Walking the sideline of the east practice field on the banks of Lake Washington, familiar faces — the ones not obstructed by face masks and visors, that is – are hard to come by. Perhaps the two biggest constants from the beginning of fall camp a year ago are the Blue Angels and bald eagles sharing the sky overhead, and the steady gaze of coach Chris Petersen.
But Petersen is joined by a new receivers coach. He’ll have a new quarterback under center (for now, make that four quarterbacks) and an almost entirely remade defense.
Faces new and old took the field in Adidas practice uniforms — no pads yet — for the second practice of the Huskies’ fall camp. Here are a few takeaways.
An early QB tier
The official word is that the competition is on. And by all indictions, that’s not empty talk from Petersen and offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan.
Jacob Eason transferred to Washington from Georgia as a former five-star recruit who had been beaten out for a starting job and had two years of eligibility left. By the time the ink had dried on his transfer paperwork, he’d been crowned Jake Browning’s successor by just about everybody except the one person that matters.
He stands every bit of the 6-foot-6 at which he’s listed and tosses spirals with a flick of the wrist. The ball leaves his hand like Spiderman’s web — if he were swinging to a downfield receiver.
And yet, four quarterbacks rotated through mostly equal snaps for the second straight day.
“We’re trying to cut these guys loose,” Hamdan said. “Give them enough information but not bog them down, let them go play with some freedom and see who can kind of just feel this thing.”
Our Mike Vorel predicted after spring practice that Eason would be named the starter, and there’s no reason to think otherwise after his play through two practices. Physically, he stands above the other quarterbacks but the ball also comes out of his hands differently — easier.
“Obviously I’m aware there’s a competition,” Eason said. “I trust the coaches to make a decision. I gotta do my job everyday just like Jake and Jacob have to do theirs. We understand it’s a competition, but we’re all for this team and trying to put our best foot forward and make this team better.”
An early ranking you shouldn’t put too much weight into: 1) Eason 2a) Jake Haener 2b) Jacob Sirmon 4) Dylan Morris.
Play of the day (and a standout)
Eason’s favorite target of the day seemed to be Aaron Fuller, and he wasn’t the only one. While Eason and Fuller connected on a couple of passes — including an impressive deep ball over the middle of the defense — it was Haener who set him up to make the play of the day.
Haener launched a bomb down the near sideline from around the 25-yard line. The ball hung in the air seemingly forever as Fuller raced freshman cornerback Trent McDuffie. The ball appeared out of reach until Fuller dove forward and beat McDuffie for a highlight-reel catch. He spent the next few minutes on his back with the wind knocked out of him from the landing.
Those are the plays that were missing last season and that the Huskies want — and need — more of. A focus this season is to give their receivers the opportunity to make big plays.
“What we say at the wide receiver position is that we’re gonna play great for our quarterback, whoever that is,” receivers coach Junior Adams said. “Whoever that is, we want to be some frisbee-catching dogs.”
Adams also highlighted the play of Jordan Chin, Chico McClatcher, Quinten Pounds and Ty Jones.
“I watched more film than I have in my whole career this past spring ball,” Jones said. “Just being able to watch from the coaches’ standpoint really helped me out.”
Odds and ends
- With the new Adidas uniforms came new Adidas footballs. That, combined with a blustery day, made for adjustments aplenty for the four quarterbacks.
- El Gaucho catered the Huskies’ practice. The local steakhouse also catered the first practices of UW camp last season.