Where Does Miles’ Absence Leave The QBs?

In a bit of surprising news, it looks like Washington will be without quarterback Cyler Miles for spring once again. Except for this time, it’s due to a voluntary leave of absence, not due to a disciplinary matter.

“Cyler is dealing with some things in his life that are more important than football, and he felt it was important to take some time away from the game,” Washington Head Coach Chris Petersen said in a prepared statement released to the media Friday. “We are working to support him in any way we can and hope he returns back to the football field soon."

The Seattle Times’ Adam Jude wrote a piece Friday indicating Miles won’t play at all in 2015. If that is the case, Washington fans disillusioned with Miles’ play in 2014 will be happy to see a new quarterback this coming fall. Others will be left wondering what could have been when thinking about Miles and his development as a Pac-12 starter between year one and year two.

Either way, this development creates more questions than answers. So what does it all mean?
1) Clearly Miles is going through a rough patch. - That much is certain. No student-athlete at that level of the game just unilaterally decides to up and leave unless there are dealing with serious mental and emotional hurdles. Obviously fans are going to want to speculate; I won’t. Needed to say, they have to be serious circumstances that push Miles to believe this is the best course of action for him at this time, compared to pushing on and solidifying his hold on the starting quarterback job. I wish him the best of luck sorting out what he needs to in order to move on with the rest of his eligibility and his studies.

2) UW has to approach this spring like Miles isn’t coming back. - That’s just smart planning. As mentioned above, many feel like Miles leaving isn’t just a temporary solution for the junior quarterback. He may be done with football altogether, at least at UW.

IF they are correct (and that’s still an if at this point; there’s nothing coming from Miles or UW saying he won’t be back), the prudent approach by Petersen should be to act as if Cyler isn’t coming back. Don’t assume he’ll come back to ‘save the day’, as he did last year. The UW coaches have to make sure that the three quarterbacks that will be available for spring - Jeff Lindquist, K.J. Carta-Samuels, and Jake Browning - are the ones going forward.

If Cyler decides to return after spring ball, or at some point before fall camp, Petersen can assess his situation then and decide what needs to happen. But getting the three available quarterbacks prepared to take the battle into the fall for the starting QB spot is not only the smart thing to do, but it’s odds-on the likely scenario at this point - so they might as well roll with it.

3) Somewhere in SoCal, Troy Williams should be kicking himself. - It was hardly a surprise when one of the quarterbacks transferred after the Cactus Bowl; it also wasn’t a surprise that the QB that decided the short straw was his was Troy Williams. After all, Miles and Lindquist weren’t going anywhere, and K.J. Carta-Samuels and Jake Browning were hand-picked by the new staff to be the signal-callers of the future. That left Williams seemingly as the man without a chair in 2015, so he announced in early January that he would be heading back to southern California to attend a JC.

With the benefit of hindsight, Williams’ decision was clearly rushed. There’s nothing he’ll do at Santa Monica JC this spring that he couldn’t have done starting in the summer. He’s going to have to play a minimum of one fall there before having the requisite credits to complete a transfer back to a four-year school, and by allowing himself one more spring he could have hedged his bets and given it one last ‘college try’. With Miles out, Williams would have once again had every opportunity to be the leading quarterback coming out of spring, resurrecting his UW career in the process. There’s no doubt Troy already saw the writing on the wall, and once you see that there’s usually little that can happen to create the requisite attitude adjustment required to properly turn your fortunes around.

But at the same time Williams should be thinking about ‘what if’ when he heard the news about Miles. There should be part of him that wonders if he jumped the transfer gun a little bit.

4) Don’t bury Jeff Lindquist just yet. - It’s a classic rite of spring; spring cleaning. We all do it, in all aspects of our lives. Out with the old, in with the new. It’s way too much fun to think about how things are going to be now that everything else has been tossed to the side, re-purposed, etc… We have no time for last year’s news - which is why all UW fans are thinking about the possibilities with Carta-Samuels and Browning under center, while forgetting entirely about Jeff Lindquist. I wouldn’t do that too quickly, if I were you. Yes, it’s fun to think about the shiny new toys and what they’ll mean to the offense in 2015, but Lindquist still has plenty of miles on his tires and isn’t just hanging around the program to hang around. He wants to start, and he wants to lead. And right now, he’s the only quarterback on Washington’s roster with any game experience at all, let alone Pac-12 starting experience - so it would be smart to pencil the junior in right now at number one while Carta-Samuels and Browning find their footing.

