Forty percent of Washington’s spring quarterback competition is currently sitting in the transfer portal.
A pair of redshirt freshmen and former four-star signees — Jacob Sirmon and Colson Yankoff — intend to transfer from UW, a source confirmed to The Times on Monday night. This follows 15 spring practices that made it apparent that neither player would be in contention for a starting job this fall.
In the practices open to the media, at least, junior Jacob Eason and sophomore Jake Haener shared the vast majority of first-team reps, with Sirmon and Yankoff cycling in behind them. Four-star freshman early enrollee Dylan Morris picked up the scraps, rarely participating in scrimmage drills.
So, with that said, where do the Huskies go from here?
Not much should change on the field this fall. Eason is still the heavy favorite to secure the starting job, and Haener — who completed 9 of 13 passes for 107 yards with a touchdown and an interception in four games as Jake Browning’s back up in 2018 — will likely assume the same role this season. Morris will be the third-string quarterback and singlehandedly run the scout team — unless, of course, UW adds a junior college or graduate transfer quarterback this summer and the competition suddenly thickens.
Remember, too, that Sirmon and Yankoff could technically remove their names from the transfer portal and opt instead to return to Washington. If both transfer, UW will be down to 82 committed scholarships for the 2019 season, three below the 85-man limit. This would allow the Huskies to sign another quarterback this spring or summer (or, more likely, award several scholarships to standout walk-ons).
The most likely scenario is that UW opens training camp with three scholarship quarterbacks — and a lot of lingering questions.
“It’s just the reality of this thing, man. Somebody’s going to emerge,” Washington offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bush Hamdan said earlier this spring. “Somebody’s going to take care of the ball, make great decisions, be accurate, be the playmaker. Whoever that is will play quarterback for us.”
It looks like, come August, Sirmon and Yankoff will be playing quarterback somewhere else.
In which case, Morris — who told The Times in December that “I’ve wanted to be a Dawg my whole life, and I’m going to be a Dawg my whole life” — could take advantage of an unexpected opportunity.
“I think that now, being the third-string quarterback as opposed to being the fifth-string quarterback, that ensures that he’s going to get a good number of reps this fall,” 247Sports national recruiting editor Brandon Huffman said on Tuesday. “And frankly, unless they get a juco transfer or some kind of grad transfer in, he’s almost assured to be the scout team quarterback, which means that he’s going to be going up against one of the best defenses in the country every day.
“So I think it’s just a matter of continuing to learn the UW offense, which is going to be expedited now that he’s essentially ascended two spots on the depth chart. I think this summer’s going to be crucial for him.”
OK, sure. But what about next summer?
Let’s say, for Jacob Eason, everything finally falls into place. The former five-star quarterback, Lake Stevens product and Georgia transfer steps into a starting role this fall and quickly ascends draft boards, piling up touchdown passes and dominating inferior Pac-12 defenses. Let’s say he leaves for the NFL after just one season as the UW starter.
UW would hypothetically enter training camp in 2020 with three scholarship quarterbacks — Haener, Morris and three-star freshman and current verbal commit Ethan Garbers. It’s unlikely that a second coveted 2020 high school quarterback would want to sign with Washington, considering that touted 2021 commit Sam Huard is also waiting in the wings. And on the other side, the Husky coaching staff might be understandably hesitant to sign two prep quarterbacks in the same class after both Sirmon and Yankoff plunged into the portal.
The more realistic route may be for UW to sign an additional junior college or graduate transfer quarterback in 2020 instead.
“That way you’re staggering your class,” Huffman explained. “You’re not bringing in two freshmen in this class. Obviously with Huard coming in next year, you’re going to have a hard time getting even two quarterbacks to come in this (2020) class. They’re right now seeing the risk of bringing two (high school) quarterbacks into a class, when both leave.
“But I think if you stagger it with a juco quarterback and that juco can come in with the expectation that, ‘If Eason is the guy and has a good year he could be gone and I could have a chance to start next year,’ I think it’s easier to sell that.
“You probably want to stagger the experience in your quarterback room a little bit more. So I would anticipate that if they did go for (another) quarterback in the 2020 class, it’s either a juco or a grad transfer.”
And remember, this route also comes with a recent precedent. After UW quarterback Cyler Miles left the program in 2015, Petersen signed City College of San Francisco quarterback Tony Rodriguez to provide depth at the position. A high school senior — Jake Browning — also signed in the same class. The Huskies could essentially follow the same formula in 2020.
Or maybe Morris will be the long-term answer, depth be damned.
“Dylan was a four-year starter at (Puyallup) Graham-Kapowsin,” Huffman said. “So here’s a guy who was thrown into the spotlight as a freshman in high school and had four successful seasons.
“So just in terms of playing on that big stage, he’s been waiting for that stage. I don’t think he’s a guy who’s going to ever be overwhelmed by the big stage.”
The same goes for Huard, a Kennedy Catholic standout and Burien native who is regarded by 247Sports as a four-star prospect and the No. 8 overall recruit in the 2021 class.
And while he has just two seasons of high school experience, Huard has already earned that ranking.
“A lot of it is just kind of the combination that he has of size, arm strength, poise in the pocket, ability to make all the throws, the cerebral nature that he has, his ability to go through progressions,” Huffman said. “He’s thrown a ton of balls in high school.
“Much like Dylan (Morris), he was a freshman starter. The difference is that Dylan was on a team that was a lot more balanced offensively. With (five-star offensive tackle) Foster Sarell there they ran a lot more. Sam was coming out and throwing 40 times in his first game. He was throwing 50, 60 times a game routinely. So he’s thrown a lot. He knows a passing offense. He can really slide in (to a college program).”
For now, though, the stage is already occupied. The future will have to wait. While Sirmon and Yankoff’s assumed departures will undoubtedly dent Washington’s long term quarterback depth, the spotlight will still be fixed on Eason and Haener when training camp starts this summer.
“We’re good buddies,” Haener said last week of his relationship with Eason. “There’s no drama or anything going on. It’s a quarterback competition. It’s football. So I work as hard as I can. He works as hard as he can. We’re both trying to grow off one another, so I think it’s good for us.”