In the end, Chris Petersen said, the Huskies’ quarterback competition was so close that the decision came down to “splitting hairs” between Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams.
To start, then, Petersen announced Friday that he will go with the most veteran quarterback available for Washington’s Aug. 30 season opener at Hawaii.
Lindquist, a 6-foot-3, 246-pound sophomore from Mercer Island, will make his starting debut for the Huskies in Honolulu, though his game experience for UW amounts to three mop-up appearances last season — and exactly zero pass attempts.
So the quarterback question remains a potentially hairy situation, given the lack of game time for each of the candidates. Someone has to take the snaps, however, and Lindquist’s improved throwing accuracy, durable running style and grasp of the new offense has put him atop the depth chart.
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“He’s done a great job from spring through now,” said Petersen, entering his first season as the UW coach. “I will say this: Troy Williams has done a really nice job, too. And I think we were splitting hairs trying to figure this out. Both have different skill sets they bring to the table, but at this point we feel like we need to give Jeff the nod and let him roll, let him get some things done and let him go from there.”
In another intriguing position battle, sophomore Dwayne Washington and redshirt freshman Lavon Coleman will likely get the bulk of the workload at running back against Hawaii, Petersen said. Seniors Deontae Cooper and Jesse Callier remain in the mix.
After the team returns from Hawaii, the quarterback competition will heat up again with sophomore Cyler Miles becoming available following his one-game suspension.
“He definitely factors into it,” Petersen said.
For now, though, Lindquist gets the stage to himself to continue an audition for a role he’s sought for much of his life.
“Growing up watching the Huskies, that’s obviously something I’ve dreamt about,” said Lindquist, when asked earlier in the week what it would mean for him to start. “I just want to do whatever I can do to get the team ready and help us start off on the right foot.”
Lindquist made his most impressive push for the starting job during the team’s final public scrimmage a week ago, when he led the No. 1 offense on its two best drives, each resulting in rushing touchdowns. Unofficially, Lindquist was 7 of 15 passing for 84 yard, but most important to Petersen and UW offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith was that Lindquist didn’t commit any turnovers — something that has been an issue for Williams throughout fall camp.
Williams was 7 of 14 for 36 yards and threw the only interception in the scrimmage. That’s consistent with the strong-armed redshirt freshman’s play for much of fall camp; for every well-thrown long ball Williams had, he seemed to counter it with a forced pass that too often ended up in the hands of the defense.
Miles, who made one start for the Huskies last season in place of injured Keith Price, was 10 of 16 for 145 yards in the scrimmage. He didn’t have any turnovers.
Petersen also praised true freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels, the fourth quarterback on the UW roster, who has also shown off a strong arm in the first two weeks of camp.
For now, though, all eyes are on Lindquist.
Smith, the first-year offensive coordinator, said earlier this week that Lindquist’s understanding of the new offensive schemes “has been pretty impressive. He’s really worked hard at it, diving into the playbook. I think his demeanor and his approach on the field is really good.
“He’s positive — a positive outlook every time he walks out there. Great energy at practice, and over time you come to appreciate that.”
• Junior receiver Jaydon Mickens will open the season as the primary punt returner, Petersen said. Sophomore receiver John Ross will be the main kickoff-return specialist, with “a handful” of others — including freshman safety Budda Baker — getting a chance to return kicks, too. Baker will likely play a role on all of the Huskies’ special-team units.