In the third quarter against Utah on Nov. 2, Jacob Eason threw an out-route pass that was intended for Washington wide receiver Aaron Fuller on the wide side of the field. It was intercepted and returned 39 yards for a touchdown.
In the third quarter against Oregon State on Nov. 8, Jacob Eason threw an out-route pass that was intended for Washington wide receiver Aaron Fuller on the wide side of the field. It was intercepted and returned 36 yards for a touchdown.
The above paragraphs are redundant, and so were the results.
But did they have to be? And must history repeat itself (again) Saturday?
To ask the obvious question, wouldn’t it be wise to expunge that particular route from future game plans?
In his weekly news conference Monday, Husky coach Chris Petersen didn’t provide a precise answer. But he did speak to how the Huskies tailor plays to each particular passer.
“I think there’s certain routes you’re always leery about, and an out to the wide side of the field has scared me for 30 years of coaching,” Petersen said. “There’s been a lot of times when we just haven’t done that (route). Now Jake Browning threw quite a few of those. But I also know he threw a pick or two on those.
“And so, I think a lot of it has to do with knowing strengths and weaknesses of certain (quarterbacks). So we’re always going to keep our quarterback … if there is something that guy doesn’t like, or really likes, we’re going to lean toward those things for sure. Because they’re all different. You know this: you better pay attention to what your quarterback is feeling, or it’s going to be a problem.”
Eason gives input, Petersen said, on the routes and throws he prefers throughout the week. But second-year offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bush Hamdan has the final say on play calls on Saturdays.
Still, Petersen emphasized that a play wouldn’t enter into the game plan unless said signal caller was a “chalkboard expert” with every route, protection and potential coverage it entailed.
“If they don’t know (the play) as a true expert on the board in the classroom, we’re not putting that in. We might practice it, but it’s not going in the game,” Petersen said. “But a lot of us can be chalkboard experts and not get it done on that field, so then it comes down to the repetition on the field so they can react in a split second. And then a lot changes.
“There are five different coverages (you might see on the play), five different looks you can get on any one route. So you have to recreate those (in practice) — sometimes a bunch for certain guys, and sometimes not as much. The more you have a guy in your system, the more a guy has seen those types of things, the quicker he’s going to react in making his decisions.”
To this point, Eason – a 6-foot-6, 227-pound junior – has been in Washington’s system for nearly two full seasons. But he still made a pair of perplexing (and damaging) decisions in his team’s past two games. The former Lake Stevens High standout threw 16 touchdown passes with three interceptions in his first eight games this fall, and four touchdown passes with four picks in his past two.
So, besides eliminating a particular play or route, how do you address Eason’s recent rash of poor decisions?
“I think it’s a little bit trial and error,” Petersen said. “He’s made that throw, both of those throws, a lot in practice. Both those interceptions aren’t new concepts to us. But, if you’re a little bit late in the game or maybe the look was a little bit different, whether you should come off that … (snap) … those things happen that fast.
“And that’s what I kind of keep going back to with him. He’s a redshirt junior that’s played going on two years now. And at that position when things come your way … I do think he’s getting better with the reps that he’s getting, but it’s not going to be perfect and there’s going to be things he wishes he had back. The more he sees things the better he gets.”
Is Austin Osborne’s time coming?
In the wake of injuries to established Washington wide receivers Puka Nacua, Aaron Fuller, Chico McClatcher and Ty Jones, several more inexperienced options – namely, Terrell Bynum, Jordan Chin and Marquis Spiker – have begun to emerge in recent weeks.
But not Austin Osborne.
Washington’s 6-2, 199-pound redshirt freshman and former four-star recruit has struggled to crack the rotation this season, turning in just one catch for minus-2 yards.
But according to Petersen, Osborne has impressed in other ways.
“I keep saying this: he’s going to be a guy that will be in the mix sooner than later,” Petersen said. “I don’t know what that means (time-wise). We’ve got some of these guys that have played a lot. In some ways, we’ve got a lot of guys that are similar. You’re looking for guys to separate themselves, to do a little something.
“But he’s doing a good job. He really is. I’ve been really impressed with him. He takes reps in the rotation (in practice). He does some scout-team stuff, and he doesn’t flinch. Whatever side he’s working on, he goes 100%. I mean that. I’ve been really impressed with his demeanor. It’s a little bit like Eddy (Ulofoshio), how he just stays with the process. I feel the same thing about Austin. He just keeps working, and he’s going to be the player that we hoped he would when we brought him in here. Sometimes that’s just not always on our timetable.”
So, what does Osborne need to do to accelerate that timetable?
“I do think he can make the tough catch,” Petersen said. “With all the guys making the tough catch, you’d like to see them be a little more consistent. And really just still knowing our offense inside and out. I think when he gets that into his blood a little bit more he’s going to be able to play faster and more instinctual.
“I think he’s a smart guy, and that if he doesn’t know every little detail, sometimes that can slow guys down. So not overthinking things so much.”
Redshirt freshman linebacker M.J. Tafisi – who suffered a significant stinger during the victory at Arizona on Oct. 12 and has not played in the three games since – is practicing but has yet to be integrated into full-contact drills, per Petersen. “He is making good progress,” Petersen said. “Yesterday, we practiced and he was out there and everything with the rest of the guys. But when you do something like that we’re making sure that his strength levels, all those type of things, are (fully recovered) — no doubt out about it. And that he feels good and confident about things as well.”