About 90 seconds into his news conference Monday, Washington offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach John Donovan got hit with a question that might make him have to put a quarter in the swear jar.
Could you ever envision a scenario where you could play two quarterbacks? a media member asked.
“(Expletive), I don’t know,” said a grinning Donovan, using a word that rhymes with kit. “I shouldn’t have said that. Sorry, that was probably the last thing on my mind, so that’s why it came out so fast. Yeah, not right now. We’re too far from that, so I can’t truly answer that question.”
You’ll remember similar suspicions before the Huskies began last season, when a four-way battle for the lead signal-caller was underway. And 12 days into spring practice, another QB competition is cookin’ between redshirt sophomore Dylan Morris — last year’s starter — and Patrick O’Brien, the senior transfer from Colorado State.
Donovan is right — the prospect of playing two quarterbacks is about 20,000 hash marks from consideration right now. But when it comes to who will be the Huskies’ starting QB come September? That decision also appears to be a great distance away.
The hypothetical sports book would probably cast Morris as the early betting favorite. Like political candidates, incumbents generally have a built-in advantage.
In four games last year, Morris completed 67 of 110 passes for 897 yards, throwing four touchdown passes and three interceptions. Those numbers don’t drop jaws so much as they cause them to ever so slightly descend, but there were moments in which it seemed “D-Mo” was staking his claim as UW’s quarterback of the future.
He completed 15 of 25 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns while going pick-less in a win vs. Arizona. He completed 15 of 23 passes for 254 yards in a loss against Stanford, in which he threw neither a TD nor an interception. And though he threw three picks against two touchdowns vs. Utah, Morris did lead a second-half charge in which the Huskies overcame a 21-point deficit to win 24-21.
That’s what you call poise. That’s what you call grace. That’s what you call … one great half in a shell of a season.
The truth is, there is still plenty for Morris to prove to secure that starting job. And he has been solid throughout the spring. Need a guy who will minimize mistakes while meticulously moving the ball forward? That’s Morris, who went 11 for 13 with no TDs or picks during Monday’s practice — which included a 62-yard dime to receiver Quentin Moore. If you want a Top Gun comparison, Morris would be Iceman.
But if you’re looking for Maverick, you’d turn to O’Brien. At least this spring you would.
O’Brien has played in 14 more FBS games than Morris, but he has limited experience against Power Five teams. He was a backup at Nebraska, then a starter at Colorado State in 2019 and 2020, where he put up serviceable numbers.
Over his college career, the Southern California native has completed 272 of 448 passes for 3,586 yards while throwing 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Whether he’ll steal Morris’ job remains to be seen, but on Monday he did steal the show.
O’Brien completed 7 of 10 passes in UW’s most recent practice, which included three TDs. His most noteworthy strike came on a 59-yard toss to Moore in a seven-on-seven drill.
It was a performance reflective of a spring in which he has been the most daring member of the quarterbacks room. It might not lead to significant playing time, but it’s likely giving the coaches something to think about.
“I like Patty, man, he’s done a great job,” Donovan said Monday. “He’s got a lot of experience, good kid, he’s smart, he’s got a good arm, he’s sneaky athletic, I’ve been impressed.”
How you would compare and contrast his and Morris’ spring so far? asked a ginger columnist in a follow-up.
“I’m impressed with the way Patrick’s been able to learn his stuff. I’m impressed with his vision. I’m impressed with his demeanor; he can take the heat. I already knew D-Mo could,” Donovan said. “I already knew D-Mo could, because I’ve been in the fray with him. I do think with those guys, they’re all doing a good job, and I think over the next few months, this next process, they’re going to push each other. It’s going to be fun.”
If you’re wondering why incoming freshman and early enrollee Sam Huard’s name hasn’t been mentioned until now, be patient. His talent is abundant, but he is still learning the intricacies of playing at the college level.
For now the race looks to be between Morris and O’Brien, and there is no clear favorite. Fans might get some answers in Saturday’s spring game, but it will likely take months to get the answer they all want to know.