Quarterback Jeff Lindquist caps off a steady spring with a good performance in UW’s spring preview, though several questions remain as the Huskies break for the summer.
The question elicited a high-pitched exhale — “oooooph” — and an exaggerated head turn from Chris Petersen. What, the Washington coach was asked after Saturday’s spring finale, are the priorities for this team heading into the summer?
“We don’t have enough time for that (answer),” he said, smiling.
The questions about this Huskies team are indeed many. The holes on the roster are so large that the massive machines being used on the Highway 520 floating bridge project — the drill’s pounding served as a soundtrack to UW practices for much of the spring — would have trouble filling them.
The Huskies came into the spring needing to break in new a quarterback, four new offensive linemen, an entirely new defensive line and two new starting linebackers. It’s no wonder many project 2015 as a rebuilding year for the program.
And yet, with the progress they believe they made this spring — particularly with junior Jeff Lindquist at quarterback — the Huskies break for summer with at least some idea of how the pieces could come together this fall.
The “big hype,” as Lindquist called it, surrounded UW’s three-man quarterback competition. Saturday’s spring finale, played before several thousand fans on a pleasant afternoon at Husky Stadium, served as the public debut for UW’s two young quarterbacks, redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels and freshman Jake Browning.
It was Lindquist, however, who wrapped up a productive spring with a steady performance during the handful of 11-on-11 periods Saturday. He threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns, including a 71-yard TD pass to sophomore receiver Dante Pettis, and also led the No. 2 offense on another long touchdown drive (against the No. 2 defense) on the final series.
“Where I am right now, I’m pretty happy,” Lindquist said.
He completed 13 of 16 passes, with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Jaydon Mickens. He was also intercepted once, by backup linebacker Sean Constantine.
“Obviously, I want to win the job,” Lindquist said, “but ultimately the goal for us is to win Rose Bowls, and whoever’s the best guy leading the show, that’s who it should be.”
With one career start, at Hawaii in the 2014 opener, and 10 career pass completions on his resume, Lindquist was the only quarterback available this spring with game experience. His goal this spring was to improve his touch and accuracy on his throws.
“Jeff’s done a nice job,” Petersen said. “Jeff has taken a step forward, he really has.”
The defense, needing to replace six of seven starters up front — including first-team All-Americans Danny Shelton, Hau’oli Kikaha and Shaq Thompson — overall had its way with the offense this spring, and for the most part that continued Saturday.
Sophomore cornerback Darren Gardenhire intercepted a Carta-Samuels pass and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown, and sophomore cornerback Sidney Jones nearly had a pick-six of his own after intercepting Browning.
Browning was also tormented by sophomore defensive end Will Dissly, who had two touch sacks; on the second, he stripped the ball away from Browning and would have had a touchdown return if the play hadn’t been blown dead.
“That’s our job right there — to get the ball back or score,” defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said. “Those guys are doing a real nice job of it this spring, for sure.”
On the defense overall, Kwiatkowski said, “I think our depth’s going to be pretty good. Now, whether we get the production from some individual guys like we did last year, I don’t know. We’ll find out.”
There’s still much to figure out about the quarterbacks, too. Junior Cyler Miles, UW’s starter in 2014, remains on an indefinite leave of absence. Miles is enrolled in classes — he had a 3.6 grade-point average last term — and Petersen hasn’t ruled out Miles’ possible return to the team “down the road,” though he declined to offer details.
“The conversations and what Cyler’s going through is between us,” Petersen said.
Meanwhile, Carta-Samuels completed 11 of 12 passes for 123 yards with no touchdowns and one interception during team periods Saturday. Browning was 11 of 18 for 59 yards and two interceptions, though coaches said one day’s performance would be but a small factor in deciding who starts the season opener at Boise State on Sept. 4. Both young quarterbacks have drawn praise for their progress throughout the spring.
“You can see flashes in all of them,” Petersen said of the quarterbacks. “Obviously, we need a lot more than flashes.”
• UW junior receiver John Ross III tweaked his surgically repaired right knee during practice last week, but an MRI test result showed no immediate concern, a source said. Petersen said he wouldn’t comment further on Ross’ injury until “the doctors give us the final, final” results.