Jake Browning graduated from Folsom High School in December, led his team to California’s Division 1 state championship later that month, enrolled as a freshman at the University of Washington in January, then participated in 15 spring practices as a quarterback for a Pac-12 football team right about the time most kids his age were planning their Senior Skip Day.
Oh, and as the guy who threw more touchdown passes (229) than any other high schooler in history, his arrival at UW is accompanied by particularly lofty expectations — especially because coach Chris Petersen is giving him every chance to compete for the Huskies’ starting quarterback position as a true freshman.
Browning, permitted Monday to speak with reporters for the first time as a Husky, greets such speculation with an attitude that seems to belie his 19 years.
“It’s cool for the fans, I get that,” Browning said after the Huskies’ third day of preseason training camp. “But I think for a quarterback coming in, you can get caught up in a lot of the big picture, like ‘Here’s all these expectations, blah, blah, blah.’ You’ve got to get better day to day. If you’re reading into that, you’re not watching film or working on your craft.
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“… It’s Day 3. You have a good Day 3 and a bad Day 4, those offset to nothing. You’ve got to have a better day the next day. I just try not to think about the big picture and all these expectations. Just rep to rep.”
For the record, he did have a good Day 3, tossing an array of deep passes accurately, and in stride, into the hands of a few different receivers. There was a 41-yard touchdown pass to senior Jaydon Mickens during a seven-on-seven drill. And a pair of perfectly-thrown deep balls to Marvin Hall and Dante Pettis during a one-on-one drill. And, finally, a 50-yard strike during an 11-on-11 period to walk-on Max Richmond (though that drive eventually stalled after a series of incompletions).
This, of course, had to catch the eye of Petersen, who must eventually parse the three-man dead heat between Browning, K.J. Carta-Samuels and Jeff Lindquist and name a starter for UW’s Sept. 4 opener at Boise State.
Seemed like Browning took a step forward, yes?
“I have no idea,” Petersen said. “You guys sit up there and watch those guys. I’m watching 105. You tell me. Did he?”
Oh. Uh. Yes?
“OK,” he said. “That’s good to know. I can’t wait to put the tape on.”
Petersen has been mostly hesitant to single out the positive performances of one quarterback or another, likely because this truly is a three-man competition, one that began in spring and has yet to imply a likely conclusion.
Carta-Samuels and Lindquist have each had their moments, and, logically, it seems that Browning would have to prove himself substantially better than the other two to justify burning his redshirt. To date, that hasn’t happened, though he was the clear standout at Monday’s practice.
But one day, as Browning himself reminds, is just one day. And the three competitors must endure several more before a winner is declared.
“When you first start to think about (the competition), it’s a little bit heavy,” said Carta-Samuels, who also spoke with reporters Monday for the first time as a Husky. “But I think over time you just realize that whatever happens is going to kind of happen, and you’ve just got to roll with it and do your best, and that’s all we’re doing.”
Said Browning: “I think it definitely pushes you. You see someone else stay a little later and say, OK, I’ll stay a little later. I think all three of us do that. We’re all pretty competitive guys. But there’s definitely no bad blood or anything like that.”