After a tight battle this fall, Washington head coach Chris Petersen is keeping his choice of starting quarterback a secret, believing it will throw off Boise State defensive coordinator Marcel Yates and the Bronco defense.
But to a man, Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin, Yates, and all the Bronco defensive players we've spoken to, the Bronco defense is preparing for the Husky offense, and the formations and plays that they run, not the quarterback. Harsin acknowledged last week that while each Husky quarterback brings their own skill set, they will still be running the Husky offense, and that is what Boise State is preparing for. Now if the starting Husky quarterback shows up running the option, all bets are off.
True freshman Jake Browning (6-2, 206), many close to the Huskies believe, is the future of the program. If he is ready, one has to believe Browning will be the guy, after enjoying a storybook high school career. Browning tied a national record for touchdown passes in a season (91) and touchdown passes in a three-year career (229) at Folsom High School in Granite Bay, California. Browning completed 1,191-1,708 passes in his career for 16,775 yards, all California state records. Browning became the first high school player in history to throw for 60 or more touchdowns or for 5,000 yards in three straight seasons. Browning was a member of the Parade All-America and the USA Today All-USA first team.
Jeff Lindquist (6-3, 245, Jr.) is the most experienced of the three leading candidates; he and K.J. Carta-Samuels (6-2, 220, RS-Fr.) both bring a strong running ability to the table that Lindquist does not. Lindquist started against Hawai'i last year, completing 10-of-26 passes for 162 yards and a 91-yard TD. Carta-Samuels won the Offensive Scout Squad Most Valuable Player last year while redshirting.
Regardless of who starts at quarterback, he'll have a dynamic running back behind him, and that is the known quantity that the Boise State coaches have been referring to. Dwayne Washington (6-2, 226, Jr.) set a school record when he sported four carries of 50 yards or more last year on his way to 655 yards (5.5 yards per carry). He is expected to be the workhorse for the Huskies this fall, but Deontae Cooper (5-11, 200, Jr.) and Jomon Dotson (5-10, 174, RS-Fr.) are more than capable. Cooper has suffered multiple injuries in his career that have allowed him extra eligibility--Deontae is in his sixth year in the program and could return next year for a seventh.
Just as Boise State senior center Marcus Henry leads the Bronco offensive line, so too does Washington senior center Siosifa Tufunga (6-3, 314). The Huskies will also start junior guards Jake Eldrenkamp (6-5, 296) and Shane Brostek (6-4, 305), Coleman Shelton (6-4, 293, So.) at leff tackle and redshirt freshman Matt James (6-4, 285) at right tackle. Shelton started seven games last year while Tufunga started five games at guard for Washington.
Sophomores Dante Pettis (6-0, 185) and Brayden Lenius (6-5, 220) are slated to start at wide receiver for the Huskies, while senior Jaydon Mickens (5-11, 170) provides leadership and solid experience at the slot position for the new Washington quarterback. Pettis hauled in 17 passes for 259 yards (15.3 yards per catch) and a touchdown, while Lenius grabbed seven receptions for 56 yards last year. Mickens started 11 games for the Huskies last season and became a solid possession receiver with 60 catches for 617 yards and four touchdowns. The Broncos will need to watch Mickens on the end-around, as Mickens made opponents pay last season to the tune of 10 rushes for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Joshua Perkins (6-4, 226) is a talented tight end, with Darrell Daniels (6-4, 241, Jr.) expected to have a solid year as well. The Husky coaches want to get both more involved in the passing game this fall. Perkins is a preseason candidate for the John Mackey Award, given annually to the top collegiate tight end, after posting 25 receptions for 315 yards and three touchdowns last fall.
Just as is the case with the Washington defense, several newcomers dot the Husky starting lineup on offense. Browning is much heralded, and has Husky fans excited about the video game-type numbers he put up in his prep years. The other two contenders are more than capable of leading the offense, and, as pointed out above, would keep the Bronco defense on their toes with the threat of a scramble. If the Husky line can gel early and get the Washington ground game established, it will make the new quarterback's task much easier. And then, there's the trick plays (halfback passes, end-arounds, flea flickers, etc.) that Washington coach Chris Petersen has been known to call from time to time.