There’s no question that time is on the side of Carta-Samuels and Browning; it’s simply a matter of when that time will come, as opposed to if. But Lindquist won’t be acting simply as a wise old head this spring. He’ll be out competing for a job, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he ended up grabbing the starting quarterback job heading into fall. He’s been there before - the only one that can say that - and he’s got all the attributes required to be a Pac-12 starter. Now it’s just a matter of him stepping up and taking the opportunity by the throat. Don’t bet against him.

5) Carta-Samuels walks around like he’s the man. - Both Kim Grinolds and Scott Eklund remarked that the 6-foot-2, 219-pound Carta-Samuels passed the look test more than any other quarterback during the recent Husky Combine Day - including Miles. We’ve always known that Carta-Samuels is a physical specimen, so it’s not surprising that he stood out. With only three scholarship quarterbacks now available for spring ball, Carta-Samuels’ time is right now and just like Williams last year he’ll get every opportunity to win the starting job over Lindquist.

If one had to make an educated guess as to who would emerge from the quarterback battle to win the starting job in time for the Boise State starter in September, Carta-Samuels is going to get a lot of votes. He was the first quarterback recruited to UW by the new staff, and he had last year to get acclimated to school and to Pac-12 Football. Now he can take what he learned as the Huskies’ Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year and put that into practice.

6) Browning should go for it in spring. - The true frosh from Folsom, Calif. who put up video game numbers during his high school career, came in early to UW for exactly this reason - to compete for the starting quarterback position. Only one problem with that; the 6-1, 202-pound Browning simply isn’t physical ready to go right now. If scrimmages were live for quarterbacks, he’d most likely get chewed up and spit out by the likes of Elijah Qualls, Vita Vea, Joe Mathis, Psalm Wooching, et al. Jeff Lindquist notably weighed in the same as defensive end Andrew Hudson last year; K.J. Carta-Samuels isn’t that far behind in terms of size.

And then there’s Browning, who Grinolds and Eklund said was the opposite of Carta-Samuels when it came to the ‘look test’ during the UW Combine Day. Ouch. But let’s not drape Browning with the inevitable freshman redshirt just because he looks like he might actually snap under pressure. One of the reason Browning was able to put up record-setting numbers while at Folsom was because of a good offensive line, but also his escapability, elusiveness, and ability to get rid of the ball quickly past the snap.

No one will question Browning’s credentials, and of the three quarterbacks available for spring there also seems little question that he comes into the competition with the best foundation and potential for success at the Pac-12 level. We all know Chris Petersen’s mantra when it comes to his QB’s; they have to be great decision-makers and they have to be accurate passers. Browning’s prep career is all about both of those things. That’s why Petersen put Browning at the top of his quarterback wish list for 2015.

But the jump from Folsom to the University of Washington is huge, and shouldn’t be diminished. It’s not a given that Browning comes to Montlake and performs on the Pac-12 stage without missing a beat. It’s possible, but hardly probable. But until that moment comes where one of the other quarterbacks is handed the starting nod, Browning should go out there and compete his butt off during the day and lock himself in the weight room at night - because right now the only thing standing between him and a starting spot in the Pac-12 is roughly 25 pounds of muscle.

There’s no doubt that the idea situation for Petersen and UW OC Jonathan Smith right now would be for either Lindquist or Carta-Samuels to win the quarterback battle and the other to be the backup. They are the ones that have been in the program and should be the incumbents in this competition. Browning may simply take the decision out of their hands by the way he plays in the spring. Now all that’s left is seeing them compete and determining who is in the best position to lead Washington forward while Miles is away.

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