Sam Huard’s senior season could still be salvaged.
This week, King, Snohomish, Pierce and Thurston counties all moved into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Healthy Washington plan, which eases COVID-19 restrictions in those areas, which among other things means high schools in those areas are allowed to resume moderate and high-risk sports. In the North Puget Sound League, the Kennedy Catholic Lancers are expected to commence football practices on March 1 for a season that could extend through April 17.
Huard — Kennedy Catholic’s five-star quarterback and a Washington signee — currently remains committed to completing his prep career, despite said participation possibly precluding him from enrolling early at UW this spring.
With so much undecided, it’s still possible Kennedy Catholic’s season could be cut short prior to the beginning of April — which would then allow Huard to enroll at Washington for the start of spring practice. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound pro-style passer had been preparing since his sophomore year to be academically eligible to enroll early — taking extra classes at Kennedy Catholic and at Bellevue College in the summer.
At some point — whether in April, or August — UW’s quarterback competition between Huard, returning starter Dylan Morris and graduate transfer Patrick O’Brien will officially commence.
And the five-star freshman has been working to make an immediate impression.
“It’s definitely been the longest offseason I think we’ve all had,” Huard said with a laugh on Monday. “At first (you’re thinking), ‘Aw, I just want to play.’ But I knew it was important to look at it as a positive. OK, how can I really take that next step? I’ve been putting in a lot of work with my teammates. I’ve really been pushing myself, not only for our season but to get ready to get to UW.
“I know there’s still a lot more work to be put in, but I’m definitely sure that I’ve used this time to my advantage to better myself not just physically but mentally, spiritually. I’ve grown as a person and as a teammate as well, not just with the physical attributes that this game requires.”
Of course, the physical attributes have never been an issue. In his first three seasons at Kennedy Catholic, Huard threw for 11,741 yards — already ranking fourth in state history. He led the state in passing yards both as a sophomore and a junior. In 2019, he completed 63.1% of his passes and threw for 4,172 yards with 56 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
And when Huard took off, colleges took notice. The Husky legacy — who committed to Washington in Nov. 2018 — was ranked as a five-star recruit, the No. 1 pro-style passer and the No. 22 overall prospect in the 2021 class by 247Sports. He was the obvious headliner in a somewhat underwhelming Husky haul that included 15 December signees, ranking sixth in the Pac-12 and 33rd nationally.
It’s unlikely that Washington will add to that group on Wednesday, the cycle’s second signing day.
Regardless, Huard is optimistic that his class will outperform outside expectations.
“It’s definitely a great group — a lot of talented, hardworking guys,” he said. “I couldn’t be more fired up to get to work with them and build that relationship with our class, which we already do have a good one. I talk to a lot of the guys. (Four-star wide receiver Jabez Tinae), one of my teammates, committed, and I’m super fired up for that as well. It’s a great group and a lot of hard workers and we’re ready to get in there and give it everything we have for UW.”
For Huard, that work is already underway. Besides physical training, the Bellevue product has begun discussing UW’s pro-style scheme with second-year offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach John Donovan.
“I talk to coach Donovan pretty much every day,” Huard said. “That’s one of the biggest reasons I’m fired up to get to UW, is to go play for him. I have a great relationship with him. I’ve been starting to learn a little bit about the offense with him and talk about it. I couldn’t be more happy with him there and I definitely have a great relationship with him.”
He also has a great relationship with Morris, and he was “super happy for him this past season” — when the redshirt freshman from Puyallup started all four games and threw for 897 yards with six total touchdowns and three interceptions. O’Brien, too, should threaten for the starting role — after throwing for 3,394 yards with 16 touchdowns and nine picks in the last two seasons at Colorado State.
Despite the offseason departures of Kevin Thomson, Jacob Sirmon and Ethan Garbers, there should be no shortage of talent in the quarterbacks room at Washington this fall.
Of course, the same could also be said of the rest of the team.
“There’s so much talent there,” Huard said of the 2021 Huskies. “I think it’s by far the best (offensive) line in the Pac-12 and one of the best in the country. As we know, the game of football starts up front with those guys. Knowing that I’m going into a situation with an o-line group like that, it’s pretty great to know. Also, the receivers, the guys I’ve played with — Jabez (Tinae), Jalen (McMillan), I’ve gotten an opportunity to throw to those guys and I’ve thrown to Rome (Odunze) and some of the other guys as well — it’s special. I think it’s one of the best young receiving corps in America. That group is really special.
“That whole team around me … I know the defense is always going to be great with coach Lake and just the receivers, the running backs, to go along with that great o-line … this team is definitely loaded. It’s a young team. It’s a hungry team. I know that we’re going to be ready to roll.”