SEATTLE — The University of Washington football team wrapped up spring practices on Saturday having accomplished much, but still with much more to accomplish before the team’s 2014 season opener at Hawaii on August 30.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the starting quarterback battle, where redshirt sophomore Jeff Lindquist and redshirt freshman Troy Williams waged a two-man showdown through 15 spring workouts that decided nothing.
“I know everybody’s looking for the starting quarterback right now, but we don’t have that,” said new UW head coach Chris Petersen. “I think (Lindquist and Williams) both did a good job. They both got a lot of reps, which was really, really nice. And they probably feel like they’ve improved as much as anybody.
“We’ll take this one day at a time,” Petersen said. “It’s nice to have a starting quarterback, but that guy (Price) graduated in December. So we’re at Square 1 until one guy really establishes himself.”
The battle to replace 2013 starter Keith Price, who graduated, was expected to be a three-man competition. But redshirt sophomore Cyler Miles, Price’s backup last season, was suspended for an off-field incident in February that also involved wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow. Though Miles was not charged, Stringfellow pleaded guilty this week to two misdemeanor counts of assault and one of malicious mischief. Neither player participated in spring practices.
As for the UW futures of Miles and Stringfellow, “when I talk to (the media) in August, I’ll be ready to have something for you,” Petersen said.
On Saturday, Lindquist and Williams both had good moments — and some not so good — in a regular practice that concluded with a scrimmage. Petersen decided not to have the traditional spring-ending intrasquad game because several players were out with injuries, plus Lindquist and Williams being the team’s only two quarterbacks.
“We need all the days we can get to get this thing right,” said Petersen, who replaced Steve Sarkisian (now at USC) in December. “But I think we’ve made good progress over 15 practices. The kids worked hard, but there’s a lot of work still to do and I think they know that.
“I think we have some talent. We have some explosive players. I think we have some tough guys as well. … But we’ve got a lot of work to do in all phases of our program. The culture is not going to be changed in two or three months.”
During the scrimmage, Lindquist seemed to be sharper with his passes while Williams appeared quicker and more agile in the backfield.
“I’ve done what I can (in the spring),” Lindquist said. “Ultimately the decision is up to (the coaches). … There’s things I’ve done well, but there’s also things I can better at. So as to where I’m at, there’s a lot of room to improve, but I’m happy with what I’ve done.”
The quarterback battle “is wide open,” Williams said. “I don’t think anybody has the lead right now. But it’s fun. We all have great skills and great talent, and it’s going to be fun in the fall.”
Saturday’s individual highlight belonged to redshirt freshman running back Lavon Coleman. Late in the practice, Coleman took a handoff from Williams and started around right end before reversing direction and racing 37 yards for a touchdown.
Coleman is one of several players looking to replace 2013 starter Bishop Sankey, who left after his junior season to enter the upcoming NFL draft. Other candidates include Deontae Cooper, Jesse Callier, Dwayne Washington and Ryan McDaniel, though Callier, Washington and McDaniel all missed much of the spring with injuries.
“I really like these guys,” Petersen said. “We’ve got some depth — you didn’t see it (Saturday) because we’ve got a couple of guys a little dinged up — but I think in the fall we’ll be there. And they’re all kind of unique in their own way. … I think it can be a good group.”
In addition to the scrimmage, Saturday’s practice (which was open to the public) included several positional drills interspersed with some fun competitions. Among the latter, a footrace involving wide receiver John Ross, the team’s fastest player, and a group of UW students and yell leaders, male and female, all starting at different distances. Despite starting well behind the others, Ross easily blew away the field.
Another event that got some chuckles was a punt-catching contest between some UW students and the team’s defensive linemen. Both groups were comparably inept, which seemed to be the idea.
Several likely starters from last year’s 9-4 team missed all or part of the spring with injuries. In addition to the three running backs, the sidelined players included wide receiver Kasen Williams and offensive linemen Micah Hatchie and Dexter Charles, the latter a Stanwood High School graduate.
Also sitting out much of Saturday’s practice was linebacker Shaq Thompson, who is also expected to get time at running back in the coming season. Thompson apparently had a mild injury in Tuesday’s practice and did not participate in the scrimmage.