As Washington’s three-man quarterback competition starts to take shape, K.J. Carta-Samuels isn’t naive to the perceptions of his place in the pecking order. He isn’t crippled by them, either. Carta-Samuels, you see, is still a mystery.
As Washington’s three-man quarterback competition starts to take shape, K.J. Carta-Samuels isn’t naive to the perceptions of his place in the pecking order.
He isn’t crippled by them, either.
Carta-Samuels, you see, is still a mystery. At least, he is compared to his better-known quarterback competitors, the veteran Jeff Lindquist and freshman phenom Jake Browning. From the outside, Carta-Samuels is sort of somewhere in the middle, and if that’s how people see him, well, he’s fine with that.
“Honestly,” he said, “that’s kind of how I am. I like to just handle my own business.”
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Carta-Samuels, a 20-year-old redshirt freshman, has handled himself well enough in the first three days of fall camp, despite throwing two interceptions Monday. UW coaches have been careful not to tip their hand — they want the quarterbacks to continue to push each other — but Carta-Samuels is a legitimate option to start the Sept. 4 season opener at Boise State, despite his limited experience in a spread offense.
In high school, Carta-Samuels ran an old-school double-wing offense at Bellarmine Prep in San Jose, Calif. He always took snaps under center and he only occasionally threw the ball. His senior-year statistics aren’t even mentioned on his official UW biography; as a junior, he had as many rushing touchdowns (12) as passing touchdowns.
Contrast that background to Browning, who at Folsom (Calif.) High School ran a pass-first spread attack that helped him throw 91 TDs as a senior last year (a national record) and 229 TDs in his three years as the starter (also a national record). To note all of his gaudy high-school numbers and accolades, Browning’s UW bio needed 559 words. Carta-Samuels’ bio has 219 words.
Indeed, much more has been written about Browning in the buildup to this season, but Carta-Samuels says it doesn’t bother him.
“I just want to improve myself,” he said after practice Monday in his first interview with the local media.
“I don’t want to worry too much about the other guys and what they’ve done and what they haven’t done, where they’re from; I really just want to focus on myself and get my game better.”
Unlike Browning, Carta-Samuels said the transition to the spread offense (and the shotgun snap) was “tough” for him when he arrived on campus in the summer of 2014. Browning arrived at UW in January and the two young QBs have pushed each other since.
“He came from an offense (at Folsom) very similar to this sort of offense, so he has a good feel for it,” Carta-Samuels said. “And that’s definitely a strength of his, and I think he’s done an awesome job. It’s been cool to bounce ideas back and forth, because we’ve figured out similarities and differences we have between us and have gotten better from watching each other.”
Teammates have described Carta-Samuels as soft-spoken, and the young QB acknowledged that commanding the attention of his older teammates has been an area in which he needs to improve.
“That’s a big thing for me, feeling so comfortable that you know that you can lead this team and you can put them in the best position to win.”
Since arriving at UW, Carta-Samuels has dropped about 15 pounds, down to his current weight of 220.
“He’s a really, really hardworking kid,” UW coach Chris Petersen said.
“Not too many times is the strength coach going to mention the quarterback in the weight room and say, ‘Hey, this is one of the guys we’re really impressed with.’ (But) he’s been like that since he’s been here.”
Carta-Samuels, it seems, is full of surprises. But it shouldn’t surprise anyone when he says he wants to win the starting job.
“It obviously means a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to all of us, though. You’ve got to think about how much time we put into this. I know we give up a lot of things as athletes and football players.
“Granted, we’re blessed to have this opportunity, to go to a university like this and be on a team like this; it’s our duty to put in the time, but at some point, yeah, it does mean a lot to you and you want to be that guy.”