Samuels is the first quarterback that Chris Petersen genuinely wanted at the University of Washington. He was a raw passer coming in, but the reports of his progress in 2014 have been glowing. He's got all of the physical skills, and if he puts in the work, could be great.
Jeff Lindquist Becomes a Superstar: Lindquist has everything you could want as a quarterback, but for whatever reason, has yet to be able to put it together at the UW. If things click for him as redshirt junior, he's got the potential to become then next great quarterback at the University of Washington.
Cyler Miles Maximizes Everything But Throwing the Ball: With perfection at everything but throwing the ball, Miles has the potential to be great if he becomes a great runner. And he could. He's not going to lead the Huskies to a conference title as a thrower, but if he chooses to reinvent himself as a true dual threat, he can do enough to win games.
Cyler Miles Learns How to Throw the Ball: If this happens, the sky is the limit for the Dawgs. Miles has the potential to be a "plus" runner, and if that's combined with legitimate ability as a thrower, Miles can be truly great. The effort required to affect this outcome is such that it's not likely to happen. But if it did, the Huskies could be a dangerous team.,
The Huskies need improved play at the quarterback position. Whats the forecast for Husky fans?