Washington opens fall practice trying to find a quarterback for the season opener
Huskies will have an untested quarterback for the first game before Cyler Miles comes back from suspension
Seattle Times staff reporter
Aug. 4: Fall camp begins
Aug. 9: First of three 10 a.m. practices open to the public
Aug. 11: First scrimmage
Aug. 30: Season opener at Hawaii (7:30 p.m. PT, CBS Sports Network)
Sept. 6: Home opener vs. Eastern Washington
Five questions for UW entering fall camp
1. Who replaces Keith Price at quarterback?
The Huskies return seven starters from an offense that set school records for points and total yards in 2013. That’s the good news. The bad news: It’s unclear who will start at quarterback for Washington at Hawaii on Aug. 30. QB Keith Price, UW’s career leader in touchdown passes, has graduated, and the next three QBs have combined for one career start. Cyler Miles will be suspended for the season opener. That leaves Jeff Lindquist and redshirt freshman Troy Williams, neither of whom have attempted a pass in a game for UW, to battle this month for the start at Hawaii.
2. Who replaces Bishop Sankey at running back?
Sankey rushed for a school-record 1,870 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2013, then became the first running back selected in the NFL draft this spring. No one player emerged out of the spring as a sure bet to replace him, though veteran Deontae Cooper and redshirt freshman Lavon Coleman impressed. Sophomore Dwayne Washington is the front-runner to land the featured role, and senior Jesse Callier remains in the mix. There is one wild card: linebacker Shaq Thompson might run, too.
3. How healthy is the offensive line?
The Huskies boast the most experienced offensive line in the Pac-12, with 124 combined starts between their 12 veteran linemen. The Huskies return all five starters — Micah Hatchie, Dexter Charles, Mike Criste, Colin Tanigawa, Ben Riva — though Hatchie and Charles both sat out the spring while recovering from surgeries.
4. How does Budda Baker factor in?
The secondary is the primary concern. Junior Marcus Peters, who has generated buzz as a potential first-round NFL choice, is the lone returning starter in the secondary. That means the Huskies will rely on three new starters — and three youngsters. Freshman Budda Baker, the former Bellevue High two-way star, expects to be in the mix for the free safety job, and six other freshmen defensive backs are coming in.
5. Is the gap closing with Oregon?
Senior nose tackle Danny Shelton was asked Sunday if there was one game on the schedule he was looking forward to the most. “I’ve been thinking about Oregon a lot,” he admitted. The Huskies travel to Eugene on Oct. 18. With Boise State, coach Chris Petersen was 2-0 against Oregon.
— Adam Jude
Most of the players had filed out of the Washington locker room, or were on their way out, when Hau’oli Kikaha turned back and noticed something he’d never seen before.
Chris Petersen, the Huskies’ new head coach, the man with a historically dominant record now charged with leading UW back to its glory days — no small task, mind you — was kneeling down in the locker room and performing the smallest of chores: scooping up sunflower seeds to dispose of.
Kikaha was stunned.
“I’ve never even seen a GA (graduate assistant) do that,” said Kikaha, UW’s senior outside linebacker. “Nobody was around, but that’s when it really matters, right?”
When asked during spring practices what was different about Petersen and this new coaching staff, many UW players spoke of the “attention to detail” in general terms. For Petersen, there is no detail too small.
“Everything matters,” he said, after the sunflower-seed story was relayed back to him last week.
And yet, as Petersen dissects seemingly every particle of the program, there is one matter most pressing: Who will start at quarterback in the season opener at Hawaii on Aug. 30?
For a football team, the quarterback question is as big as it gets.
Petersen’s first fall camp at UW begins Monday at Husky Stadium, and sophomore Jeff Lindquist and redshirt freshman Troy Williams, as they did throughout the spring, will share snaps with the veterans during the first practice at 10 a.m. One of them will start at quarterback in the season opener after Petersen announced July 24 that sophomore Cyler Miles would be suspended against Hawaii for his role in two post-Super Bowl altercations near campus.
Miles was suspended for all of spring ball and enters fall camp with much work to do, Petersen said, to get up to speed with the new playbook and the new expectations of this coaching staff.
“He’s behind,” Petersen said Sunday. “He’s done some things, as much as he can after spring ball, to get caught up. … That’s such a detailed position, it’s going to take him a while to process that. It’s hard. He missed a lot.”
Miles, the only quarterback of the four on the UW roster to throw a pass in a collegiate game, will join freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels as the two quarterbacks in the afternoon practice with other “newcomers.”
“I’m anxious to get (Miles) back in the mix and see what he can do,” Petersen said.
Petersen doesn’t have a timetable for naming a starter against Hawaii, and he didn’t rule out the idea that both Lindquist and Williams could play. Miles is eligible to play Week 2 against Eastern Washington at home.
“Certainly that quarterback situation, if there is one position you would like to have stabilized, it would be that,” Petersen said.
“(By) game week,” he added, “hopefully we’ll have that figured out, who that guy is going to be. And if it’s both of them, then we’re going to have to figure that out. When we know, we’ll know.”
The Huskies, coming off a 9-4 season in Steve Sarkisian’s final year with the program, are ranked No. 25 in the preseason coaches’ poll released last week. Hawaii was 1-11 last season, so even with the long road trip, the expectation is the Huskies’ opener should be a soft landing for the new coach’s new quarterback. A veteran offensive line, which returns all five starters, should help the young quarterback, too.
“I do feel like we’ve made some progress (as a program) in terms of the things that they know we’re going to believe strongly in,” said Petersen, 92-12 in eight seasons at Boise State. “But we’ve got to set this foundation and figure out the things we’re going to hang our hat on and become that tight, unified team.”
Until then, Petersen surely will have more details for his new team — and his young quarterbacks — to pick up.
Farria out, Vea in on defensive line
Sophomore defensive end Marcus Farria, who had 2.5 sacks as a true freshman last season, was dismissed from the program last week for what Petersen said was “a violation of team standards.”
Farria’s dismissal is another hit to a defensive line that earlier this summer lost senior Josh Shirley, who announced he would transfer to another (unspecified) program.
“Honestly, we’re going to have those guys who don’t want to buy in and they’re going to be stubborn,” UW senior nose tackle Danny Shelton said Sunday. “But in the end, it’s Coach’s decision and I’m going to stand by his decision. It’s disappointing they had to leave like that, but they had their opportunity, they had their chance, and they chose the wrong path. So they had to deal with the consequences.”
The Huskies did add one defensive lineman for the start of fall camp: Vita Vea, a 6-foot-5, 330-pounder from Milpitas (Calif.) High School in the Bay Area.
Vea, a three-star recruit from the Class of 2013, did not sign with an FBS program out of high school, reportedly because of academic eligibility issues.
“We’ve been recruiting him the last year and we were finally able to get him in here,” Petersen said.
• The Huskies will open three fall-camp practices to the public, the first of which is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium. The Aug. 13 practice, scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m., also will be open. Picture Day will follow that, with fans allowed on the field in a meet-and-greet event with players and coaches. The Huskies will scrimmage on the final day of fall camp, Aug. 16, and that is also open.
• In coordination with his family, the UW athletic department will hold a celebration of life for Abner Thomas at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Don James Center at Husky Stadium. The event is open to the public. Thomas, a mentor to generations of UW athletes as an athletic-department special assistant, died July 27 at age 86.