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Originally published October 23, 2014 at 8:51 PM | Page modified October 25, 2014 at 8:28 PM

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QB Jake Browning could give UW football a jolt

Quarterback Jake Browning has been setting high school records in California, and he has plans on enrolling in January at UW.


Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

Arizona State @ UW, 7:45 p.m., ESPN

Jake Browning by the numbers

13,609 Career passing yards for Browning, a California record.

181 Career touchdown passes for Browning, a California record

35-2 Browning’s career record in three years as a starter at Folsom.

Jake Browning by the numbers

13,609 Career passing yards for Browning, a California record.

181 Career touchdown passes for Browning, a California record

35-2 Browning’s career record in three years as a starter at Folsom.

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GRASS VALLEY, Calif. — The game, everyone knows, isn’t going to be much of a contest. Folsom High (Calif.), ranked No. 4 in the nation by one high-school football website, have several Pac-12-caliber players and a fine-tuned offense that stops only when it’s had enough.

The Nevada Union Miners, 3-3 overall and overmatched virtually everywhere on the field, have two middle-aged fans sitting on a hill, in the shadows of a cluster of trees, cheering sporadically for the home team anyway. They didn’t bother with the $6 admission ticket. They don’t seem to realize what they’re watching, either.

Folsom senior Jake Browning doesn’t care much if anyone notices, anyway.

It seems impossible not to notice the future Washington quarterback’s right arm, his quick release, his soft touch. During pregame warmups, after taking snaps from 13-year-old ballboy Kaden Richardson, Browning makes about four dozen throws on various routes to his receivers. The ball hits the ground once. Only once.

“There’s a skill to be able to put the ball in a spot where it can almost not be dropped,” Folsom co-coach Troy Taylor had said only a few minutes earlier. “(Joe) Montana was like that, and Jake kind of has that ability.”

In his third season as Folsom’s starter, Browning has become the most accomplished quarterback in California history, having set the state records for passing yards (13,609 and counting) and career touchdown passes (181) this season. Browning, who signed a financial-aid agreement with UW last month, is chasing national passing records, too. Most notably, at his current pace, he would break the national touchdown-passing record of 219, held by current Missouri QB Maty Mauk from 2008 to 2011 for Kenton High in Ohio.

Browning, who has a 3.67 grade-point average and a 35-2 record at Folsom, has completed all of his paperwork for admission into UW. He’s still waiting final approval, but he’s confident he’ll be able to enroll in January, as planned. His focus, now, though, isn’t UW or the national passing records; it’s winning a state title that has eluded the Bulldogs the past two years. Their only losses have come in the state playoffs to powerhouse De La Salle.

En route to a 63-6 victory on this Friday night in northern California, Browning seems to know exactly what he’s doing. The offense hums. He throws seven touchdowns by halftime. He adds an eighth to cap the first drive of the third quarter before sitting the rest of the game. Later, he pinpoints three throws he wants back: two “sluggo” routes (slant and go) and one “exit” play.

He’s precise in such reads, but says he’s only peripherally aware of the records chase.

“I don’t think about it,” he says. “Someone might tell me afterward and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, that’s kind of cool.’ But then you move on. If we broke a rushing record and were still undefeated, then I’d be just as happy. Because we’re winning.”

Chris Petersen has fielded similar calls from high-school coaches before:

You’ve got to check out our quarterback. We’ve got another Kellen Moore here.

Petersen’s typical response to such calls is an eye roll. He was curious, though, about this one. He trusted Taylor, the Folsom coach who played quarterback for Cal and the New York Jets. So Petersen, then the coach at Boise State, made the trip to the Sacramento area to see Browning during a practice in February 2013.

“ ‘Wow,’ ” Petersen recalls thinking, “ ‘this guy’s good.”

Browning had just come off a wildly successful first season as Folsom’s starting quarterback — as a sophomore, he threw for 689 yards and 10 touchdowns in his varsity debut — and doesn’t recall being nervous when Petersen showed up for the Thursday workout that offseason. He does remember one detail about that initial encounter with Petersen.

“I was taller than him,” Browning said with a chuckle.

Listed, generously, at 6 feet, 2 inches tall and 210 pounds, Browning isn’t the most imposing player on the field. He’s a pocket passer — ranked as the No. 5 quarterback recruit for the Class of 2014 — and most of his throws offer more touch than zip. His strength, he said, is his accuracy. He’s completing 71 percent of his throws this season, with 43 touchdowns and two interceptions in Folsom’s 7-0 start.

In the summer of 2013, at a camp at Boise State, Petersen and his staff were the second to offer Browning a scholarship (after Utah). While at UW, Steve Sarkisian had offered Browning, too. A late offer from Alabama this spring didn’t blur Browning’s pull toward Petersen.

“He knew what he was looking for,” Taylor said. “For him, it was all about relationships, and I think he was pretty fond of Coach Pete. Coach Pete does a great job in recruiting. He’s genuine.”

Browning, whose father, Ed, played quarterback at Oregon State, committed to UW in March.

Most of the Folsom players take a knee on the field, huddled around co-coach Kris Richardson for a postgame meeting. Richardson lays out the schedule over the weekend while Browning circles the outside of the huddle, collecting from teammates wristbands that have plays printed on them. He places the wristbands in a red mesh bag, something he does after every game. Browning is usually responsible for collecting and bagging all the footballs, too.

Taylor, who has worked with Browning since the young quarterback was a 10-year-old fifth-grader, has never known him to seek the spotlight.

“He’s not uncomfortable with it,” Taylor said. “It’s just something he could live with or live without, and his teammates love him for that. They really admire him because he really is just one of the guys.”

Browning’s best attribute, in Taylor’s estimation, is his demeanor. You can’t tell, Taylor said, if Browning has thrown 10 touchdowns or five interceptions. Indeed, against Nevada Union, the biggest sign of celebration from Browning after a touchdown pass is a slap on a teammate’s shoulder pad.

“His temperament just never changes. … He’s just very calm. He sees things very clearly and slowly,” Taylor said. “It’s a combination of an easygoing personality mixed in with some Type-A attributes. It’s a fascinating combination. He’s very detail-oriented and a hard worker, but he doesn’t stress. Usually you’ll get those Type-A guys and they can be wound a little tight, but he’s not that guy.”

Petersen, of course, is focused on his team in Seattle. He’s an advocate for an early signing period in recruiting, and likes that he already has the centerpiece in place for next year’s class.

“You never know how this thing will go,” Petersen said, “but you feel really, really good about a guy like Jake.”

Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or ajude@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @a_jude



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