When it comes to the quarterbacks, it was a case of Jake Browning being way ahead of the rest - and that’s just as true at the end of April as it was at the beginning of the month. The true sophomore is simply the best quarterback on the roster, and it’s not even close.
That being said, progress was made behind Browning. It wasn’t earth-shattering, but it was progress.
Quarterbacks (by year)
Anthony Berg (6-2, 212, Sr.)* - Mostly worked with true freshman Daniel Bridge-Gadd on the sidelines during team periods to call in signals to the other quarterbacks. During the spring event, he was 2-3 for 25 yards.
Tony Rodriguez (6-3, 185, RJr.) - Made a big jump this spring with his accuracy and overall knowledge of the system. When the City College of San Francisco transfer finally came to Montlake in the summer, he was a fish out of water. It took him a redshirt year to find his footing. But even then, he didn’t come into spring football looking like he was ready to compete as Browning’s backup. About halfway through, the light went on. The accuracy started really showing up on a consistent basis, and he started moving the team. By the Spring Event, Rodriguez led the Purple team to a 17-13 win over the White team.
K.J. Carta-Samuels (6-2, 219, RSo.) - Carta-Samuels, who started at Stanford for Browning in 2015, pretty much tread water during the 15 spring practices. He didn’t have a poor spring, but it didn’t seem like the 6-foot-2, 219-pound sophomore was going to take a big leap forward either. Over the month of April, Carta-Samuels went from having the number-two spot on lock down to there being a bit of a question mark heading into the summer. Is it Carta-Samuels’ job still? Or does Rodriguez have a shot to surprise? Carta-Samuels, to his credit, had a great Spring Event, going 12-17 for 105 yards and a long pass of 28 yards.
Jake Browning (6-2, 205, So.) - The emphasis was on Browning making a jump from year one to year two in Jonathan Smith’s offensive system, and while we won’t know exactly how big that jump will be until the Huskies take the field in the fall we did see a substantial improvement in his deep passes and overall knowledge of the offense. His work with John Ross this spring should pay off handsomely, as the Huskies continue to search for that long element to their passing game to go with the shorter stuff nearer the line of scrimmage. If you listened to the defensive backs when asked what it was like going up against Browning this fall, they all talked about how much tougher it was to read his eyes. He’s starting to get good at reading off safeties and making quick decisions.
Daniel Bridge-Gadd (6-2, 185, Fr.) - Bridge-Gadd, much like Browning did last spring when he was in a similar situation, played like a true frosh. He threw a lot of picks but also learned a ton. When he wasn’t taking turns he was working with walk-on Anthony Berg on the sidelines, sending in plays. Those two will be the ones sending in signals in the fall.
Where does the Quarterback group stand heading into the summer?
Compared to a year ago, Washington’s Quarterback situation is 100 percent better. There is no doubt who the starter will be come September 3 when the Huskies host Rutgers. In 2015, the quarterback battle seemed to finish with Jake Browning being the best choice out of three iffy choices - and that’s only because Browning was a true freshman. No one doubted his talent, but could he do it right out of the gate in arguably the toughest conference in America?
With the work Browning put in this spring, he will be a better quarterback in 2016. He has a steadily improving offensive line in front of him, and he has skill players around him that will allow him to act as a distributor. And that’s what Browning is good at. He’s at his best when he can get the ball to all his weapons and balance out the attack. His off-season conditioning has helped get him bigger, faster, and stronger, and that will only continue to help him with his escapability - but Browning will never be a Jake Locker clone. His job is to step back, scan, and deliver. And he’s getting better and better at that with every turn he takes.
It’s also a positive development that there’s a bit of a battle behind Jake for the backup role. Going into spring the ‘seating chart’ certainly had a ‘depth chart’ feel to it: there wasn’t any debate for movement. It was Browning, Carta-Samuels, Rodriguez and then Bridge-Gadd. After spring it’s more convoluted. Carta-Samuels had a great Spring Event, but it’s also clear that Rodriguez made great strides during the second half of spring ball. It should be a fun battle to watch in the fall.