By Christian Caple The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Through the leanest of years — and there were a few of them — Jeff Lindquist kept showing up, kept watching the Washington Huskies play football on Saturdays with his dad at Husky Stadium.
He remembers the greatness of Marques Tuiasosopo, and, too, the “not so great” seasons that comprised most of the 2000s. Jake Locker, he said, was his favorite quarterback to watch, not only for his athleticism and speed, but for the way other players responded to his leadership and seemed to enjoy working with him.
“Unfortunately, I’m not as fast as he is. That would be great and make life a lot easier,” Lindquist joked. “But just the way he would make plays, and from what I hear he was just a stud of a leader, and guys really liked playing for him and working hard for him. Just kind of watching the way he operated and the way people worked around him, I thought was really cool to watch.”
Lindquist hopes to approximate those traits on Saturday, when the third-year sophomore from Mercer Island makes his first collegiate start in the Huskies season opener at Hawaii.
UW head coach Chris Petersen named Lindquist the starter last week after a quarterback competition that began in spring and lasted throughout fall camp, Lindquist battling redshirt freshman Troy Williams for the right to start the opener. Third-year sophomore Cyler Miles joined the competition in camp after sitting out the spring while suspended, and he will also serve a one-game suspension against Hawaii before reentering the fray.
Petersen has said he’ll reevaluate the position after the Hawaii game. But Lindquist doesn’t seem to be thinking that far ahead.
“I’m just going to try to basically do the best I can,” Lindquist said, “and we’ll see where the cards fall.”
Accuracy and decision-making will be key for Lindquist in his first career start, but the development of those skills was what made him the most appealing option for Petersen in the first place. He was consistently careful during scrimmages and 11-on-11 team periods, making smart throws and avoiding turnovers with greater frequency than his competitors.
“Just stay within yourself,” Petersen said during his Monday press conference. “You don’t need to go out and win this game by yourself. We don’t need a bunch of critical errors. Everybody’s not going to play perfect; we get that. But we’ve got to minimize the critical errors, and I think there’s enough guys around him to make plays. If he’s the distributor and takes the easy money, it’ll make his life a lot easier.”
Distribution, Lindquist said, is his focus. He said he learned plenty about preparation and film study from three-year starter Keith Price, and grew up learning how to throw from former Huskies quarterbacks Tim Cowan and Taylor Barton.
“I’m just going to try to be the best point guard I can, get the ball to guys and let them go to work,” said Lindquist, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 246 pounds, according to UW’s official roster. “And then if I have to throw a deep ball I’ll do it, and if I have to run and get some tough yards, I can do that, too.”
Junior receiver Jaydon Mickens sees progress in the form of Lindquist’s velocity, specifically that he’s learned when to holster it.
“He needed to understand, every ball doesn’t need to be 100 miles per hour, even if you’re five feet away or a swing route,” Mickens said. “If we’re running a bubble screen, you don’t need to jet it out there. Just a nice, easy catch, and let us go. We’ll take care of the rest. He’s really gotten his accuracy better, as well.”
Budda listed as starter
Budda Baker, the Bellevue High product who highlighted UW’s 2014 recruiting class, is listed as a starter at safety on the Huskies’ first depth chart of the season.
Petersen said Baker stood out because of “how focused he is and how hard he plays. If it’s wind sprints, he tries to win them; 7-on-7, it looks like a game rep. During meetings, you can see his focus, he’s paying attention to everything. Very, very mature for a young guy in terms of those aspects of his game.”
Baker is joined by seven other true freshmen on the depth chart, though he is the only starter. The other first-year players listed are cornerbacks Naijiel Hale and Sidney Jones, defensive linemen Will Dissly and Greg Gaines, receivers Dante Pettis and Brayden Lenius, and kicker Tristan Vizcaino.
Clay, Schultz on scholarship
Petersen said a pair of former walk-ons have been awarded scholarships: fourth-year junior defensive back Brian Clay, a transfer from Hawaii; and fifth-year senior defensive lineman Drew Schultz, who played at Olympia High School.
“Two kids that have done everything right, worked their tail off,” Petersen said. “Our weight room (staff) has loved them, the guys in our locker room really love those kids. And it’s always a good day when we can take care of guys who deserve to be on. And there’s probably a couple other guys who deserve to be on right now that we don’t have scholarships for, but hopefully down the road we will.”