Quarterback:Washington coaching staff off guard. It was their job to hope for the best with Miles, but to continue as if he wasn’t coming back - and that strategy is the only kind you can take in a situation where a key contributor takes a personal leave with the thought they may not return.
Washington fans would be correct to think that, in many ways, the UW quarterback depth chart has undergone another evolution. Two quarterbacks (with eligibility remaining) from last year are gone - Miles and Troy Williams - yet the Huskies have five quarterbacks vying for playing time this coming fall. That’s quite a transformation!
Jonathan Smith has been busy looking at other players to round out the position so that there’s quality depth and balance across all classes - and for the most part he’s gotten it right. The Huskies absolutely needed to bring in someone with some college experience immediately for 2015, and they addressed that need by bringing in Tony Rodriguez from the City College of San Fransisco. It was an imperative because they had to have another body for next spring as well, and with no 2016 quarterback committed - let alone positioned as an early enrollee - Washington would have gone into next April with only three scholarship quarterbacks. And that’s just not enough.
Secondly, they were smart to bring in a walk-on quarterback in former Kamiak star Anthony Berg to continue to shore up depth concerns.
But as they did in 2014, Washington still only has four scholarship quarterbacks to start the season, and there’s no question the Washington coaches are going to try everything in their power to redshirt Jake Browning if they can. And on top of it, they’ll be essentially breaking in another brand-new quarterback. Yes, Jeff Lindquist did start at Hawaii last year, but that’s nowhere near enough to consider him a returning starter of any magnitude.
Based on how the quarterbacks that were here in spring did, there should be no question Jeff Lindquist is the presumptive favorite to once again start the season. He was by far the most accurate passer and decision maker between him, K.J. Carta-Samuels, and Browning - and that’s what head coach Chris Petersen wants in a quarterback.
On that score, there should be little surprise. Carta-Samuels has a year up on Browning, but in terms of future impact and potential they could almost be considered on the same track. Browning has that much potential, and that’s why UW fans should expect his redshirt to stay on this season.
Of course the ‘X’ factor in all this is Rodriguez. How he impacts the fall position battle could go a long way toward determining who is initially Lindquist’s backup - and potentially a starter as the Huskies move into Pac-12 play.
5 Jeff Lindquist (6-3, 244, Jr.) - I told people in the spring to not have a ‘spring cleaning’ mindset when looking at Lindquist as the possible answer at starting quarterback, and all the Mercer Island native did was excel and improve every practice in April. Obviously Washington fans want to dream about the possibilities with Carta-Samuels and Browning under center, because the mindset nowadays is - if a quarterback doesn’t kill it within the first couple of years they either 1) Aren’t good enough; or 2) They’ll never get it in time. I don’t think either one of those things applies to the 6-3, 244-pound Lindquist, who has shown an ability to improve in practice, make better decisions, and move the chains. In my mind he’s the clear starter for 2015 unless either Carta-Samuels or Rodriguez show something truly extraordinary.
10 Tony Rodriguez (6-3, 185, Jr.) - “He’s probably the biggest steal at any position out of junior college this summer. We really think that highly of him.” said CCSF Head Coach Jimmy Collins to the Seattle Times when news of Rodriguez’s commitment went public. “The concerns most would have bringing in a quarterback in the summer is, will he be able to learn enough of the offense to have a legitimate chance to compete?” he added. “If any guy can do it, it’s Tony. He retains information as well as any player I’ve been round. He comes off the field understanding what he just saw; he’s not out there in the blind making decisions.” Well, learning the information is one thing; putting it into practice and showing not just efficiency but consistency when the ‘bullets are flying’ will tell the tale of whether or not Rodriguez has what it takes to make an impact this coming season.
14 Anthony Berg (6-2, 205, Jr.) - It’s always good policy to have a walk-on quarterback on the roster, but Washington hasn’t really had one worth anything in over five years. Perhaps Berg can buck that disappointing trend. He played six games last season as a sophomore at Saddleback College in southern California, completing 22-of-39 passes for 328 yards and a touchdown. His high school numbers at Kamiak were pedestrian; less than 50 percent completion percentage, and he threw for more interceptions than touchdowns. The best Berg can do initially is study his butt off and try and be an amazing service team QB. It’s a valuable asset to have, as Petersen knowns, and Berg has some size and speed to offer.
11 K.J. Carta-Samuels (6-2, 219, RFr.) - Lindquist is the most physically imposing of all the quarterbacks, but based on Carta-Samuels’s combine day and how he plays, the redshirt frosh from the Bay Area could arguably be the most athletic of the current group. And that’s why many felt that this spring (his first) would be his coming out party, his moment to seize an opportunity. That really didn’t happen. It was Carta-Samuels and Browning that threw the most interceptions in April, and while they also had their moments where they ‘splashed’ - to borrow a phrase from UW Defensive Line Coach Jeff Choate - they were far too infrequent. Inconsistency was the name of K.J.’s game this past spring, but he still has plenty of time for the switch to go off.
3 Jake Browning (6-2, 205, Fr.) - Spring was Jake Browning’s wake-up call; he’s not in Folsom, Calif. anymore. And for the most part, the highly-rated signal caller performed admirably for a mid-year signee. He made his fair share of mistakes along the way, which was completely expected. When he was on, he looked every bit the part of the kid Washington was able to woo away from the likes of Alabama and California. But going thud tempo against your own defense in spring is one thing; going live against some of the better defenses in the country is quite another. Ideally it would be great for the Huskies to keep the redshirt on Browning, allow him to get bigger, faster, and stronger, and then unveil him to the college football world 14 months from now. Physically he still looks like a high school kid and will benefit immensely from the added time in the UW weight room.
Projected Fall QB depth chart:5 Jeff Lindquist (6-3, 244, Jr.)
11 K.J. Carta-Samuels (6-2, 219, So.)
10 Tony Rodriguez (6-3, 185, Jr.)
3 Jake Browning (6-2, 205, Fr.) OR
14 Anthony Berg (6-2, 205, Jr.) *