Have you heard that Jacob Eason has a strong right arm?
The 6-foot-6 junior and Lake Stevens product showed it off on Wednesday. Late in Washington’s 13th spring practice, Eason took a snap, faked a handoff and delivered an effortless deep ball in Andre Baccellia’s direction along the right sideline. Baccellia — who was running with redshirt freshman cornerback Dominique Hampton — caught the ball in stride and sprinted untouched into the end zone for a dazzling 60-yard score.
That may have been Eason’s most impressive completion of Wednesday’s practice — or the previous month of spring football, for that matter — but it wasn’t the only one. In all, the junior and former Georgia Bulldog completed all nine of his pass attempts in 11-on-11 scrimmage drills. Most of those were relatively routine, but he also hit tight end Cade Otton across the middle from his own end zone for a roughly 20-yard completion. His only pass that hit the ground was a deep ball intended for wide receiver Marquis Spiker, and the play was nullified after Hampton was called for defensive pass interference.
Eason — who also took the first snaps with the starters on Wednesday — has piled up perhaps his two most impressive April practices this week, as the Huskies head into their Spring Preview on Saturday.
The same can’t be said for his primary quarterback competition.
Sophomore Jake Haener struggled on Wednesday, completing 10 of 17 passes in 11-on-11 drills — including a diving Kyler Gordon interception on a redirected pass. The 6-0 sophomore did find tight end Hunter Bryant for a deep touchdown in a 7-on-7 drill, but he almost immediately threw a pair of picks (to Elijah Molden and Myles Bryant, respectively). Two more passes were nearly intercepted, by Hampton and early enrollee safety Cameron Williams.
If you’re looking for bright spots, Haener also perfectly placed a ball for wide receiver Terrell Bynum along the sideline. Bynum came up with a leaping grab, snatching the ball over Kyler Gordon’s outstretched arms for a 25-yard gain. On his next drive, Haener correctly diagnosed the defense and put the ball on a line to wide receiver Austin Osborne up the seam on third-and-12 for a roughly 20-yard gain.
Quarterback Jacob Sirmon completed all three of his passes in two brief drives during scrimmage drills. One of those drives was headed towards the end zone, but wide receiver Chico McClatcher was stripped short of the goal line. Fellow redshirt freshman Colson Yankoff completed 1 of 2 passes during team drills, while early enrollee Dylan Morris did not receive any reps.
Another new safety tandem
Washington defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake experimented with another new starting safety tandem on Wednesday, putting senior Myles Bryant at strong safety and early enrollee freshman Cameron Williams at free safety. This is the second consecutive practice where Williams has gotten starting reps, and the first time this spring that junior Brandon McKinney has not served as the starter at strong safety.
Alongside Bryant and Williams, the starting corners were Keith Taylor and Kyler Gordon and the starting nickel was Elijah Molden. McKinney and converted wide receiver Alex Cook worked as the second-team safeties (with redshirt freshman Julius Irvin still limited with an injury).
But it’s worth reinforcing the fact that Lake is using the spring to try players at different spots, and by no means is Wednesday’s lineup guaranteed to stick — even into the weekend.
The following players sat out Wednesday’s practice with an injury: wide receivers Ty Jones, Aaron Fuller, Quinten Pounds and Fatu Sua-Godinet, running back Jamyn Patu, defensive lineman Jacob Bandes and offensive linemen Troy Fautanu and Matteo Mele. Irvin, defensive lineman Sama Paama and center Nick Harris were all limited as well.
Because Harris continues to be limited with a minor injury, he and sophomore Cole Norgaard continued to rotate at the center spot throughout team drills.
— Wide receiver Austin Osborne received a few first-team reps, the first time I’ve seen that happen this spring. Osborne has been the most active of Washington’s three redshirt freshmen — Spiker and Trey Lowe being the other two — in April.
— The primary starting interior defensive linemen on Wednesday were Levi Onwuzurike and John Clark, though Josiah Bronson and Sam Taimani worked in behind them.
— Sophomore kicker Peyton Henry made both of his field goal attempts, from 31 and 28 yards, on Wednesday.
— Safety Myles Bryant and linebacker Ariel Ngata both picked up sacks — of Yankoff and Haener, respectively — on blitzes during team drills on Wednesday. Ngata continues to practice both at the inside and outside linebacker spots, though the expectation is that he’ll eventually settle inside.
— In an offense versus defense running drill on the goal line, Ryan Bowman and Mosiah Nasili-Liu combined to dart into the backfield and stuff running back Richard Newton for a safety.
— Running backs Salvon Ahmed and Sean McGrew — who have both lined up with the starters throughout the spring and are clearly the top two options on the depth chart — both showed impressive burst during team drills, taking hand offs for long gains (though no tackling is allowed, so it’s difficult to really judge anything).
— Salvon Ahmed, Sean McGrew, Richard Newton and Chico McClatcher all caught punts on Wednesday. Ahmed, McGrew and Trey Lowe also took kickoffs.
— One recently departed defensive back — Jordan Miller — and one future Husky DB — Seattle O’Dea walk-on Mishael Powell — attended Wednesday’s practice. It was the second consecutive practice with media access where Powell has been present.
— Washington returns to the practice field on Friday morning, though that practice is not available to the media. The public is invited to attend the Spring Preview inside Husky Stadium at noon on Saturday.