LOS ANGELES — Even in a new environment, surrounded by palm trees on a 90-degree day on the Paramount Studios lot, Chris Petersen fell back into old habits.
Having built a reputation as something of a hard-line disciplinarian in eight seasons at Boise State, the first-year Washington coach added to that on Thursday morning when he announced that he was suspending sophomore quarterback Cyler Miles for the Huskies’ season opener at Hawaii on Aug. 30.
That decision guarantees that the new coach will start the season with a brand-new quarterback.
Miles, the favorite to take over the starting job, was connected to two assaults in post-Super Bowl incidents on the UW campus on Feb. 2, but he was not ultimately charged.
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“Guys make mistakes, we all know that,” Petersen said on the main stage at his first Pac-12 media days. “I always say, hey, the age group we’re dealing with for the most part is the dumbest age group in America. It just happens to be so public.”
Miles served a three-month suspension, missing all of the spring practices, before Petersen reinstated him to team activities in mid-May. Even as Miles has “done everything right” since then, Petersen added the one-game suspension for good measure.
“The courts didn’t do anything,” Petersen said, “but we did. … I would say the fact that he didn’t have one day or one meeting in spring football probably sent a pretty strong message to him.”
The Huskies were already facing a challenge in replacing the graduated Keith Price, the program’s all-time leader in touchdown passes. They’ll now throw the position into the hands of sophomore Jeff Lindquist or Troy Williams, neither of whom has attempted a pass in a college game.
One of them will start at Hawaii.
“We gotta figure out our quarterback situation,” Petersen said, adding: “You know you’ve got to have a quarterback that’s playing at a high level or that whole offense will struggle.”
The Huskies are one of just two teams (along with Arizona) in the Pac-12 without a starting quarterback returning this season. Miles, a dual-threat quarterback at 6 feet 4, 217 pounds, filled in capably for the injured Price last season, leading the Huskies to an impressive 69-27 victory at Oregon State in his first and only start.
Receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor assault in the post-Super Bowl incidents, and his attorney told a King County judge in April that Stringfellow was “backing up his quarterback” during the altercations. In the first incident, Stringfellow admitted knocking down a young woman at a celebratory bonfire after the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos. The woman, who was taking photos of the bonfire celebration, briefly lost consciousness after the altercation with Stringfellow.
Miles, a Denver-area native who was wearing Broncos gear, was also present at the bonfire. Less than an hour later, Stringfellow and Miles, according to the charging documents, got out of a car, chased a Seahawks fan and assaulted him. Prosecutors did not pursue charges against Miles because of insufficient evidence.
“I wasn’t there so I don’t know what happened,” UW offensive tackle Ben Riva told reporters at the Pac-12 event Thursday. “Obviously, he was probably the one Bronco fan walking around Seattle that night. I think someone tried to rip his jersey off, and he got in a fight. …
“It was kind of out of character for him. He’s not the kind of guy who goes looking for something like that. He’s responded well to it, and he’s ready to put it behind him.”
UW announced in May that Stringfellow would transfer to another school. Miles remains, but he’ll remain out of action for one game, at least. After that, Petersen said Miles will be eligible, if he earns it, to be the starting quarterback.
“He made a mistake. He owned up to it,” Petersen said. “He did everything right as we went forward, and he’s going to get a second chance.”
Bryant takes medical retirement
UW freshman defensive tackle Jaimie Bryant has taken a medical retirement from football because of a back injury.
Bryant, a Tumwater High product who grayshirted last season, signed with the Huskies as part of Petersen’s first recruiting class in February. He enrolled in classes in April and participated in the final two weeks of spring practices.
Petersen said Bryant began to feel some numbness in his hamstring late in the spring. That led to an MRI, which revealed the back injury. Doctors then recommended that Bryant retire.
“Just crushing,” Petersen said. “It breaks your heart.”
Bryant will remain on scholarship and continue to take classes, Petersen said.
The good news on the injury front is that Petersen expects senior receiver Kasen Williams (broken leg), senior left tackle Micah Hatchie (shoulder) and junior left guard Dexter Charles (shoulder) to be back to full strength, or close to it, by the start of fall camp on Aug. 4.
Closing the gap
Hanging out at the hotel pool where Pac-12’s players and coaches stayed this week, UW outside linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha got to meet and mingle with supposed rivals, among them Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Like Kikaha, Mariota is from Hawaii.
“He’s a good guy,” said Kikaha, second in the Pac-12 with 13 sacks last season.
Oregon was picked to win the Pac-12 title in the preseason media poll, with Stanford second in the North Division and UW third.
Riva, UW’s other player representative at the two-day event, was asked how close the Huskies are to competing for the North title.
“As close as we’ve been since I’ve been part of the program,” the senior said.
Petersen, Riva believes, will help close that gap with the Ducks.
“If there’s a guy to help us with that,” Riva said, “it’s him.”