Who is Behind Center?

So who is going to be calling the signals behind center this fall for the Washington Huskies? It's a simple question that doesn't have a simple answer, particularly if you talk with offensive coordinator John Pettas about it.

The principles in this battle for the quarterback job are three distinctly different types of field generals that all bring something different to the huddle.

Junior Casey Paus is the experienced guy, but really has only played about one half of football. Still, that experience will give him an edge as fall camp begins. During spring, he showed to be the most proficient at reading what a defense is going to throw at him. He may be the guy the coaches will trust the most at this point because of that.

Sophomore Isaiah Stanback is the explosive guy, the one that can bring defenses to their knees with is ability to scramble out of the pocket and break coverages down. With 4.4 sprinters speed, Stanback is a weapon in the Michael Vick mold and can break long runs on any defenses that fail to contain him.

"This year will be a lot tougher because we're going to have to make a decision and not just make them 1-A and 1-B," said Pettas of the battle to back up Cody Pickett a year ago between Paus and Stanback.

"This year, when we make that call, he's the guy and the others are behind him."

The third player in this competition is the wild card, and probably the most intriguing piece of the puzzle. Carl Bonnell spent his first year at Washington grayshirting and then last year ran the scout team while he redshirted. This spring he showed that he was more than ready to jump into the race and earned reps with the ones and twos.

"Carl has a good feel for throwing the ball and has a high percentage (of completion). He makes good decisions," said Pettas.

All three have very different qualities. Paus brings leadership and a nice throwing touch. He usually makes the right decisions. Stanback is the guy the defense must account for on every down because of his speed, but Pettas would like to see him improve his accuracy and decision making.

"Sometimes he's not sure which guy the ball should go to, but he'll work on that," said Pettas.

Bonnell is the greenest because the time he spent learning the opposing team's offenses last year took away from his time reading the Husky playbook. He has the most catching up to do. "Carl will still roll the wrong way on some plays, but that will come with more reps," said Pettas.

"Carl is similar to Isaiah in his athleticism, and as he learns the offense more he'll be more comfortable."

All three quarterbacks get along very well off the field and treat the situation very professionally.

Paus calls Bonnell a "hard worker. He's always in the film room or working on something, or in the weight room." Of Stanback, Paus said he's "incredibly athletic, and he's a great guy. We all get along well. We're all helping each other because this is a team and we all want to win."

Stanback is impressed with Paus' ability to read defenses. "The huddle will break and he'll know exactly what's coming." Of Bonnell, Stanback laughs. "Carl's my boy. There's no pressure or anything with any of us, we're all friends."

Bonnell looks up to Paus. "He's a real leader and he understands the offense the best. He's a great guy." Of Stanback, Bonnell calls him "a real character. He's a great guy to be around and we help each other as much as we can."

So what do you do if you are Keith Gilbertson and are faced with this challenge? The first two scrimmages of the fall will hopefully separate the three a bit more than they are now on the depth chart, but it isn't hard to imagine all three getting time in games.

"The toughest part is that they are all different types of quarterbacks, said Pettas. In our offense, they all bring different things to the table."

Right now the job is Casey's to lose, but he's going to have to prove it to the coaches that he's better than the other two. The job is not being handed to him, he's earned it and now must show that he deserves to be the guy. He's improving on his ability to run the option, which bodes well for him. Look for the Huskies to use as many as 10-12 option looks per game this year to keep defensive schemes honest.

If things need shaking up, Stanback can provide earthquakes with his running skills. He also has a cannon for an arm and if he can bring his completion percentage up, he'll be right there at the front of the line.

Bonnell's biggest hurdle is learning as much of the offense in the off-season as he can retain. He has a big arm and more than enough speed to get down the line on the option or draws, and he's accurate. If the Husky coaches are able to open the offensive playbook wider with Carl, he will see more and more playing time as the season progresses.

The Husky offense you saw this spring is not the one you'll see this fall. Given that, look for more than one quarterback to play this year, possibly all three. The quarterback will be a weapon this season and not just a target for defensive linemen to hammer on.

Incoming freshman Matt Tuiasosopo would also probably figure into the mix, given that the offense is tailor-made for his skills. But with the Mariners signing Tuiasosopo to a lucrative baseball contract, the Huskies will have to wait years – if ever - to see the youngest Tui in a football uniform.

But if you ask me who will take the first snap of the season in Husky Stadium on that Sunday evening opener against the FSU Bulldogs, I would go with Paus. The 3.8 Dean's list GPA and experience has to give him the edge.

But do not count out the other two. The one to watch will be Bonnell. As he learns the offense more and puts on more weight, he's going to be very difficult to keep off of the field.

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