- Jeff Lindquist (6-3, 244, Jr.)
- Cyler Miles (6-4, 214, Jr.)
- K.J. Carta-Samuels (6-2, 219, RFr.)
- Jake Browning (6-2, 205, Fr.)
Where does the Quarterback position find itself after spring: In some ways this spring, UW Offensive Coordinator Jonathan Smith must have felt a bit like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day; he found himself with the exact same situation two years in a row, and with the same quarterback missing in action. The situations were much different, but as it was in 2014, Miles would find himself nowhere near a Washington spring practice.
And as it was last season, Jeff Lindquist stepped up and took control of the quarterback position. Compared to the other sophomore, Troy Williams, the first-year UW coaching staff felt more comfortable with the Mercer Island man taking the reins for the Hawaii opener. But clearly they weren’t set on Lindquist being the full-time starter, for a week later Miles stepped right in and took the starting job away and would only relinquish it once all year.
The Spring of 2015 found Washington with one more available quarterback than they did the season before, but there were still as many unanswered questions. Would Miles return? If so, would he face the same punishment as 2014 despite not dealing with a suspension? How far would they be willing to go to keep Jake Browning’s redshirt on him? Would they stick to a one-quarterback system?
Here’s what we did find out about each quarterback during the 15 spring practices held at Husky Stadium:
NotesLindquist clearly finished spring as the top quarterback of the three, if only for the fact that he rarely - if ever - turned the ball over. Spring is a difficult time for a player like Lindquist - one that likes to play behind his pads and use his ability as a runner to supplement his leadership of the offense - but he showed great decision-making and very good accuracy. Those are the two things Head Coach Chris Petersen wanted to see from all his quarterbacks.
NotesThis was the first spring for both Carta-Samuels and Browning, but Carta-Samuels had the true frosh over a bit of a barrel in terms of understanding Jonathan Smith’s offense and what he needed to work on. Slightly smaller than Lindquist, Carta-Samuels is also a quarterback that’s not afraid to run and use his size to his advantage. In some ways, he’s the middle man to Lindquist and Browning; he’s a better pure athlete than Lindquist, but not necessarily a better runner. He’s clearly a much bigger kid than Browning, yet shares some of Browning’s ability to throw the ball, especially downfield.
NotesThe crown jewel of Washington’s 2015 recruiting class, Browning came into spring firing the football all around the field, and it didn’t stop. Only problem for the gunslinger from Folsom is that too many of those passes ended up in the wrong hands. There’s no doubt Browning’s knowledge of the position and game is at a greater stage relative to the other quarterbacks their first years. But a redshirt year would do him wonders.
NotesMiles, as was stated above, took a personal leave of absence, and while he has apparently been in touch with Petersen and other offensive coaches, they are proceeding ahead as if he’s not coming back. It was reported within a day of the news of Miles’ planned leave that he wouldn’t be returning at all. Petersen wouldn’t confirm one way or another after spring football was complete, but there’s no question the offensive coaches have to proceed as if he’s not returning.
Where will the QB list be as UW heads to fall camp?I suspect they will be without Miles, if I had to guess now. And this won’t come as a shock to the Washington coaches, who are already well on the prowl for a top 2016 quarterback prospect.
Lindquist will be the number-one quarterback heading into fall for one simple reason; he held onto the ball. Carta-Samuels and Browning were victimized way too often to trust their decision-making at this point in the process. Guys like Sidney Jones, Darren Gardenhire, and Jojo McIntosh made a meal out of their turnovers. It also stands to reason that since Lindquist is in his fourth year with the program that he’d be well ahead of his quarterbacking counterparts in terms of experience and decision-making, and that thought held up during spring.
But has Jeff progressed to the point where he can go on the road and duplicate the success he had as a starter last year? Granted, things fell apart for him and the entire Washington offense in the second half until they put the ball in the capable hands of Lavon Coleman, but Lindquist also has another year of work in the program and maturing behind him. Can he parlay that extra experience into a full-time starting nod?
I’ve been on record as saying I expect Carta-Samuels to win the job, simply because Lindquist has shown himself to be too one-sided as a signal-caller. Simply put, he put an emphasis on running the ball and didn’t take the time to find open receivers downfield - especially in a scramble situation.
But based on what I saw during spring football, I wonder if the switch has gone on for Jeff. His performance during the Spring Preview reinforced that evaluation, as he went 13-16 for 237 yards and two touchdowns on the day. He’s worked hard to stay in the pocket and extend plays instead of just tucking and running at the first sign of adversity.
What does it mean if Miles does come back?Well, if that were to take place I would imagine the first thing is that Petersen would place some sort of team-imposed penalty (probably missing the first game like he did last year), but the bigger picture could get quite cloudy. The junior already knows what it takes to make up a lot of ground in a short amount of time to win a job, so people would be frankly foolish to count him out.
The questions on Miles would come fast and thick; how fit is he? How well does he know the new wrinkles and concepts Smith threw at the offense in the spring? How much can he be trusted as a team leader, as the head of the offense? How much would the coaches put on his plate right away, and how much would they wait to add? As a result, how far behind would that put him compared to last year?
I believe these questions will ultimately be rendered moot, but there’s no denying Washington needs healthy quarterbacks, and getting one back with a ton of Pac-12 experience compared to the rest of the competition is never a bad thing. But will it stall UW’s progress offensively in the long run?
The sight of Miles practicing in the fall would unleash all those questions, and more - but Washington would welcome him with open arms if they can. Going into the 2015 season with only three scholarship quarterbacks has the potential to be an unmitigated disaster depending on injury.