by Paul Redman, Oregon Sports News
The Washington Huskies find themselves in an interesting position heading into this season. They’ve been through a lot of ups and downs over the last decade—the Sarkisian era comes to mind—but they are currently in a “good to great” kind of place.
Since Chris Peterson took over as head coach, proving that a coach can make the switch from a small conference to the Power 5, the Huskies have been on an upward trajectory. They even have the championship trophies to show for it. But anyone would be remiss to point out that the Huskies’ recent successes have come within the larger context of the Pac-12 Conference being down overall. Sure, the Cougs have been Washington’s doormat, but the fact that Oregon has been down the past several seasons should give Dawg fans pause as they consider where their team is at, especially since many see the Ducks returning to prominence this year.
The other factor to take into account is that the Peterson era has been all but defined by Jake Browning under center and Myles Gaskin running the ball. Both of those players are gone and a new epoch of the Peterson era is underway.
What will this new epoch look like? That’s what we don’t know yet. Unfortunately, anytime there’s uncertainty in football, especially at the college level, there’s always the potential for a step back, which would be cause for utter disappointment among the fanbase.
So what is the big storyline with the Huskies as they prepare for the season? It’s obviously the quarterback battle that currently rages.
The good news is that they have a very deep stable of talented quarterbacks to choose from. The bad news is that none of them has proven themselves at the college level yet. The leap from high school to college is as profound as any transition in all of sports. We don’t know how they will respond to game action until we see it.
The perceived frontrunner is Jacob Eason. He was one of the best quarterbacks in the country coming out of high school. Washington coaches and fans wanted him badly at that time. He’s a local boy—Lake Stevens—so it was especially painful when he chose to go to Georgia instead.
It suggested that someone at his level was too good to stay home. Heck, he wasn’t even willing to stay on the West Coast.
The implication: the SEC is where real talent goes to play.
From there, the plot thickens.
It turns out they had a few other quarterbacks in the room at Georgia; some of whom were pretty darn good. Long story short, Eason lost that quarterback battle to Jake Fromm and decided to transfer to Washington—to come back home and start over, so to speak. Some fans seem to have forgotten about his stint in Georgia, and they like to think of Eason as the generational talent from Puget Sound who chose to stay home. I’m not suggesting he’s damaged goods, just that it’s too early to anoint him the next Jake Browning.
Next in line, in the minds of most observers, is Jake Haener. (It can feel like a first name involving some variation of Jake or Jacob is the coaching staff’s main recruiting criterion.) Haener is not as tall or as gifted in the arm department as Eason, but he was a highly touted recruit and should be more than capable; though the proviso about lack of college experience applies.
From there, it goes to a number of underclassmen who have potential but are probably not ready yet, such as Dylan Morris. The best situation would be for Eason and Haener to both play as much as possible this year, giving these younger players time to develop.
In general, we will have to wait until a game or two into the season before we know who the regular starter will be. Washington hosts Eastern Washington on Montlake on 8/31, and that will give the presumptive starter—likely Eason or Haener—a chance to get his feet wet. That said, if there are not big strides made right away, don’t be surprised if Peterson pulls him in favor of the other, or even one of the underclassmen. That would be an effective way to prepare whoever it’s going to be for conference play, as well as to send a message to the upperclassmen, that there’s no such thing in this world as a free lunch.