It’s always about the quarterbacks, isn’t it?
That was coach Chris Petersen’s chief grievance following the Washington Huskies’ first football practice of the spring Monday morning — that the second question asked of him by a reporter concerned the three guys throwing passes.
“So we’re going to start with the quarterbacks right away, huh?” Petersen said with a smile. “We’ve got a whole new O-line, a whole new D-line, but we still want to go right back to the quarterbacks? Is that the consensus?”
Well, yeah, it probably is.
The Huskies are of course practicing without fourth-year junior Cyler Miles, last year’s starting quarterback, after the school announced earlier this month that Miles would sit out this spring while taking a voluntary leave of absence.
So three quarterbacks remain on UW’s roster: fourth-year junior Jeff Lindquist, redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels and freshman Jake Browning.
Each took their turns commanding UW’s offense during Monday’s session. Players aren’t in pads yet, per NCAA rules, but the Huskies did spend a decent amount of time on seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 work.
Lindquist might have had the most consistent day, highlighted by a deep pass over the middle to senior receiver Jaydon Mickens, with sophomore safety Budda Baker eventually chasing him down after a long gain.
Browning, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound freshman who graduated early from Folsom (California) High School so he could enroll at UW in January and participate in these practices, had an up-and-down day.
He threw two interceptions — one to Baker and one to redshirt freshman linebacker Jake Wambaugh — but also flashed promise on a touchdown strike over the middle to sophomore receiver Brayden Lenius that covered roughly 30 yards.
Carta-Samuels, who impressed coaches last season while redshirting and manning the scout-team offense, made effective use of UW’s tight ends — a position group that had a productive practice, particularly third-year sophomore and Shelton High grad David Ajamu — and looked mostly comfortable.
“I thought today was actually a really good day for us,” said Lindquist, the only quarterback of the three who has played in a game for the Huskies. “Obviously, it was the first day, so there are kinks to work out and stuff, but I thought we looked pretty good as a team. We’re just going to keep getting better.”
Mickens, who also caught a touchdown pass from Lindquist, thought each passer looked fine.
“They all honestly looked great — every last one of them,” Mickens said. “The throws are right on point. The quarterbacks are more used to this offense now, as opposed to last year, and they look confident in everything they do.”
As for Miles, Petersen didn’t rule out the possibility that he might return to the team at some point. But the Huskies have no choice but to proceed as if Miles might not return at all.
“You never know how the whole thing’s going to go,” Petersen said. “We evaluate everybody. Guys that are out here, you just never know how that whole thing goes. So the guys that are here, we go with. They get more reps, and we evaluate the guys that are here, and that’s how it works.
“We love Cyler and we support him and got his back, without question, every guy on this team (does),” Petersen added. “But right now, we’ve got to go with the guys we’ve got.”
Sixth-year senior tailback Deontae Cooper was not at practice, though Petersen said he expects him to return soon. ... Sophomore cornerback Naijiel Hale also missed practice, with Petersen saying afterward that Hale will miss the first week, and “we’ll see how it goes next week.” He didn’t specify any reason. ... John Ross III mostly watched from the sideline as he recovers from offseason knee surgery, but he’ll be at receiver whenever he’s healthy enough to fully participate. He finished last season at cornerback. “We see it like everybody else does — he’s very explosive with the ball,” Petersen said. “We needed him so badly last year on that secondary side. He did a great job. It just really shows what type of skill he has. But we’d like to play John on offense and get the ball in his hands.” Ross caught passes from a football passing machine toward the end of practice. ... A few other players, such as defensive backs Kevin King, Jermaine Kelly and Trevor Walker, linebacker Keishawn Bierria and offensive lineman Coleman Shelton (his left arm was in a sling), did not participate due to injury.