Ethan Garbers has a decision to make.
On Saturday night, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound quarterback will sit inside Husky Stadium — with his family on one side, and his future program on the other. Garbers’ brother, Chase, is the sophomore starter under center for the Cal Golden Bears. In prime time, on national television, they’ll attempt to upend the Washington Huskies — who, by the way, earned Ethan’s verbal commitment last March.
So you can see how this might present something of an awkward situation — a high-school senior helplessly torn between family and football.
But, if you ask Ethan, it’s not a difficult decision at all.
“I’m a UW fan no matter what. I don’t care who’s playing,” he told The Times in a phone interview on Sunday. “So I’m rooting for the Dawgs this weekend.”
And Chase is aware of that?
“Chase is well aware of that,” he confirmed. “He knows that I’m rooting for the Dawgs.”
Ethan’s decisiveness is hardly surprising when you consider the siblings’ constant, unyielding childhood competitions. Chase and Ethan competed at golf. Chase and Ethan competed at football. Chase and Ethan “would even compete if we were eating dinner to see who could eat it fastest,” Ethan said. “We’re just like that.”
It stands to reason, then, that when Ethan verbally pledged to UW last spring, his big brother’s immediate response was, “I can’t believe you committed to a team that can’t beat Cal,” a reference to the Bears’ 12-10 upset win over Washington last October. Chase started that game and completed 16 of 23 passes for 153 yards.
He obviously hasn’t forgotten.
But neither have the Huskies.
“He’s an athletic guy that can run around and do different things,” UW coach Chris Petersen said of Chase. “We’ve always had a respect for him and that family. We’ve known him for a long time.”
Added defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake: “He’s very efficient with the football. He knows where he’s going with it. I think (Cal offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach) Beau Baldwin, who I have a lot of respect for, does a great job of coaching the quarterbacks and makes them have clean, easy reads.
“This guy’s an athlete, too. He burned us last year I think four times on a third-down scramble to keep the chains moving. So last week, obviously that guy (for Eastern Washington) was extremely fast reversing field. But Garbers … he can run. He can run, and he can hurt you if you don’t account for him, especially on third down.”
OK, OK, so Chase Garbers can run. We got it. But how well can he throw? The 6-foot-2, 205-pound sophomore completed 61.2 percent of his passes last season, throwing for 1,506 yards with 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He finished dead last in the Pac-12 with a pass-efficiency rating of 119.88. And he didn’t do a whole lot to alleviate those concerns in Cal’s season-opening 27-13 win over UC Davis last weekend, completing 57.1 percent of his passes while throwing for 238 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Chase Garbers is an athlete. But might his little brother soon be the superior QB?
“My brother is a little bit more athletic than me,” Ethan said, comparing their skill sets. “I’m more of a pure thrower for sure, but he’s a little bit more on the athletic side.”
When it comes to his right arm, there are statistics to support Ethan’s assertions. Through two games at Corona del Mar High in Newport Beach, Calif., he has completed 70.8 percent of his passes, piling up 820 passing yards with 13 touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. In a season-opening 57-20 win over Downey on Aug. 23, he completed 23 of 27 passes for 480 yards and eight touchdowns — breaking his own school records in both categories — in less than three full quarters.
And, speaking of impressive performances, he was also watching last weekend when quarterback Jacob Eason threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns in his UW debut.
“It pumps me up big-time,” Ethan said of seeing that from a Husky QB. “Eason’s a really good player and I just really liked how the plays were called and how they utilized the quarterback. It was great, getting under center and letting him show his arm with play-action passes and all that. It was great, and it got me really fired up.”
Therein lies the theme. Ethan is also exceedingly enthusiastic about UW’s budding 2020 class, which features four-star wide receivers Jalen McMillan and Rome Odunze, four-star running back Sam Adams, four-star offensive linemen Myles Murao, Roger Rosengarten and Geirean Hatchett and one of his best friends and teammates in 6-6 tight end Mark Redman.
“I’m super fired up. I couldn’t be more excited,” he said of UW’s 2020 class, which is currently ranked 17th nationally by the 247Sports Composite. “The class is looking fantastic. With the big O-line commits, our two tight ends, our three receivers, we’re looking good. Now we’re starting to get some defensive players. Our 2020 class for offense is going to be phenomenal.”
That class, Ethan included, will sign with Washington this winter. But first, its only quarterback commit will sit inside Husky Stadium on Saturday, rooting hard against his brother. Ethan Garbers — a four-star recruit, per the 247Sports Composite — is planning to attend the game with his parents and cousins. And by this point, he has made it perfectly clear which colors he will wear.
But as for everyone else?
“It’s going to be funny to see what (my parents) are going to wear, but I would assume that they might wear some Cal stuff. I don’t know,” Ethan said with a laugh. “My mom might go Cal, and my dad might go UW. I don’t know for sure.”
That decision will be more magnified if/when the Garbers brothers someday start against each other in Pac-12 play. But even now, Ethan’s allegiances are already obvious.
He loves his big brother … and he’s rooting wholeheartedly for a Washington win.